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Breakbeat Pedagogy

Hip Hop and Spoken Word Beyond the Classroom Walls


Brian Mooney

Breakbeat Pedagogy provides a groundbreaking framework for the inclusion of hip-hop culture in schools. Looking beyond the previous model of hip-hop-based education, Brian Mooney argues for school-wide hip-hop events, such as poetry slams, as the ideal site for students to engage in the elements of hip-hop culture. Working from the perspective of a classroom teacher, the author reflects on the story of Word Up!, a hip-hop and spoken word poetry event that began with students in a New Jersey high school. He makes the case for a pedagogy with the potential to transform urban schools and the way we think about them. This is essential reading for any teacher committed to social justice and culturally relevant education.
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Appendix A

Ten Tips for Teaching Hip Hop and Spoken Word Poetry

1. 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 your mind to new voices, cultures, perspectives, and ways of seeing the world. Your students need you to!

2. Create open mic time.

My students love reading their poetry during “open mic” time—this is a low-stakes, nonjudgmental period of 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning of every club or class meeting when students can share anything they’ve written—poems, verses, raps, bars, songs, or short stories. No feedback, just snaps! It’s ← 121 | 122 → important to develop a culture of listening and affirmation before getting to this next tip…

3. Workshop the writing.

Start an event! But remember that there is no successful poetry slam or Hip Hop show without good stories. Make sure you spend LOTS of time “workshopping” the poems and songs. Have student-poets and MCs bring in enough copies for everyone and get to work! Emphasize constructive, mature, respectful, critical, specific feedback! This should probably be the number one suggestion! Look at the work of Peter Elbow for...

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