Reflect, Review, and Rap

At this time of year, many educators are looking for review projects or activities that will really engage their students. In addition, many teachers know that using technology can help students review concepts in all subjects as well as meet the descriptors that are identified in Manitoba Education’s Literacy with Information and Communication Technology (LwICT) developmental continuum.

I thought that I might challenge students to demonstrate, through the LwICT “Produce to Show Understanding” Big Idea that they really understand a particular concept or unit of study. However, rather than write the traditional essay or report, I want students to exercise their brain and use the Audacity (open source, free audio editor and recorder) application to create personal “review song” lyrics. In order to demonstrate this process, I decided to summarize and review Manitoba Education’s LwICT Across the Curriculum by creating a poem set to music. On-line readers can hear my “ICT-Rap” and view the lyrics by clicking on the appropriate hyper-links. I am sure that with the basic steps below, students will be soon generating exceptional musical compositions as a review mechanism.

The basic steps begin with finding a freeware background music track which can be, optionally, loaded into Audacity. One can then play this background loop while using a microphone to record the lyrics to your song. Although one can spend more time experimenting with the various effects in Audacity, one can simply save the lyrics and background musical loop as a blended MP3 file and celebrate your learning.

1. I went to the “loops” section of the Flash Kit web site at:

2. I searched for “free loops” and scrolled down the resulting pages and listened to the various samples by pressing the “play” button in the Flashtrak Console.

3. Once I found a free loop, that I thought would provide my song with an appropriate background, I downloaded it in an MP3 format. For example, on-line readers can click on “What_You_Gonna_do” to hear the free loop created by PlayaJayCee. I downloaded this MP3 background loop as the start of my ICT rap.

4. Next I started Audacity. I clicked on Audacity’s File > Open menu items and navigated to the folder where I had previously stored my “What_You_Gonna_do” MP3 loop. When this 8 beat loop is opened in Audacity, it appears on the top track with a 10 second duration. Next, one has to repeat the background loop to accommodate the number of verses in the “review song”. To do so, click the Edit > Select > All menu items to highlight the entire loop and the click Edit > Copy to store the loop in memory. Next one must place the cursor at the end of the selection and press the Edit > Paste menu items to extend the background audio track. The instructions in this previous sentence must be repeated as necessary to accommodate the lyrics or verses that are to be included. The newer version of Audacity (1.2.6) has a special “Play” feature as shown. One can hold down the <Shift> key while pressing the “Play” button to have the loop or song automatically repeat. However, one cannot record any additional narration while this “Shift/Play” button is depressed or in “loop play” mode.

5. Now press the File > Save Project As menu items and store this “work in progress” file (e.g. audio-track.aup) in an appropriate folder as an Audacity’s AUP program file.

6. At this point you will want to create lyrics or a series of verses which summarize the project or concept that you are reviewing. I find that because my background audio track is an 8 beat loop, I type my lyrics into Word making certain that the words adhere to this 8 beat timing structure. Save and print up the lyrics for the up-coming “voice over” narration portion.

7. Next we need to set a preference in Audacity. Click on the Edit > Preferences menu items. On the Audacity Preferences display, click the “Audio I/O” tab, and click to place a checkmark to the left of “Play other tracks while recording new one”. Click the “OK” button to proceed.

8. Insert the microphone into the computer and position your lyrics printed page so that you can begin the “voice over” narration. Press the left-most “Skip to Start” button to make certain that the cursor is positioned at the start of the background loop. Press the reddish “Record” button and begin listening to the background loop. Let the loop play though once before adding you own lyrics to the mix. You will note that your “voice over” narration automatically is displayed as an additional audio track below the loop background music. Adjust the speaker and microphone sliders, immediately located below Audacity’s buttons, as appropriate.

9. Press the File > Save Project As menu terms and store this “work in progress” in an appropriate folder with “version number” filenames ending in V1.AUP, V2.AUP, V3.AUP (e.g. History-Review-V1.AUP) to keep track of various attempts.

10. Undoubtedly you will not be able to record your entire “review song” at one sitting. Make certain that you save any “work in progress” as an Audacity project as noted above. Later, when you return to work, start Audacity. Select the File > Open menu items, navigate to the appropriate folder where you last stored your Audacity AUP project file, select it and click the “Open” button.

11. If you have time, you can explore the various effects that can be applied to your “review song”.  Audacity has an extensive “Help” file and the addtitional resources identified at the end of this article may be helpful as well.

12. When satisfied that the creation is finished, save the project one last time. Before exiting, make certain that one selects the File > Export as MP3 menu items and save the “review song” in a compressed MP3 format which will automatically blend all the tracks together.

12. After all students have played their “review songs” for their peers, provide a process where all students’ review projects can be accessed and listened to for studying purposes. Students who are aural learners may benefit from their colleagues’ “review songs” and find such a depository of audio files quite helpful.

13. Lastly, I encourage you, the reader, to provide feedback to this article by sharing your experience using Audacity to produce a “review song” as another mechanism for students to demonstrate understanding of a concept or unit of study.

Take care & keep smiling 🙂


Credit: This blog entry is an updated version of an earlier article entitled “An ICT Christmas gift with lots of rappin’” which was first published in my “Bits and Bytes” educational newsletter in December, 2006.

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