My name is rap… and I’m a fun game… that helps your kids… see that they’re the same!
New participants still getting to know one another? Everyone into hip-hop and rap? What better way to break the ice than to have them write and perform an original rap about themselves?! “Hi! My Name is…” is a classic name game icebreaker that helps participants express who they are and get to know one another all while learning rhythm/flow, lyric writing and the self-confidence to perform in front of each other.
Participants have to come up with a rap that describes who they are, what they like, etc.
Music program staff decide on the number of bars participants have to write (ie. 4, 8 or 12) depending on how much time you have
Participants individually spend 3-5 minutes writing or thinking of their lyrics
At the end of the designated lyric writing time, each participant performs their rap in front of the group
My name is Anne and I’m the Director Of New City Kids, yeah all 3 centers I love to sing, I love to play You can see me do both, any day
Optional elements to incorporate
Each participant chooses their own beat/instrumental online
Each participant creates one from scratch (using loops or beat making software)
Staff choose one backing track/beat for the whole group – see if everyone can perform their rap one right after another without missing a beat
Have participants also create choreography
Other creative elements could include:
Rap alias nicknames
Performing through a PA system on stage
Recording each rap in the studio
Create a music video
Have participants split up into pairs
Participants tell each other about their likes and interests
Each pair must write a rap about their partner based on the discussion
Participants perform for one another
Her name is Anne and she’s the Director Of New City Kids, yeah all 3 centers She loves to sing, She loves to play You can see her do both, any day
Five ways to clean up inappropriate language that you’ll swear by!
It’s natural for participants to want to imitate the music they listen to when they first start out recording or performing. In the context of a youth development music program however, the language and content of these songs aren’t always appropriate. This resource provides several approaches to encourage participants to expand their vocabulary and develop opportunities for growth and maturity including knowing your audience, assigning professional studio roles, rewriting lyrics, “three strikes” rule.
Example #1 – Know Your Audience
“I talk to my students about knowing your audience and the value you get for being flexible. Most times my rappers just want to swear for shock value and because it’s easier than writing how you feel. I just take the time to have a conversation with them and explain the most versatile artists get more gigs, radio play, opportunities and at the end of the day… more dollars!” – Submitted by Corey DePina, Zumix
Ask participants – “How many cuss words can you think of using when you’re angry?”
It might also be helpful to also show participants www.rhymezone.com or other rhyming dictionaries
Help participants understand the limits of using typical cuss words versus other words that may expand their vocabulary, set them apart, and better explain their emotions
Example #2 – Assigning Professional Studio Roles
“Younger participants sit-in on sessions with my older teens who are assigned traditional studio roles to make our studio feel more professional. They’re responsible, trusted and naturally influence younger participants and teach them our rules and if not, I can always step in when there’s inappropriate content. I use this as a teachable moment to have open conversations and help create mindfulness.” –Submitted by Javier Lozada, Malden YMCA
Assign professional Studio Roles
Artist – Typically a vocalist (singer or rapper) recording over a pre-recorded track
Producer – Participants who are interested in using technology to create beats using virtual instruments
Engineer – Participants who are more interested in the “behind the scenes” technical aspect of recording like setting up sessions, microphones, mixing, and using effects
Clearly establish the rules of the studio including language expectations
Help older teen participants mentor younger participants on studio rules and expectations
“Love is a Battlefield” – Two teams test their knowledge of commonly used lyrics in love songs!
Music is a universal language and it’s favorite topic is love! This icebreaker activity puts your participants love of music to the test. Which team can identify the most songs that include “Love Lyrics” and which team will leave the game broken-hearted?
Decide on the length of the game (ie. first team to “x” number of points or the team with most points after “x” number of minutes/rounds, etc.
Evenly divide a group of participants into two teams or, play off the “love” theme, divide the group into male vs. female.
At the start of each round the staff members pick a “Love Lyric” ie. a specific word that is commonly used in love songs like “Love” or “baby” (see sample list below).
The teams go back and forth and naming songs that include the round’s “Love Lyric”.
Staff members check/google the song’s lyrics to make sure it includes the round’s “Love Lyric”
If a team mistakenly identifies a song that does NOT include the round’s “Love Lyric” then the other team gets a point.
Also, if a team can’t think of a song that includes the round’s “Love Lyric” then the other team gets a point.
Tips and variations:
To keep the game moving quickly, set a time limit of 5 or 10 seconds for each team to think of a song that contains the round’s “Love Lyric”.
