Teacher's music reward gives kids a chance to shine

KTRK logo
Friday, October 14, 2016
Students Music Video
After a majority of his students failed a test, a teacher decided to create a song about the material with his students.

GREENVILLE, North Carolina -- When a lesson on "who, what, when, where, why and how" just wasn't sticking, one teacher decided to speak to his students in a language they could understand - music. Now his teaching style and the students music video showcasing their lessons have gone viral.

It all started when a majority of Michael Bonner's second grade students at South Greenville Elementary in North Carolina failed a reading test. Bonner incorporated music into his lesson plans to increase his student's engagement and comprehension of the material. Bonner then promised his students that if they passed their reading test that the class could make a music video about what they learned.

"What really inspired me for the video was to see my students grow academically, particularly the African American boys in my classroom," said Bonner. "Our school is a Title One school which means we have a very high poverty rate. FBI statistics show that one out of three African American boys go to prison. I have 12 in my class. I know education is the key to overcoming poverty and the catalyst to them getting a head start on life. That was my motivation for making the music video an incentive."

The students all passed their reading test and two-thirds of the class got an 80 or higher. So, Mr. Bonner delivered on his promise.

"They re-wrote the lyrics, they made up the dances, they chose where they wanted to do the scenes and stuff, and that was all of them, and I'm proud of them," Bonner told WNCT-TV.

Bonner posted the clip on his Facebook page. The clip has since gone viral with thousands of views and shares. The students even appeared in multiple television segments. Bonner said he never expected the clip to go viral, but he is using the experience to teach his students something else.

"The kids are very aware that they are stars," said Bonner. "I actually talk to them on a constant basis to let them know that because of their new found fame, they must concentrate harder on their studies. To not allow the pressure to cave them in, but instead to allow it to be motivation for achieving new heights of success."

The next success he would like his students to achieve? Math.

"Ironically that same week the video was released, my students did not do to well on a Place Value math test," said Bonner. "I decided to tell them if 15 of the 21 students pass the math test, the 15 can pie me in the face. We will try to create another video."

With a teacher like Mr. Bonner, we're confident the students will continue to excel.