Reviewing history is even less fun for reluctant learners than learning it the first time. But when they’re having fun with it, they forget they’re reviewing, or learning. That’s the joy of project-based learning, such as a History Rhymes Project.
For the History Rhymes project, I assigned pairs of students a time period. With that time period, the students had to think of the most important thing or events and make a rhyme about it, to make it easy to remember. Once we got past the whining about rhyming, and added rapping as a choice, (because they couldn’t rhyme… but could rap) they started to get into it. They willingly grabbed their books and debated with their partner about what to include, and how to say it. They sifted through details to find the most important things and then rhyme them together. The results were memorable, historically accurate, and students were talking about them ever after turning their posters in.
The rhymes (or raps) were not just fun to create and share in our classroom, I made sure to hang them prominently in the hallways, where other students passing by could stopp to read and enjoy. And maybe remember a few things about history because of a catchy rhyme—like that rhyme about Columbus: “In 1492/ Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” It was great to see students milling about the posters, reading and talking about the rhymes. Students that “don’t like” History were willingly reading it in the hallway. An added bonus.
This sort of rhyme (or rap) can work for many subjects—parts of any sort of science concept like cells or the body; characters or books in an English class; government (like School House Rocks videos from back in the day); and more. It can work as review of prior concepts to start off the year or jig-saw type project to share new concepts with the class.
I wish I had done this project earlier in the semester because of the positive benefits of hanging them in the hallway.
Ms. Dickson spent 9 years teaching English (and History) to reluctant learners at an alternative high school. She sells her English materials, featuring free eTexts and more project-based learning at her TPT store.