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04-07-2001

Colorado Springs, CO

Teacher Uses Music to Teach Kids Writing

By Jeremy Meyer
The Gazette

Students generally don’t break dance to a grammar lesson, sing about the eight parts of speech or jump from their chairs at the mention of a verb.

They did this week at East Middle School, where visiting writing instructor Erik Cork brought his “Rap, Rhythm Rhyme” writing workshop. Cork’s boom-box-blaring boogie about language and writing skills had students dancing, laughing and learning to beats and music.

“Come on, everyone get up and do some verbs,” Cork shouted, leaping into the air and waving his hands during a session on Thursday. The students gleefully followed.

Cork, 38, travels to about 200 schools across the nation each year. He carries hundreds of CDs, a stereo system and transparencies that he projects onto a screen. He dances, mugs, raps, sings, jumps, shouts, and gets kids to laugh while teaching about writing. They’re having too much fun to realize they’re learning, he said.

Today’s teen-ager is bombarded with media – television, radio, CDs and telephones – and can grasp a message that’s accompanied with a groove, Cork told teachers in a workshop on Friday.

The school hired Cork to help prepare sixth-graders for May’s district-wide writing assessment test. Last year, the school’s results hovered around the district average.

Assistant principal Sharon Tunson hopes Cork’s one-day lesson to kids and the accompanying session for teachers will help her school exceed last year’s marks.

That’s it Cork said. Show the kids the excitement of writing and language, and they’ll never forget.

In one lesson Thursday, he played James Brown’s hit “I Feel Good (I Got You)” and changed the words to become a lesson on the eight parts of speech – nouns, pronoun, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections.

“I feel NOUNS, like objects found on the ground,” he sang. Students followed along with words projected onto a screen. They danced at his mention of verbs and put pencils to paper to complete an exercise on the lesson while Cork played TV’s “Jeopardy” theme song over loudspeakers.

Cork, a former teacher and self-described “edutainer,” developed his flamboyant teaching style several years ago. I found they knew every word to every song,” he said. “But I would ask them what I had just talked about, and they didn’t know, I started putting my lessons to music.”

He’s catching on. He’s conducted workshops for more than 100,000 students at more than 500 schools. His workshops preach writing, strong vocabularies, good study habits and an appreciation of the English language.