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10 Tips for Teaching Hip-Hop and Spoken Word Poetry

Be yourself. If hip-hop isn’t your thing, don’t sweat it. Better to “keep it real” and be yourself. In other words, keep it authentic. Find connections to your students that are meaningful to you – but don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. If you love classic poetry, boom – spoken word is calling your name. Open …

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We Gon’ Be Alright: A reflection on Kendrick Lamar’s visit

“Something for me even bigger than mentoring is really listening…When I do that we have a little bit bigger [of a] connection than me being Kendrick Lamar and you being the student. It’s almost like we’re friends because a friend listens.” – Kendrick Lamar at High Tech High School Reflecting on Kendrick Lamar’s visit to our high school is challenging …

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Why Schools Should Include Hip-Hop In The Curriculum

Most classes start with a “Do Now” or “Warm-Up.” Mine often start with a hip-hop cypher. In a cypher, students stand in a circle, spread at equal distances, and one at a time, contribute a rhyme, line of poetry, thought, idea, or affirmation. This circle is the pedagogical foundation of the work I do in hip-hop education.   On a …

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Hip-Hop Education: An Interview with Dr. David Kirkland of NYU

As part of a series of interviews with scholars, teachers, and students about the intersections of hip hop, spoken word poetry, and urban education, we interviewed Dr. David Kirkland of New York University. Dr. Kirkland is a transdisciplinary scholar of English and urban education, who explores the intersections among urban youth culture, language and literacy, urban teacher preparation, and digital media. …

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Part 2: High School Students Write Essays on Kendrick Lamar’s album, To Pimp A Butterfly

“Over 40 years, we’ve made changes in this country, but did we make a change in the heart of the individual?” – Jalen (9th grade) Since my last post about teaching Kendrick Lamar’s new album, To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) in the high school classroom, many people from around the world, including educators and music fans alike, have asked me to share some …

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Hip Hop Education: An Interview w/ Dr. Pedro Noguera

As part of a series of interviews with scholars, teachers, and students about the intersections of hip hop, spoken word poetry, and urban education, we interviewed Dr. Pedro Noguera of New York University. Dr. Noguera is the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. He is a sociologist whose scholarship and research focuses on the ways in …

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Why I Dropped Everything And Started Teaching Kendrick Lamar’s New Album

When Kendrick Lamar released his sophomore album, To Pimp A Butterfly (2015), I was in the middle of teaching a unit on Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye (1970). My freshmen students were grappling with some big ideas and some really complex language. Framing the unit as an “Anti-Oppression” study, we took special efforts to define and explore the kinds …

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90 Days of American Schooling

1. This syllabus is now your God. Best learn how to genuflect. 2. Everything is here in black and white. My expectations are clear. Don’t act like you weren’t told. 3. You see my late policy. You see our classroom norms. Don’t act like you don’t know, because now you know. 4. This is a contract. You will sign it. …