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Second-grade teacher's creative reading lesson goes viral

second-grade rappers

Teachers occasionally promise pizza parties, extended recess time or a movie hour as an incentive for students to pass an important test.

Second-grade teacher Michael Bonner decided to take a different approach.

Ahead of a “critical” Common Core Standard 2.RL.1 reading test, the 26-year-old teacher at South Greenville Elementary in North Carolina told his students they could make their own music video if he saw positive results.

When his students succeeded, they didn’t hesitate to remind him of his promise.

Bonner explained that South Greenville Elementary is a Title 1 school, which means there’s a high percentage of children from low-income families.

“There are kids that may be homeless, do not have access to adequate food or water, or even the basic necessities that help us function,” Bonner told CBS News. “FBI statistics state that 1 out of 3 African American boys go to prison. I have 12 to 13 within my class. That is approximately 60 percent of my classroom population.”

Since hip hop is embedded deeply within the African American culture, Bonner said he decided to incorporate it into a lesson.

The kids loved it.

But when Bonner presented the class with his original lyrics, some complained. With a few tweaks, they finally agreed: It was perfect.

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Michael Bonner, a second-grade teacher at South Greenville Elementary in North Carolina, poses with some of his students during a music video shoot. Michael Bonner

With smiles on their faces and the bass turned up, the young children stood in groups around the classroom, prepared to sing in turn.

“Reading helps us learn information for school, so we can answer questions and we can be cool,” the kids sang. 

Through lyrics, the kids also addressed the foundational questions in a story -- Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? -- Bonner said.

“’Who’ is for animals, people, and things,” they continued. “’What’ is for what’s happening in the story, man.”

Nearly 70,000 people have watched the adorable video since Bonner posted it on his Facebook page a few weeks ago.

“Honestly, whenever I post a picture with my students it receives quite a few likes,” Bonner said. “But this completely threw me off guard, to be honest.”

He hopes other teachers will mirror his unique approach -- not only to better themselves as educators, but to help their students progress.

“A quality education, which should strengthen the ability too analyze particular circumstances, could be the difference between them deciding to sell drugs or making the conscious choice to help better their future,” Bonner said.

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