Hip Hop in the Classroom

This past Sunday, one of my coworkers and I decided to lesson plan at Starbucks.  While there, she shared with me a book, Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Collection of Poetry with a Beat, by famed poet Nikki Giovanni.   As I flipped through the pages, I became so inspired to use more hip hop, lyrics and poetry in my class this year.  I was reminded just how much hip hop and poetry is a part of me, and how I can reach my students in a fun and engaging way.

Outside of my literacy block, I use inspirational music to start my day as students complete their Do Now.  I have a track list that includes R Kelly’s The World’s Greatest, Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All, Ashanti’s Dreams and many more.   I use the music to set the tone for the day, while also unconsciously feeding my scholars to believe in themselves.

Additionally, the teachers join together to transform hip hop lyrics into college-themed chants and cheers.   Last year, there was a battle between third, fourth, and fifth grades to change the lyrics of Wiz Khalifa’s Black and Yellow to inspire our scholars to get ready for the DC-CAS.  I can still remember my scholars bouncing while rapping, “Gonna pass, DC-CAS, gonna pass, DC-CAS” to the beat.

Nevertheless, I was not using hip hop as much as I could during my actual literacy components.   It was not because I did not think that hip hop as a part of literacy.  After some reflection, it was that I was focusing much of my attention on novels, short stories and non-fiction books, opposed to musical lyrics.  As a literacy teacher, I can use poetry and hip hop lyrics to teach read aloud and Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops mini-lessons.  Below are just a few from the book that I selected:

  • Tupac Shakur’s Rose that Grew from Concrete
  • Benjamin Zephaniah’s For Words and Pencil Me In
  • Antwone Fisher Who Will Cry?
  • Mos Def’s Umi Says
I cannot wait to infuse more hip hop and poetry into the literacy components of my classroom this year.  Hip hop music allows our children to feel free and express themselves.   By tapping into such a major part of their identity, teachers are sure to engage them with lessons that they will remember.  Growing up as a child, I listened to hip hop music.  While mainstream hip hop gets a bad reputation today, there many quality artists who are producing music that should not be overlooked.  
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