Rapping teacher uses rhymes to teach high school biology

Rapping teacher uses rhymes to teach high school biology
Kristin Chavis' 9th grade biology class rapping
Kristin Chavis' lesson plan
Kristin Chavis' lesson plan

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Just a few days away from the start of the end of course exams, one Caddo Parish teacher is taking a new approach to teaching.

"The old way of learning is out, it's outdated," said Kristin Chavis.

Kristin Chavis is a 9th-grade biology teacher at Green Oaks High School in Shreveport. If you go to her class, you'll likely hear them spitting verses. It looks like they're just having a great time. But in reality, there's a reason for these rhymes.

"You have to be able to relate to kids, you have to be able to relate to where they are," said Chavis.

The idea started about a year ago when Chavis got a whole new group of students in the middle of the year. She had to teach them a year's worth of biology in just three months. Chavis said she would stand at the front of the class teaching them, but she believed her lessons weren't grabbing their attention.

"All of a sudden one night I started hearing 'circulatory system, circula-circulatory system,'" said Chavis.

And that led to her writing out a rap of the entire lesson plan.

"Before the songs, I would probably have that one student that you know would go ahead and answer those questions, every teacher has that one person that's just going to answer. But after the song, I have at least 95% of the kids screaming the answer out at me," said Chavis.

Biology isn't the easiest class, and Chavis saw such improvement last year, she's using the same raps this year. Her kids are all ears.

"When the song come on I feel alive and all that, I'll be just going crazy feeling fine," said Tony Johns, one of Chavis' students.

"If I come in any other classes, I either go to sleep or I don't listen, and drown the teacher out. But in Ms. Chavis' class, she breaks it down for us to understand," said Ebony Reliford, another of Chavis' 9th-grade biology students.

Chavis says she creates her beats and writes the verses, just like she would her lessons. She connects her questions with the answers.

"On a test, with a question, I don't know. I just be like," she said before she started rapping off one of Chavis' lessons. "Prokaryotic cells, eukaryotic cells, floating DNA no membrane bound organelles," she rapped. Adding it really helps her learn.

"It's all repetitive, it's all soaking in," said Chavis.

She makes specific songs for each lesson, and after 10 minutes, the students know the material.

"They're learning, passively, but intentionally. And that's what makes the difference," said Chavis.

"When you don't like something, it's boring and you don't pay much attention to it, but with a teacher like Ms. Chavis makes it fun, it makes it easier to learn," said Johns.

Making a difference to encourage her students that learning is easy when you put a beat to it.

Chavis says she wants to make her lessons available to everyone. She has her current raps on her YouTube channel. You can also find her lessons on iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify, just search 'Organ System Mixtape.'

She also wants to rap other courses and make this into a curriculum.

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