Things I Know 108 of 365: I bunt on purpose.

I don’t mean to sound sleazy, but tease me; I don’t want it if it’s that easy.

-Tupac Shakur

I bunted a lesson Friday.

Having students lead the class through close readings of texts of their choosing has reminded me of the nuance of teaching. What I do is tough stuff. It’s not brain surgery, but it’s not not making flip books out of pads of Post-It notes either.

Nevermind, I’ve never been able to make a satisfactory flip book, but you get the idea.

For the first few students, the assumption seems to have been that playing the song or reading the passage they’ve selected will lead to rapid interest and equally intense discussion.

It’s the same thing I’ve seen with teachers who can’t understand why their class doesn’t love that one book they loved when they read it in high school. As often happens with those teachers, my students have ended their conversations frustrated and agitated with the class.

I stepped in Friday to model a lesson.

I started by asking them to list all the components of a song they could think of. Then, they shared with those around them and amended their lists as they saw fit. Finally, they shared what they heard with the whole class – again, amending as they wanted.

Next, I told them to rank the elements they’d written down from most to least important.

They noted the top three, and I played some music.

First we listened to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Then we heard Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up.” The listening was rounded out by Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”

Between each song, they took note of how that song participated in the top three components they’d written down.

Everyone had different components they were tracking or at least listed them in different configurations.

As they were finishing up their notes on the final song, I pulled up the U.S. map on Google Earth on the white board.

“What did you notice?” I asked.

We were off to the races.

My goal had been to model a 30-minute conversation of the type I’ve been asking them to lead. We were talking the entire 65 minutes of class.

The discussion talked about the geographic origins of texts, the sociopolitical implications of an author’s biographical information, the effects on a relationship when that relationship is re-appropriated for public consumption as art and a whole mess of other topics.

At some point, we talked about the implied unity of marriage across government and religious definitions as played out in Eminem’s music.

Things got real.

Here’s how I bunted.

Talk about rap, Eminem, or Tupac in separate lessons, and you’ve set yourself up for success. Pull all of them into one lesson and you could probably sleep through the lesson and still come out ahead.

Plus, I was ready for at least two different conversations. We could have discussed influences on rap music (or music in general) brought about by geographic location (hence Google Earth). Or, we could have talked about the progression of a genre through time as exemplified from Sugarhill to Tupac to Eminem.

Add to all of this my knowledge that some of my students no all the ins and outs of rap history while others know virtually nothing, and I’ve built in opportunities for students to ask questions and other students to act as experts.

This is to say nothing of including personal brainstorming, small-to-whole group discussion, auditory learning styles and the asking of open-ended questions.

I bunted.

Like all good bunts, I did it on purpose.

We took the last few minutes of class to get all meta.

“How did I set up the lesson for success?” I asked.

No dummies, my kids then proceeded to call out all the little pieces of what we’d just done.

I told them they would hugely increase their chances of active class participation if they only pulled in one or two elements of what they’d just explained.

I hope they do.


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