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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 6. Writing as Breaking


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. 6 .


Broken glass everywhere –Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

The slam team performs at Louder Than a Bomb youth poetry festival in Camden, New Jersey. ← 61 | 62 →

Allow Me to (Re)Introduce Myself

The next two chapters are presented as case studies of two students who have been members of the Slam Poetry Club and participants in Word Up! for several years. This chapter is a writer case study that focuses on a tenth grade student whom I’ve come to know through our work together. Eric (a pseudonym) was in the ninth grade when we first met. He was starting his first year of high school and I was beginning my first year of teaching. That fall, neither of us knew that we’d play an important role in the building of a writing community that would evolve into Word Up!

Explaining my relationship with Eric is not possible without describing the afternoon he surprised thirty students by speaking for the first time all year. In the weeks preceding the first Word Up!, we devoted entire afternoons to student workshops and event planning. The Slam Poetry Club joined the Hip Hop Lit class for several joint sessions, filling my room to capacity. It was especially full on the last Thursday before the event. I was finalizing the set list when Eric stood up in the corner of the room...

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