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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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Chapter 3. Breakin’ It Down


← 26 | 27 →

. 3 .


Break beat fanatic, crates deep in attics / Forty-fives marked up, looped with static –GZA

The Slam Poetry Club. ← 27 | 28 →

The Hip Hop Art Space

I read the poem that concludes the previous chapter at our school’s second-ever Word Up!—near the end of my first full year of teaching. I read last, after nearly twenty students had performed for a sold-out, standing-room-only crowd of excited teenagers, curious teachers, and semi-skeptical administrators. Getting to that moment was a process, a kind of coming-of-age story. It is the story of this event—the story of my students’ development as writers—and the story of my identity as teacher-artist-researcher. These are the beginnings of Breakbeat Pedagogy, a kind of framework for teaching and learning that I hadn’t yet named, centered on the Hip Hop performance art space.

When we returned to school in January 2013 to plan the first Word Up!, I decided to have a few joint meetings between the Slam Poetry Club and Hip Hop Lit class together as one group. Between both groups, there were over forty students who wanted to be part of the event. There are many ways for students to get involved in a poetry slam or Hip Hop event. We needed a DJ, someone to design flyers and artwork, ticket sales, promotion, social media managers, planning/organization, dancers, photography, music production, hosts, and...

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