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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 7. Reading as Breaking


. 7 .


Hip hop enthusiasts, crate diggin’ analysts / Break beat choppin’ / Turntable protagonists –Phonte

Kendrick Lamar participates in a cypher with students in Brian Mooney’s classroom. ← 77 | 78 →

Reader as Self

This chapter focuses on an eleventh grade student whom I worked with between 2012 and 2015. Treena (a pseudonym) is a seventeen-year-old African American dance major. She also identifies as a poet or spoken word artist. I met Treena during my first year of teaching and our relationship continued to develop through our work with spoken word poetry. Treena regularly attended the Slam Poetry Club that meets on Tuesdays after school and performed in three Word Up! events.

When conducting this case study, we decided to meet in my classroom during a free period. As in my work with Eric, I was transparent with the study, informing Treena of its scope and vision—and sharing an overview of my research. I asked her to complete a Reader Survey (see Appendix I) before our first meeting. This served as a guide to our discussion, which focused for the most part on Treena’s love of performance poetry, but also on her dislike of mandated school reading. When asked about her attitudes toward reading, Treena differentiated between in-school and out-of-school reading. She described school as an “institution” where reading for pleasure is unlikely to occur. It’s important to note her use of the word...

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