The Boneyard Rap
3 July 2008
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This poem, written and performed by Wes Magee, fits perfectly with the National Year of Reading monthly theme of Rhythm and Rhyme: it rhymes and has a rap rhythm. Children will enjoy joining in with the chorus and the suggested movements and sounds.
- Listen to the recording in private to become familiar with its rhythmic form.
- Explain that the poem is being performed by its author, poet Wes Magee, supported by children performing the chorus.
- Give the poem’s title and invite suggestions of what kind of poem the children expect – funny, scary, serious? Which word suggests it will have a strong rhythm?
- Teach the children the chorus, “woooooooooo!”, explaining how a refrain recurs at intervals throughout a poem. Practise, with the children saying the chorus together – rising to a crescendo and down again, as in the recording.
Children should be able to clap simple rhythms. Some experience of choral speaking and reciting of poems and verses will help with appreciation of this poem’s potential, and enable children to develop performance techniques.
Key learning outcomes:
- To choose and prepare poems for performance, identifying appropriate expression, tone, volume and use of voices and other sounds (Year 3);
- To comment on performances, discussing effects, including gesture and action (Years 3 & 4);
- To select and combine words, images and other features for particular effects (Year 4).
- Before displaying the text, ask the children to listen to the recording of the poem. Listen again, encouraging the children to join in with the chorus. Remind them to vary their speed and volume to emulate the children in the recording.
- Display the poem text and read it together. Invite girls to read the first verse and boys to provide the chorus. Discuss how they might improve their reading – eg, varying tone of voice or tempo.
- Swap boys’ and girls’ roles in reading the second stanza and chorus. Invite individuals with a good sense of rhythm to read the further stanzas, with the rest of the group performing the chorus.
- Divide the class into five groups. Give each group one stanza to practise until perfect. Challenge the children to learn the words as they practise it.
- Bring the class together to give a performance, moving from one group to the next with everyone joining in the chorus. Choose one child to announce the title and author before beginning their performance.
Group and independent activities
- Display the full poem. Highlight the end of line rhymes as you invite individuals to identify them. Note how some verses have one rhyme, such as, rap/clap/slap, while others have two (scare/dare, jaw/more). Can they spot a pattern?
- Ask children to list all the different sorts of bones that appear in Wes Magee’s poem.
- Encourage the children to find further poems by Wes Magee that lend themselves to performance, to prepare and recite.
The Very Best of Wes Magee (Macmillan, 978 03304 81922). ‘He Just Can’t Kick It With His Foot’ Audio poem by our Poet-in-residence, Paul Cookson – see Literacy Time PLUS Ages 9 to 11 July 2008, Issue 55. Check out our giveaways section for the chance to win a free copy of Paul’s book: I’d Rather be a Footballer (Macmillan, 978 03304 57132). You can also download an illustrated poem ‘The King of All the Dinosaurs’ by Paul Cookson free The July 2008 issue of Junior Education PLUS has a poetry theme, including activities on the theme of Rhythm and Rhyme.
Share your results!
Why not upload and share with us the children’s illustrated poems and audio files on the Literacy Time PLUS website? Files can be uploaded via the My Folder facility on the home page.
- Invite the children to choose a different subject on which to compose a rap of their own, either in small groups or individually, using the activity sheet below to plan their writing. (You could try a whole-class stanza together first). Use ‘The Boneyard Rap’ as a model for the rhythmic and rhyme shape. Discuss how subject matter will affect the tone of the poem.
- The children could illustrate their poems, scan and upload them into a presentation package, such as PowerPoint, then add an audio soundtrack.
- Recap on what makes a good performance poem – including, for example, a strong beat, a chorus, varied pace, tone and volume, rhyme which helps with memorability.
- Listen to and assess each other’s performances of chosen poems.