Have members sing the lyrics each round
Play love songs in the background while playing the game
“Last one standing” – form a circle, choose a “Love Lyric” and go around the circle naming songs until there is only one person left.
Choose different themes and/or lyrics
Write down songs that you don’t know or add them to a playlist (insight into your members’ musical interests)
Dropmix – part game, part DJ mixer, part ear-trainer… ALL fun!
Dropmix is a new game from Harmonix (the makers of “Rock Band” video game) that lets participants create unique mixes of popular songs by using playing cards connected to an iPad or iPhone. Because it’s a fun game, music programs quickly realize that it’s a great way to engage participants but others have found other creative ways to use Dropmix to teach their participants core musical concepts. Below is some feedback from program directors using Dropmix and the clever ways they incorporate it into their programs.
– “Dropmix has been engaging participants who were typically on the fringe (ie. not very active). They had a lot of fun once they tried it and now I have participants coming to my program just to play!” – Eddie Salas, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County – “Dropmix is a good quick way to get participants in the room and engage them. It really helps me to transition them to other activities once they are here.” – Dustin Cicero, A. Worley Brown Boys & Girls Club – “It has been great for getting more kids involved that would normally just “hang out”. The game makes interacting with music a fun and non-intimidating activity. It’s also perfect for getting brand new participants involved, excited, and having fun as soon as they walk in.” – Alex Delorey, Methuen YMCA – “I was skeptical at first but it has been helpful with programming because it has been a draw for some kids who wouldn’t traditionally come into the music room. It feels less intimidating to play a game than learning an instrument.” – Chris Knox, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County
Example #2 – Bracket Competition
“I have the kids listen when they play a card and try to explain what they hear changing in the music before they play a new card.” –Submitted by Chris Knox, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County
Friday bracket competition
Play every Friday and be sure to plug the game into large speakers!
Set up a simple/traditional bracket system to play multiple games/rounds
The total number of participants who want to play will determine if the bracket will be made up of solo players or you need to create groups/teams of participants.
Whether individuals or groups – the standard rules apply
Each week the winner (or group) gets a small prize
Engage large groups
Assign one or two responsible group leaders who will hold all of the cards.
The group leaders prompt participants with questions like “what type of beat should come next?” or “how can we completely change the vibe of the song?”
Group leaders get the group to discuss what they are hearing and collaboratively agree on which card to play next.
Participants debate and defend their favorite songs and create their own “Billboard” playlist
Do your participants know a lot about the latest and hottest tracks in popular music? Put their musical knowledge and opinions to the test by helping them create a collaborative, weekly Top 10 playlist. Split participants into groups and have them nominate current songs/artists they think should be on the Top 10 list. When the groups come back together, they’ll have debate and agree on a final Top 10 list for the week.
In additional participants will:
Develop critical listening skills and identify key song elements
Be exposed to different kinds of music
Learn to respectfully engage in a group discussion and communicate their ideas
Get to know their peers and their musical tastes
Check out current top hits on the Billboard 100 as a jumping off point to keep things current
Optional: Decide on the day’s/week’s Top 10 debate theme, for example:
Specific artist (e.g. “Top 10 Jay-Z songs”)
Genre (e.g. “Top 10 Rap songs/albums”)
Decades (e.g. “Top 90s songs/albums”)
Split participants into small groups
Participants will discuss/debate the theme until their small group reaches a consensus about a comprehensive Top 10 List.
Each participant should speak and provide input.
Each smaller group will nominate a representative to present their Top 10 List to the larger group.
Bring small groups back together
Each small group makes their case for their Top 10 List
Staff member moderates a discussion and allows participants/groups to argue which song was best and why
The goal is to determine a master Top 10 List by voting on each others’ choices
Post each group’s list on a board/easel (so you can see them all next to each other)
Starting with #10 (and working up) everyone votes (heads down/hands up) for each rank
Say there were 3 groups with 3 different lists and 3 different #10 songs
All the participants put their heads down
Staff read each #10 song out loud and tally the participants votes (raise of hand) for which of the 3 songs deserves the #10
The song with the most votes lands at #10 on the master list
Repeat this process until you get to the number 1 song
The final master list serves as our “Billboard Top 10” week-to-week and we can start comparing where songs move up/down, etc.
A fun, weekly contest in which each kid chooses a song that expresses the “emotion of the week”
The winner is the one who finds a song that best evokes the emotion of the week, as voted by their peers! The real treasure is helping kids understand how music can be a personal window into emotions and experiences.
