Song Parody Learning

This latest guest blog post is was written by Martyn Beaumont. You can follow Martyn on Twitter @doverno10 .

Having taught GCSE PE for a few years I have started to become more experimental with my approaches to different chapters and especially my assessment of their work. I have already been trialling the use of SOLO taxonomy since September and using Edmodo to engage pupils outside of the classroom, with both having a positive effect. Now for the use of a potentially risky assessment style!

My GCSE group had worked through a chapter on injuries in the normal way with a various mixture of practicals and content based lessons. Instead of completing an end of unit test, presentation or video I decided to take a risk and get them to complete a song parody for assessment. I had read about this being done as a lesson task on twitter but cannot remember who tweeted it (my apologies), so decided to adapt it for an assessment .The stage was set, I had told the group about the up and coming task, there was a hint of excitement in the classroom (not just from me) and all of the class waited for the release of the song title that they would be writing to. As soon as the song started there were numerous moans and groans when they realised the song was ‘One Direction – Little Things’, a really manly song!!

After explaining my justification for choosing this song; the fact it was very simple tune and was essentially made for rhyming the boys forgave me and then asked for the criteria. This is where the real work started, the boys came up with the criteria themselves and after group discussions and whole class voting we decided on this:

• Four verses and a chorus
• Verse one – Causes of injury
• Verse two – Prevention of injury
• Verse 3 – Types of injury
• Verse 4 – Treatment of injury
• Chorus – Choice, as long as it is related to the topic.
• Every pupil in the group must take part (groups were four maximum)

This was introduced in the last twenty minutes of a lesson and gave the pupils time to get in to their groups and start discussing how they were going to attack the song. A small homework was set for that night to arrive at the next lesson (which was the next day) with some ideas for the parody. To my surprise our Edmodo page was inundated with questions about the task from a number of pupils and it seemed that the assessment had really managed to enthuse and engage in the boys.

The next lesson arrived and the whole one hour lesson was dedicated to writing, practising, tweaking and getting the song complete ready for recording. I had the song available on two laptops, one ipad and an ipod but these were not needed. At least two boys from each group had already downloaded the song onto their phones and were busy working on the parody. Progress at first was to say the least enthusiastic but a little slow, due to the pupils struggling to think creatively and outside of the box. It was at this point I played them a version of one I had done at home (with my shocking voice) and this seemed to help with the understanding of what was needed and a good laugh at the same time, especially my shocking use of English to make it rhyme. They all also wanted theirs to be better than mine so the competition was now on!!

During the writing stage pupils were constantly referring back to their notes, checking up for extra information and questioning me on various other things that they could input into the song. I was in the room but was barely needed as the pupils worked solidly for the majority of the lesson. One group got to the recording stage early as they had worked on it via Facebook the night the work was set. I sent them off in to the room next door with an ipad, the ipod with the music song on and their questionable voices ready to record. I set it all up for them but then left the room as I did not want them to feel embarrassed about singing and performing in front of their teacher. After eight attempts and a few more tweaks the first group were complete and happy with the end result.

I expected all groups to complete this task within the one hour lesson I gave them but unfortunately they didn’t. Homework was then set to work collaboratively to complete the song ready for recording in the next lesson. I also set a second task of using Edmodo to suggest marking criteria standards as we were going to listen to and grade each song parody as a group.

The third lesson arrives and finally we really get down to the completion and recording of all the groups material. Recording was a painful process as it did take at least six attempts minimum to get the required result for each group but was well worth it. I was using a free app called voice record pro HD on the ipad and just played the music in the background on an ipod with the pupils standing next to the ipad ‘singing’.

After the completion of the recordings we sat down to listen to the work (with some very embarrassed looking faces) and grade all that had been produced. Based on the homework set on Edmodo I created a very simple grading sheet with five criteria: (marking out of 5)

Understanding of content
Accuracy of information
Does it meet the criteria
Quality of rhyming
Quality of vocal ability (for fun more than anything)

These marks were then collated and a prize given to the winning group of online casino Canada.

Overall this has been one of the most enjoyable assessment tasks I have done in my teaching career. The amount of consolidation work, extension, collaboration, creativity and fun that was being had was a real joy to see and it was clear from the results the pupils had more than exceeded my expectations. Although the final results are far from perfect the quality of learning that has taken place has been fantastic. I would recommend this task to anyone looking for a way to either teach content (without essentially teaching it) or using it as I did as a means to assess the understanding gained by pupils.Below are all the songs (including mine) for you to sample my pupils work, all comments welcome!

So Martyn’s group have proved that they have got the X-Factor, Has your group got the X-Factor? As sportspeople we all like a challenge!!

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