Words LIIVE shows kids how English class relates to rap - Technical.ly DC


Mar. 20, 2015 12:31 pm

Words LIIVE shows kids how English class relates to rap

Sage Salvo takes comparative literature to a different level — by annotating “Beowulf” and Kendrick Lamar side-by-side.

Sage Salvo is an economist, poet and educator.

(Photo by Flickr user TEDxMidAtlantic, used under a Creative Commons license)

Sage Salvo, a local poet, economist and educator, likes to connect the dots. And he believes that one point should not be omitted from high school English: kids’ favorite singers.

“The real power of literacy is to understand why the author wrote that way,” he explained. And often, rappers or pop singers structure their lyrics similarly to the writers of times past.

Salvo, with a Ph.D. in economics from Howard University and an MBA from the University of Toronto, is an ideas guy. But he’s also a wordsmith. “I’ve been a poet since I was a little 12-year-old boy,” he said, adding that he used to host open mic nights at Busboys and Poets from 2007 to 2009.

“I took the systems understood through economics,” he said, and combined them with language, “to help develop poetry.”

During the 2012-2013 school year, he worked with English teachers in Anacostia, Cardoza and Duke Ellington high schools and found a topic that resonated. “I would always end up using hip hop,” he said, to show “the literary system at play in the music.”

Take Beowulf, for instance: it’s an epic narrative, which includes a hero, voyage, a battle and a crowned king.

Here’s a study question: Where do you see reflections of that structure in modern music?

The correct answer was Kendrick Lamar’sGood Kid, M.A.A.D City.” “His entire album is written in that format,” explained Salvo.


Words LIIVE contains a series of text comparisons between traditional literature and modern artists. (Courtesy image)

Through the Words LIIVE curriculum, teachers are encouraged to “annotate Lamar and then do a close reading of Beowulf,” he said.


At this stage, the website features only Salvo’s lesson plans, but eventually teachers will be able to input their own text comparisons. “One might be using Kendrick Lamar, another might be using Taylor Swift,” he said.

Words LIIVE is collaborating with Prezi to build an API for the text comparisons. That could turn into a key component of his business model, he said.

Through a $25,000 friends and family round, Words LIIVE is creating its first minimum viable product. Eventually, Salvo wants to seek more investments through crowdfunding.

Last Thursday, Salvo launched Words LIIVE officially to the public at SXSWedu, where he gave a talk on Literacy Through Music, Social Media and Coding.

Additionally, Salvo will be using IBM Watson’s API for natural language processing. That new collaboration came about during the Austin festival.

“I’m a city boy,” said Salvo, who was born in the Northeast and grew up in Reston. “I’m into technology by default.” But he also believes that technology should become a subject in school.

“Literacy has more to do with than just literature,” said Salvo. It also involves the new language of coding, which comes with its own rules of grammar. “Why is there a hashtag next to a search phrase that structures a command?”

You must appreciate accurate, relevant and productive community journalism.  Support this sort of work from professional reporters with seasoned editors.  Become a Technical.ly member for $12 per month
Companies: Words LIIVE
People: Sage Salvo
Already a member? Sign in here


Remine lays off 42 sales employees

Meet Shavini Fernando, developer of a wearable vital monitoring device

HyperQube launches ‘cyber range as a service’



Learn to lead digital transformation at Phorum 2019



Experienced Software Engineer – Backend

Apply Now
Lanham, MD


Business Intelligence Analyst

Apply Now
Lanham, MD


Engineer II, Endpoint Systems

Apply Now

Framebridge opens a retail location in DC, with plans to add another next month

MindShare welcomes 58 CEOs into its 2019 cohort

CultivatePeople and Pearl Certification advance to Vinetta Project pitch finals in September



LawIQ seeks to engineer answers for the energy industry

Lanham, MD


Engineer II, Core Systems

Apply Now
Washington DC

The Washington Post

Back End Developer/ Engineer – Arc Engineering

Apply Now
Washington, DC

The Washington Post

Sr. Full Stack Developer

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Technical.ly Dc

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!