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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 8. Speaking as Breaking


← 84 | 85 →

. 8 .


Inhale break beats –Ghostface Killah

Student-poet performs at Word Up! June 2013. ← 85 | 86 →

To Speak a True Word

While Chapters 6 and 7 provide an in-depth look at two individual students who have learned within the framework of Breakbeat Pedagogy over an extended period of time, it is difficult to focus solely on them. There are countless other poems, rap verses, and artifacts produced by my students that are worthy of study, reflection, analysis, and interpretation. It is beneficial to explore the complex identities of a few students, but a discussion of Word Up! and Breakbeat Pedagogy would be incomplete without a consideration of the four student poems highlighted in this chapter.

Each of these poems was written by a different member of the Slam Poetry Club, some of whom were also enrolled in my Hip Hop Lit class during the past several years. The poems were written at different times in each writer’s development. Some of these students identify as writer, poet, MC, and/or spoken word artist. All four of these poems were performed at Word Up! before an audience of approximately two hundred people in the Black Box Theater. Prior to performing, each student workshopped his or her poem with peers and received feedback on both writing and performance. Some of the poems were written in response to a prompt, while others were generated without...

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