The “Lit” Classroom: Hip Hop Pedagogy and Play as a Culturally Responsive Approach

The “Lit” Classroom: Hip Hop Pedagogy and Play as a Culturally Responsive Approach

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8867-2.ch006
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In this chapter, the author explores the culturally responsive approach of Hip Hop Pedagogy and Hip Hop Play. The author demonstrates how educators' beliefs about Hip Hop may influence if, how, and why they engage in Hip Hop Pedagogy and Play in the contexts of their classrooms and communities. The author makes the case that culturally responsive educators value, appreciate, critique, and understand Hip Hop from a historical aspect and as an effective approach to teaching and learning. The author provides an overview of Hip Hop and demonstrates how culturally relevant educators foster opportunities through Hip Hop and play for students to “read” (interpret) and respond to their lived experiences and worldviews.
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The Urban Dictionary defines the term lit as exciting and fun. The term is widely used by Hip Hop artists and listeners to express their vivaciousness. This high energy and verve is flagrant in the classrooms of educators who apply their cultural knowledge to foster Hip Hop pedagogy and play. These classroom environments are the antithesis of traditional, assimilationist classrooms, where classroom children are required to remain seated and silent, while banking knowledge (Friere, 1970) transmitted to them. While classrooms in the United States continue to become increasingly diverse (Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002), the seeming absence of hip hop as curricula in many of the nation’s divergent classrooms could indicate that many minority students who come from stigmatized groups who express themselves through hip-hop are not provided with opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge in non-traditional ways in their classrooms. The premise of this chapter is to support the reader in developing cultural knowledge. Hip Hop and Hip Hop pedagogy is used as an example of ways in which the development of cultural knowledge can be used to drive culturally responsive pedagogical approaches like Hip Hop Pedagogy and Hip Hop Play.

It is 9:06 a.m. on a Monday morning and Mr. Wigfall, an African American, male teacher is holding a morning meeting with his class of kindergartners. “What did you do this weekend?” he asks each child. Malcolm, a 5-year old is selected to share his weekend experience. “We had a birthday party for my cousin and we danced all day long!” raved Malcolm. “It sounds like you had a good time with that music!” says Mr. Wigfall. “Yea, it’s the music that we can’t listen to at school; the cool music!” says Malcolm. “What kind of cool music?” asks Mr. Wigfall. “It’s Hip Hop!” Malcolm responds. “You should share your cool music with the class,” urges Mr. Wigfall.

Many educators like Mr. Wigfall have used Hip Hop music as a culturally relevant pedagogy tool to support children in meeting and superseding national and statewide standards in their Kindergarten-12th grade classrooms. Culturally relevant pedagogy can take on many forms and is not limited to a focus on Hip Hop pedagogy. Hip Hop pedagogy? Yes, it is how teachers teach with and through Hip Hop. There are some teachers who perform Hip Hop to express emotions and to deliver content. For instance, I would perform a rap about the different types of clouds, and children would clap and rap along with me (even if they didn’t know the words). Whether it be educators who teach with and through Hip Hop with ease or teachers who experiment with Hip Hop in the classroom, teachers who care about children’s interests in Hip Hop or any other cultural aesthetics are often seeking new ways to tap into children’s interests. Educators who engage in culturally relevant and Hip Hop pedagogical approaches have an awareness that their culturally and linguistically diverse children may demonstrate academic skills in their communities and homes that may not be apparent to most teachers. For instance, there may be a child in your class that doesn't say much or isn’t typically engaged. However, this child may be very vocal and very engaged in their community and at home, demonstrating skills and talents that you had no idea they possessed. There are many children who fall into this category. I was one of them.


What Is Hip Hop?

The death of civil rights; the militarization of urban space; the infiltration of political movements (Black Panthers, Brown Berets, Young Lords); massive joblessness; urban blight the dozens; the digital age; declining parks, schools, and youth programs; and innovation, creativity and play – all have collectively converged to make Hip Hop’s origins multifaceted, politically conflicting, consistently debated, and highly complicated (Akom 2009, 53).

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