Activities & Lessons

Writing Rhymes and Raps with Toney Jackson

3 Min Read
Toney Jackson Screenshot Writing Rhymes

Toney Jackson is a 4th grade teacher in Hackensack, NJ and teacher contributor on Teacher's Corner—on-demand, bite-size PD for all educators using Ed, now available for students and educators outside the United States. He has been recognized by the Academy of American Poets, won several poetry slams, and has been a featured reader, performer, and workshop leader at venues across the country.

Teacher and poet Toney Jackson joins us for a special lesson on how to write rhymes in the classroom. While Jackson uses the following tips to write raps with his students, you can also use his instructions to help teach your students about concepts like repetition, vocabulary, and patterns. Further information and resources on this subject can also be found in this related lesson on "How to Write a Rap" by Dr. Chris Emdin.

For Jackson's tips, watch the video below, or continue reading.

Writing Raps in the Classroom

1. Choose Your Topic

Have your students start with a "big idea." By having a clear vision of what it is they want to write, students can stay focused on the topic. Keep them on track by revisiting this step throughout the lesson.

2. Choose Your Words

Once they have a subject in mind, students can move on to word choice. Make sure that they don't get lost in the rhymes while on this step. While it is sometimes tempting to abandon the subject briefly in order to make a rhyme work, the words used should make sense together and help paint an overall picture. To help with this, have students make a list of vocabulary words that relate to the subject at hand.

3. Pick Patterns

Patterns will appear as the rhymes develop, but students can also brainstorm other ways to incorporate patterns into their raps. Repetition is a great tool to help with establishing a catchy and memorable pattern in a song.

4. Add a Beat or A Capella

While this step can be replaced with a chant or a call-and-response, creating a beat is a fun way to make a song unique. However, just like with the Choose Your Words step, students shouldn't lose sight of the overall goal of the project. If the beat is too complicated then it might confuse the listener or muddle their message.

5. Have Fun and Be You!

As always, have fun! This is a great activity for students, as well as teachers to participate in, and the more willing you are to be open and share your rhymes, the more willing your class will be to share theirs.

While this exercise is great for writing raps, it can also be applied to all types of musical lyrics. By using different topics, vocabulary, patterns, and beats, your students can feel free to explore this lesson in the musical style that interests them most.


Available on Teacher's Corner—a treasure trove of on-demand, bite-size PD for all educators using Ed, the HMH learning platform. Ed is now available to students and educators outside the U.S. too!

Are you using an HMH Program? Then be sure to join The Teacher's Corner Facebook Group and take part in the conversation.

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