High school biology teacher uses rhymes, raps to teach

Kristin Chavis teaches 9th-grade students in Louisiana.

ByABC News
April 13, 2017, 3:16 PM

— -- A Louisiana high school teacher is rapping and rhyming to help her 9th-grade students learn biology.

Kristin Chavis, a science teacher at Green Oaks High School in Shreveport, sets verses to music when her students have a hard time grasping any particular subject matter.

“I can teach an entire lesson in five to seven minutes in one song,” Chavis, 30, told ABC News. “How fast the students can learn the lyrics to a song amazes me.”

Chavis created her first song for students last year when she was brought in midsemester to teach biology and quickly saw that students were not comprehending what they were being taught about the circulatory system.

Chavis said she panicked, concerned that students would be unprepared for end-of-course exams.

“I started praying about what I should do and one night just before I got in my bed I heard circulatory system, circula-circulatory system in my head,” she recalled. “I recorded it on my phone and then went to my computer and stayed up all night.”

Chavis’s overnight brainstorm resulted a nearly four-minute song with lyrics like, “Now it’s time for the new blood, cuz we can’t never ever use blue blood.”

The students loved the song and Chavis began producing more. She gives her 130 students printed handouts with the songs’ lyrics and posts the songs on sites like YouTube and iTunes so the students can learn the lyrics on their own.

“I have kids who tell me they wait for the new music to come out and get ready to the songs in the morning,” Chavis said. “And some of their siblings and cousins in elementary schools know the songs too.”

She continued, “Our kids hear so much negativity in their headphones, I have five minutes to influence their thinking and I want to take advantage of it. If I can do it in a catchy beat they wouldn’t mind listening to in their car or with their friends, I’ll use it.”

Marvin Alexander, the principal of Green Oaks High School, a school of 700 students, said students seek him out after hearing Chavis’ songs.

“Our kids are so engaged in her lessons,” he said. “They come find me in the hallways and say, 'Guess what I learned in Ms. Chavis’ class?’”

He added, “That’s what you want to hear from a principal’s standpoint.”

Chavis, who sang her first solo at age 2 and has played the piano since age 4, created a seven-minute song of her lessons called “School You in Biology.” She has also has an "Organ System" mixtape of her material available online.

“The song closest to my heart is definitely ‘Circulatory System’ because that’s where it all started,” Chavis said. “If I listen to it with the kids I have to fight back tears.”

“For a teacher to see their kids motivated and learning, that’s like the joy of the world,” she said.