Lesson Plan: Writing Academic Raps


How To Write Vocabulary Rhymes


Many students say that memorizing vocabulary words is a struggle, so we designed a simple lesson plan to help students learn, master and retain difficult vocabulary by writing a rhyme. This exercise can be done while a beat is playing (free beats are available here) or without music.

Step 1. Choose Your Vocab Word and Pre-teach

In this case, let’s use the word vain – an SAT-level vocabulary word that students might have to grapple with as early as middle school.

A.    Teach the word and the definition: Vain (adj.) too proud, into oneself

B.    Use the word in a sentence: (e.g.) Vain people always carry a mirror in their pocket so they can check themselves out.”

Step 2. The First Line

The formula:

_____________(Definition)___________ (Vocabulary Word),

_____________(Context)__________ (Rhyme).

We know that our first line will end with vain. To be an effective learning tool, the first line also needs to contain the word’s definition.

Here’s a sample first line:

“Lisa was so into herself, you know, she was so vain,”

If you’re working with a group of students who have never done this before, it may be a good idea to provide the first line. Once students get used to the exercise, they’ll be able to write it on their own.

Step 3: The Rhyming Word Bank

We know that our first line ends with vain, so our next step will be to create a list of words that rhyme with that sound: luckily, many English words do. For this exercise, have students raise their hands and call out words that rhyme. Make a list on the board like this:

Vain – perfect rhymes

Vein (homonym!)

Vain – slant rhymes


As you can see, the slant rhymes get further and further away from the root word, but they’re all close enough (pronounced with a little poetic license) to rhyme with vain.

Step 4: Complete the Rhyme

Now that you have a rhyming word bank, your students will have to choose one of the rhyming words and use it to complete the rhyme.

You’ll notice in the formula that we ask students to think about context in their second line. This is a key point and can really separate great writers from writers who simply complete the assignment. In this case, writing with good context means that the second line supports the meaning of the vocabulary word you are defining, through action or theme.

For example, here is a second line that doesn’t use context:

“Lisa was so into herself, you know, she was so vain,
She likes rain.”

While this is a perfectly fine rhyme, we are relying on the first line’s definition as a context clue but not really getting another exposure to the word’s meaning.

Here’s a better example that uses context.

“Lisa was so into herself, you know, she was so vain,
She looks in the mirror so much it drives me insane.”

Step 5: Perform

Each student should now have at least two lines written. At this point, you can offer students that chance to perform their rhymes for the class (over a beat or a cappella). This is always a fun way to end the lesson and it’s always great when you (the teacher) share as well.

Step 6: Repeat

Now that students get the idea, they shouldn’t have a problem repeating this process with other vocabulary words that you chose. Provide students with a list of 8 words and have them write an entire verse on a specific topic!


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Excellent activity – can’t wait to use it. I visit your website often and use your resources regularly. Working with 8th grade at risk youth, your materials have been an excellent tool.

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