And Their Rock-N-Roll Music

Constantly plugged into their phones, it’s easy to assume that our students are mashed-potatoing their brains with endless streams of Snapchat and gangsta rap. While it’s true there’s a large scoop of junk in their digital diets, I’ve been delighted over the past week or so with some high-quality links and sites students have shared with me.

A sample of what the cool kids are viewing online:

1. Last week, I introduced students to the elements of rhetoric and part of our time was spent discussing common logical fallacies. After laughing about examples from politics and advertising, one of my freshman girls shared this clip at brunch. Huddled around her phone, four other kids joined us and we all bit our lips, trying not to cry, as we watched the ad together. “I know it’s really just Sentimental Appeal, but it still gets me every time,” the student said about this ad, designed to encourage parents to contribute more to their children’s MetLife’s EduCare college savings plans:

2. The lessons from last month’s poetry work are still lingering, and several students sent me favorite songs, poems, and spoken word pieces. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s explosive Broadway musical Hamilton is every history lover’s new obsession and the songs are burning up my students’ earbuds. The show, a hip-hop/rap treatment of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s life and death, is sold out for the next six months, but you can listen to the songs for free here or listen and dig into a line-by-line annotation here.


3. Another compelling work was created by Darius Simpson and Scout Bostley at the 2015 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. Spoken word poetry and social justice? Ah, so that’s why my kids are so focused on their screens.

4. Finally, I’ll end with a moment that surprised me. One of my freshman boys is seriously into yo-yos. Like, really? Yo-yos? Yes, he always has one in his pocket and practices at brunch every day with a six-pack of skinny little dudes outside my classroom door. Not a girl in sight, of course. So when this student sent me an email this weekend with a link to a TED Talk he’d found featuring Japanese yo-yo world champion BLACK (yes, all caps, that’s his stage name), I was dubious. Great, I thought, here comes ten minutes of yo-yo tricks. Yawn. But this TED Talk is so much more. BLACK hooked me with his story of leaving his job as a systems engineer to pursue his passion – he’s now a performance artist with Cirque du Soleil. This is the embodiment of our upcoming 20Time project. I want kids to find a passion (whether it’s yo-yoing, computer programming, dirt bike racing, writing, whatever) and find a way to fold it into their working lives. (Tip: Turn on the video’s closed captioning, which will make the opening section easier to understand.)

Anyone else out there have a great clip/website that’s cool, educational, or inspiring? Share the link in the comments section below so we can build a whole menu of goodies for folks to enjoy. Teach on, everyone!

10 thoughts on “And Their Rock-N-Roll Music

  1. Fantastic post which has certainly made me reflect on the ways in which I can ‘listen’ and ‘utilise’ my students’ favourite clips from around the web in my classroom. You have inspired me to use ‘Black: My journey to yo-yo mastery’ for a personal response as my new Grade 6s begin a new school year in two weeks’ time. I can’t wait to hear what their secret talent and/or passion is! Thank you to you and your students for the inspiration.

  2. My pleasure, Louise! I’m also going to fold BLACK into our 20Time work somewhere, probably as a mid-point pick-me-up. So glad you liked this post. These video clips were just too good not to share. Have a great Tuesday!

  3. Great recommendation, Nicole! Thanks for the share. I remember seeing Ms. Pierson’s TED Talk during an August prof. development session, but it’s even more meaningful now as a mid-year pick-me-up. So positive and so true. We really are great actors and actresses – and I love her comment about the +2 vs. the -18. Good stuff!

  4. Your post made me think of a beautiful spoken word piece by Luka Lesson called ‘May Your Pen Grace the Page’. You may want to watch it first before viewing with students as there’s a tiny amount of profanity in it. He is a local (to me) artist who I met at a conference, and developed a slight crush on immediately. Check out his YouTube channel for other pieces – he’s definitely worth the time.

  5. Thanks, Kelley, for this gem. Folks can find the piece here: I loved it, too. Here’s to Luka’s mission to fill the world with more poets than politicians! And, oh but for that little f-word, I’d definitely bring this to the next classroom spoken word event.

  6. Love this – I’ve used this yoyo one in my AVID class several times. Amazing. I’m using lots of TedEd this year, and I love Kid President. Thanks!

  7. Oh yeah, Kid President is great, too. Our journalism class has put him in the morning announcements from time to time. So cute!

  8. Those TED talks are great! I use them to teach theme, author’s purpose, the rhetorical triangle, and more. Part of our standards cover listening and speaking, so these are perfect! I just finished watching this one, and I can see potential here:

    Thanks for these ideas, Laura! What a great post! Keep them coming! Thanks to your ideas and resources, I am the teacher who does all of the “cool” things in her room. 🙂

  9. Great find, Michelle! I love his message about having to suffer a bit to create something worthwhile. Whenever one of my kids complains that a task is hard, I reply, “That’s what makes it great. If it were easy, you’d just be bored.”

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