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Teaching Literacy and Advocacy Through Hip Hop

The words Hip Hop in block letters. I had the privilege of attending the standing-room only session, “Love, a Brave and Startling Truth: Healing Education Practices within the Cipher of Hip-Hop and Spoken Word Pedagogy” with Tish Jones and Moira Pirsch, at NCTE’s 2015 Annual Convention. Their session was one of many at the Convention that discussed the role of hip-hop in the English classroom. Educators are using this literary medium to teach more than language – they’re connecting it to discussions around race, social justice, and student agency. The quotes that follow are from NCTE members who have written and spoken on the topic. The articles linked below provide insights into how hip hop literacy can become part of your instruction too.

“We ultimately decided that we could utilize Hip-hop music and culture to forge a common and critical discourse that was centered upon the lives of the students, yet transcended the racial divide and allowed us to tap into students’ lives in ways that promoted academic literacy and critical consciousness,” explain Ernest Morrell and Jeffrey M.R. Duncan-Andrade in an article entitled Promoting Academic Literacy with Urban Youth through engaging Hip Hop Culture.

In another English Journal article Lauren Kelly describes her decision to incorporate hip-hop literacy into her teaching from the perspective of what is lost if she doesn’t: “The absence of hip-hop literacy in education does not only harm minority students. It also deprives white students of the opportunity to learn about others.”

David Kirkland describes his experience with hip-hop literacy both as a researcher and a teacher: “As an academic who has researched hip-hop and advocated for its use as a media literacy tool in the classroom, I have learned that hip-hop can be used in classrooms to inspire youth to be agents of social and political change.”

2015 NCTE Annual Convention presenters, Jamila Lyscott, Michael Cirelli and Tish Jones illustrate the above in the following videos:  “Broken English” (Jamila Lyscott), I am Hip Hop (Michael Cirelli) and Tish Jones: Tracks.

“Utilizing hip-hop in the classroom has proven to be a game changer for many students and teachers. Classrooms across the United States …have been transformed from atmospheres of chronic underperformance and sleepy disengagement to purposeful, dynamic, high-achieving learning environments characterized by meaningful lessons, engaged young people, and soaring academic aims—all by tapping the proven power of hip-hop pedagogy…” – From an introduction by Michael Cirelli and Alan Sitomer, Hip-Hop Language Arts: Thematic Textual Analysis

Is hip-hop part of your pedagogy? Tell us about it!