Poet, Rapper Teaches Sixth-Graders to Let the Words Flow

Rapper Rick Chyme and one of East Elementary teacher Sara Peterman’s sixth-grade English Language Arts classes

Sixth-graders at East Elementary recently got to work with an award-winning wordsmith who writes music they can relate to. Before they learned his method of composing, they learned how to clear their minds in order to give all that brilliance in their minds a chance to flow out and onto the page.

In Sara Peterman’s dimly lit English Language Arts classroom, with soft music playing in the background, rapper and poet Rick Chyme prepared the group to meditate.

“What are we going to focus on?” Chyme asked the class.

“Our breathing,” came the answer from seemingly everywhere.

“And what do we do when thoughts pop into our heads while we’re trying not to have any?” Chyme asked.

“Put them in an imaginary box,” said a student named Christian.

After about 10 very quiet minutes for any sixth-grade class, Chyme talked to the students about distractions, and how practicing setting them aside can quiet the mind enough to listen to your own thoughts. And those, he said, can be turned into art and shared.

“Let them out,” Chyme told the class, “because they’re all yours, they’re valuable and you own them. And if you want, you can share them to connect with others.”

“Put yourself into what you write by writing what means something to you,” Chyme tells students he works with. “Then just open the faucet and let it flow. Let it loose”

“Meeting So Many Core Curriculum Standards”

Chyme is a Grand Rapids songwriter, music video-collaborator and all-around wordsmith. He is a four-time WYCE radio Jammie Award winner, and has worked with musicians such as The Accidentals, The Crane Wives and Vox Vidorra. He also performed an improvised freestyle rap as an ArtPrize entry that clocked in at more than 17 hours and 33 minutes. He provided music supervision for the Jay-Z film “Fade to Black.”

Chyme works in schools using music as a vehicle to promote positivity and the pursuit of passion. Besides Grandville, he also is working this year with students at Kentwood, Wyoming, Grand Rapids and Thornapple Kellogg districts.

A $641 grant from the Grandville Education Foundation funded the two-session writing workshop and a trip planned in the spring to WYCE radio studios to tour the facility and, for those who are willing, perform on-air.

Peterman said Chyme’s workshop “meets so many core curriculum standards,” including writing, listening, grammar and speech, “and more than anything, it’s about the experience,” she said. “For the students to see someone who is cool, successful and following his passion, that’s something that’s going to stick with them for a long time.”

After meditation, Chyme led both groups of students in free-writing sessions, where the object was to put pencil to paper and keep writing, despite distractions, negative thoughts or not having anything to write about.

Next, he said, choose a sentence or phrase from your free-writing that speaks to who you are, and build on that by building a “word bank” of rhymes for the last word in that phrase or sentence.

There’s your first rhyme, he said. Keep going, and keep it meaningful to you so it will be meaningful to others.

“Put yourself into what you write by writing what means something to you,” he said. “Then just open the faucet and let it flow. Let it loose.”

Peterman said her students will perform their pieces at an end-of-year event.

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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