In addition, participants:
Learn about the building blocks that make up a song
Hone their listening skills
Get to know each other better by articulating their ideas
Every Monday, write down the emotion of the week and display it in the room (somewhere prominent). For example, “Fear”
Participants spend the rest of the week thinking about what song makes them feel “fear.”
You can also explore these themes in your songwriting workshops through the week.
Participants write down the artist and title of the song they think best represents the week’s emotion and bring it in on Friday.
As a group, listen to each entry, and discuss whether or not it evokes the emotion of the week.
Participants should consider:
At the end of the listening session, participants vote on a winner whose song best represents the emotion of the week.
The winner gets to choose the emotion for next week.
Have a large group of new participants that need to break the ice and get to know one another? Question Mingle puts a musical twist on a classic icebreaker and uses your participants’ love of music as the common denominator to bring them together. Print and cut the following questions onto strips of paper, put them in a hat, let participants follow the prompts and sit back and watch how music breaks down barriers!
Print/cut questions into strips and put them in a hat. Use the examples below and/or think of your own!
Each participant chooses one question out of the basket.
Each participant finds a partner whom they’ve never met or haven’t talked to yet.
Both partners follow the discussion prompts on their papers.
Then all participants put their papers back into the basket, choose a new one, and find a new partner.
Continue this process until everyone has had a chance to talk to each other, or until time runs out!
Additional Resources (to print and cut into strips):
Find someone who plays in more than one band/group. Ask questions to learn more about each band/group.
Find someone who plays the same instrument as you. Talk about your influences and when/how each of you got started.
Find a partner. Talk about the last live concert each of you attended. Where was it? Who did you see? How was the show?
Find a partner. Talk about your first musical influences.
Find a partner. Each of you name your top 3 favorite artists/songs right now and why you like them.
Find a partner. Talk about a music teacher who inspired you and why.
Find a partner. Ask about a recent time they (or their band) performed live. Find out where it was, what it was like, and how it went.
Find a person who will be performing later tonight. Ask them how they’re feeling about it.
Find someone who writes original songs. Ask how they get ideas and about their songwriting process.
Find a person who plays in a band/group. Ask them to tell you about one of their band’s/group’s songs. Find out how the song was written and what the lyrics are about.
Find a partner. Talk about your earliest memories of enjoying music.
Find a partner. Each of you name your top 3 musical artists of all time.
Find someone who plays in a band. Ask the story of how their band got together.
Find a partner. Find an artist/song on each other’s phones that you’ve never heard of. Swap and listen.
Find a partner. Each of you name your top 3 vocalists of all time.
Find a partner. Imagine you are planning a party together. You can invite any 10 musical artists, living or dead. Who would you invite?
Find a partner. Talk about a musical artist, living or dead, who you would most like to see in concert.
Find a partner. Talk about the instruments each of you play and how you got started.
Find someone who writes song lyrics. Ask them to tell you their favorite lyrics from a song they wrote and what the lyrics mean.
Find a partner. Talk about how often, when, and where each of you gets together to practice or play music with your band or other people.
Use popular music trends to get your teen participants to tackle important social issues
Music and art have always been a great way to inspire thinking and get conversations going. Use the music your participants identify with to create discussions around issues that teens deal with every day and may have trouble addressing in a healthy way and safe environment. These discussions can help participants analyze deeper meanings from music videos, lyrics, or imagery used by popular artists in the Music Industry.
In addition, the hope is to achieve the following outcomes…
Teens feel comfortable to open up about their own thoughts/experiences related to current social issues
“Normalize” sensitive subjects, making it OK to discuss honestly
Set an example of adults/mentors discussing topics openly and constructively (especially if differing opinions are expressed)
Participants use concepts or topics discussed in their own original lyrics
Note: Due to the mature nature of the topics/lyrics/media that may be viewed/discussed, this program is recommended for older teens. Also consider getting support from the community or additional staff members like a social worker, counselor, resource officer and/or nurse.
Carefully listen to the themes in popular music or what your teen participants are listening to
Collect relevant music videos, song lyrics, album art, or social media posts from music industry leaders/artists that depict current social issues, including:
With your teen participants, decide on the social issue topics that they would like to discuss each week
Establish discussion ground rules with teen participants, including:
Speaking one at a time
Be respectful of others’ views
With teen participants, watch relevant music videos or listen to song lyrics and facilitate an open discussion
Week 1: Example – Kesha
First listen to an older Kesha song like “TiK-ToK”
Without discussion, next watch “Praying”
Discuss and compare the contrasting themes in the two music videos, including:
Music video imagery and themes
Instrumentation, arrangement, and production choices