Using Hip Hop in the Classroom

Published On November 9, 2016 | By Greg | Opinion

When a new teacher from a middle or upper class starts their teaching job at an underfunded, inner-city school it can be overwhelming.  They have trouble connecting to their students whom they seem to have little in common with and sometimes it is difficult for them to get their students engaged.  This is where hip-hop education comes into play.  Hip-hop education can lessen this gap, keep the students more engaged and help better the student-teacher relationship.

Hip-hop based education is a growing trend in the educational system and many scholars are questioning how reliable of an educational tool it actually is.  Some people do not believe that it is a productive way of teaching, and even some of the people that do support this type of learning believe that it is starting to be overused.

Hip-hop can be a very useful tool in the classroom if it is used effectively.  I would first like to draw a distinction between using hip hop specifically as a tool to teach and analyzing hip hop to learn more about a specific area or culture.  This distinction is important because while there is controversy with both, the arguments for each are very different.  Hip-hop provides scholars with a unique look into other cultures; it is not the type of hip-hop based education I am choosing to discuss in this blog post.

There are many pros and cons for using music, specifically hip-hop, to teach.  Incorporating something the kids like into their schooling peaks their interest in the subject, it has been proven that using music to study makes memorization easier, and including hip hop in the classroom can, in some cases, lessen the cultural divide between teacher and student.

There are many resources for teachers who want to start including hip-hop in their curriculum.  They have published books with specific lesson plans and worksheets to help teachers get accustomed to the hip-hop based education style, and there are also lists of topics that this kind of education is easily used for such as history, government, and remembering the periodic table.  There have been an increase of teacher workshops where they can learn how to form their own hip hop based education lesson plans, making this educational tool unique for their specific class.

For a long time now children and teachers have been using hip-hop in their own way to help themselves and their classmates retain information.  They have been creating their own raps or rapping things they need to remember because it makes it easier for them to retain and understand. Here is a link to a song made by teachers for their class to remember the words to the Preamble of the Constitution.

These resources greatly impact the reliability of this type of education.  If teachers know when and how to use hip-hop education it will be a more organized and effective form of education.  This is a system that needs to be tested.  Hip-hop based education may be effective with one class and not the other because it depends a lot on the students and the subject that is trying to be taught.  The people who say it using hip-hop is not an affective way to teach either are not using it correctly or in the correct setting.

There is this stigma that hip-hop based education is cliché.  This depends on how it is being used.  In the wrong environment, with the wrong subject, students, and teachers this type of education could easily seem not genuine and ineffective.

Overall hip-hop based education is an effective form of schooling children when used in the correct environment.  It keeps the students engaged, helps them retain information, and adds an aspect of fun into their schooling.  Instead of focusing on the failings of hip-hop education we should work on informing teachers to use it more successfully. Educated teachers lead to educated students, so this could be an improvement for not just hip-hop education, but education as a whole.

(This article was written by Meaghan Gray as part of the Global Hip Hop Cultures class at Trinity College Fall 2016 semester.)