Chance the Rapper, Lupe Fiasco, and 10 Other Songs that Will Inspire Your Students

Photo Credit: Julio Enriquez via Creative Commons

Some logic statements for the teachers out there:

1.) Your kids love music.

2.) You love your kids.

3.) Therefore, you love music.

Even though this conclusion isn’t sound logically, it couldn’t be more accurate. Kids are obsessed with music.[1] Put a good song in front of them and they’ll have in memorized by the next morning. Put a great song in front of them and they’ll be texting you about its importance in their lives many years later.

It took me a while to learn this lesson. When I started teaching I never thought to play and discuss music with my kids. Now, I can’t think of a better way to build culture / connect with kids on another level/create the mood in my classroom[2]/talk about current events/inspire while being inspired/have fun/all of the above.

My proposal?

1.) Find a song you love soon / tonight / right now. (I put some suggestions below!)

2.) Print out the lyrics and give them to your kids. (Major key alert as DJ Khaled likes to say.)

3.) Play the song for / with them. (Feel free to do this twice.)

4.) Share what you love about the song. (Make sure kids share what they love too! I’d even have them share first.)

5.) Repeat as regularly as you can. (Also, ask kids which songs they want to hear to see if they have any good suggestions. They will.)

Here is an example of this:


Below are 12 legit songs that you could try. One for each month in no particular order. I’ve included my favorite lines too, which I think get to the heart of each song.

1.) Lupe Fiasco – The Show Goes On

So no matter what you been through
No matter what you into
No matter what you see when you look outside your window
Brown grass or green grass
Picket fence or barbed wire
Never ever put them down
You just lift your arms higher

2.) Big Sean – One Man Can Change The World ft. Kanye West, John Legend

Used to look up at the stars and be like ain’t too much that’s different
I be shinin’, they be shinin’, get your one shot don’t you miss it
What you know bout’ wakin’ up everyday like you on a mission?

3.) Macklemore – Wednesday Morning 

Greatest gift I ever learned is helpin’ someone else
You feel fully fulfilled ’cause you forget about yourself

4.) Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Cast of Hamilton – My Shot[3]

Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I’m not throwing away my shot

5.) Angel Haze – Battle Cry ft. Sia

Sometimes you have to hurt for the ’cause to be reached
But one day you’ll be stronger than all that you beat

&

Money cannot buy
All the love that’s here tonight

6.) The Script – Hall of Fame ft. will.i.am

Do it for your people
Do it for your pride
How you ever gonna know if you never even try?

7.) Chance the Rapper – Blessings (Reprise) ft. Ty Dolla Sign, Raury, BJ the Chicago Kid, and Anderson Paak

I speak of wondrous unfamiliar lessons from childhood
Make you remember how to smile good

8.) Common, John Legend – Glory

Selma’s now for every man, woman and child
Even Jesus got his crown in front of a crowd
They marched with the torch, we gon’ run with it now

9.) One Republic — Good Life (Remix) ft. B.o.B

They say the best is yet to come
But I swear it’s already here
Just open up your eyelids

10.) Andra Day – Rise Up

All we need, all we need is hope
And for that we have each other

11.) Logic – 1-800-273-8255 ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid

But you gotta live right now
You got everything to give right now

12.) Auli’i Cravalho – How Far I’ll Go[4]

I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
I’ll be satisfied if I play along
But the voice inside sings a different song

And a few bonus songs because you’ve read this far (why not??):

The Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love?

Yo’, whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity

The Black Eyed Peas – #WHERESTHELOVE ft. The World[5]

Love is the key
Love is the answer
Love is the solution
They don’t want us to love

Nas – I Can

Read more, learn more, change the globe

Kesha – Praying

I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come

Ben Platt and the Cast of Dear Evan Hansen – Waving Through a Window

On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?

There are going to be other great songs that you play too. Share them in the comments section below! I’m always looking for good music.

I’ll leave you with these three final thoughts. All from kids I taught in 5th grade who are now in their last years of high school. In March I put up a picture of The Show Goes On on Instagram and they had this to say:

Tahliyah: “I was just bumping this yesterday lol I’ll never forget this song.”

Makeda: “The Anthem!!”

Quamir: “Was motivation back then still is now.”

Word.

To slightly remix Shakespeare:

If music be the food of students, play on.[6]
—————
[1]As are most people.
[2]During the warm up to start class I like to play high energy songs such as Chance the Rapper – All We Got and Krewella – Alive to build momentum. During the more reflective parts of class I like to play instrumental songs such as Explosions in the Sky – Your Hand in Mine and Coldplay – Life in Technicolor so kids focus more on their work than the words.
[3] “I’m ‘a get a scholarship to King’s College” is also an amazing line.
[4]Don’t sleep on this song. Moana is a badass.
[5]I might play this video too the second time through.
[6]A shout-out to Twelfth Night: “If music be the food of love, play on.”

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Mark Joseph

Sixth Grade Math is Life Teacher at KIPP Rise Academy
Mark Joseph is a sixth-grade math teacher at KIPP Rise Academy, where he has taught for eight years. You can contact him at mjoseph@kippnj.org or on Instagram/Twitter @_realmarkjoseph.
  • Edgar Barros Lisboa

    Great way to connect and engage with students, showing a teacher is also a person that can appreciate the same music they do, and that famous musicians write about common concerns.