Rhyming Couplets and English and bringing the Beastie Boys into the Arts

One of the great things about my new gig is working with a range of learning areas and artworks. From art history, philosophy, and design with senior students, to emotions and stories with kindergarten kids (my current favourite)

I also get to explore the world of English in relation to art. Elements like descriptive words, nouns, adjectives, metaphors and voice.

But of course, as you have no doubt discovered in my lessons, it is generally all about me. Hence the Beastie Boys (now you will just have to trust me here)

I wanted students to think about different writing techniques and how they could relate them back to art. I’m a big fan of rhyming, and hey, who isn’t? Words just sound better when they rhyme, (Which I am sure we can discuss when you have more time)*

So I came home and said I will do an activity like how the Beastie Boys would rap, two lines that relate and the last words of each line rhyme. Now my good lady wife whom is a master of the English language told me that this technique is called a Rhyming Couplet (I was planning on calling it ‘Time to get Beastie’)

Basically you have two sentences that relate, and can have as many words as you like, with a last word that rhyme. The one rule being they should have the same number of syllables.

(My wife went on to explain that Shakespeare would use a more complex form of this called iambic pentameter – but I believe I may have seen something shiny by then and got distracted)

Anyways, fast forward to my session, nearing the end after we had done a lot of fun activities and the students were finding their groove (and feeling a lot more free and confident) I gave them the plan.

After explaining the whole Rhyming Couplet thing and then watching this awesome clip:


(and not only teaching students the wonders of the 90s, but also that rap didn’t have to have colourful metaphors in them – yes, more English) a gave them their next goal. Come up with a rap that would be about one artwork they had seen, or possibly the whole day so far.

They frikn’ loved it (I’m sure it had a lot to do with my fine rapping also), so much so they wanted to have rap battles!

Some of the great student’s (Year 7) lines:

“Saw Whistler’s mother she looked so cramped”

“Must be why she’s on a postage stamp”

After seeing the painting of Whistler’s mother and:

“Check out that lady, so sad and so green”

“What happened at Guernica was obscene”

After seeing Picaso’s Weeping Woman.

So what is my summary on all of this? Want some great lessons, think back to your past, your childhood. Yes, 90s Rap my not be back in fashion….but I like to think I may have just given it a fighting chance (well, 28 Year 7 students think so at least)


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