Hip hop in the classroom: Where's your line drawn?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by EdEd, Mar 19, 2011.

  1. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Mar 19, 2011

    Let's say you work in an urban school, and you have a new kid in your 3rd grade class that has been nothing but trouble for the last 2 weeks. You've been trying to connect with him, trying to help him make friends, and trying to help him adjust - but nothing has been working. One day, you notice him drawing on a piece of paper, and ask him what it is. He says, "It's my favorite rapper - ______. I have him on my mp3 player - can we listen to it?"

    You start to consider - kids aren't supposed to have mp3 players, and it's probably not the best use of instructional time, but maybe during an indoor recess? Maybe at the end of the day while waiting for buses to be called? You preview the song, and there are no "bad" words, but there are some questionable themes - nothing overtly sexual or relating to drugs, but some "choice" phrases that are a bit past your standards.

    You start to wonder what to do - this is the first time this child has shown any interest in you and the rest of class - it could be a great opportunity to connect, and bring him into your classroom community. But, if play a song this time, will there be more requests from him? From other kids? Phone calls from parents?

    ______

    So here's the prompt: What would you do? And, more broadly, with pop culture becoming increasingly "inappropriate," how do you react to situations in which you could connect with a child or group of kids by sharing in some experiences of pop culture, even though those pop cultural experiences might be offensive to some out there?

    Where is your line?
     
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  3. Sshintaku

    Sshintaku Comrade

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    Mar 19, 2011

    Don't play it in the classroom. If a kid shows a certain interest, I might ask for the name of the song and look it up later, and then we can have a conversation about it.
     
  4. Teach'em

    Teach'em Companion

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    Check out "Flocabulary: Hip Hop in the Classroom." My 3rd graders LOVE it and beg for it everyday...and, they are learning new vocabulary, but barely even notice! :)
     
  5. passionateacher

    passionateacher Comrade

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    Maybe since you now know he's into rap, you can teach an educational rap song to the class. Make up one for any concepts that you want to teach. I like making them for grammar but I've also made a few for math concepts too. I even let 1 kid make the beat with his mouth and some of them wanted to clap/stomp to the beat. And every time I asked "What is a noun?" at least 1 of them would quietly rap, "A noun is a person, a place, or a thing!" Of course then others would request that we just sing the whole grammar rap to review. Your new kid will most likely feel more of a connection to you and the class when he witnesses your appreciation for rap. Plus it's educational and everyone benefits. IMO, a better way to play off this kid's love for rap than to play a random rap song not related to their learning.
     
  6. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Thanks everyone for the ideas! So, I should clarify - first, I definitely have worked with kids like this, and really appreciate the ideas. I'm definitely learning!

    My main point, though, is a discussion prompt - just using this story as a hypothetical to see your thoughts on some of the underlying issues here. So, following up with a few of your comments, would you all do these alternatives you've suggested as alternative to playing his song in the class - would you avoid the question, or say no? Are there circumstances in which you could see yourself bringing in pop culture that isn't 100% educational?

    Thanks again!
     
  7. passionateacher

    passionateacher Comrade

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    I would do what I suggested...as I already do since I like music and have many students who like rap music. I have never remade a currently popular song into an educational song, but I think that would be even cooler to do. I remember Ron Clark speaking about how he remade a popular song called "The Thong Song" into a song about math for his middle schoolers, because he said the kids sang it all the time (even though it was inappropriate).

    In the future I might bring in pop culture that's not educational to use for song fluency. I've heard of other teachers in my school doing this with Michael Jackson songs where they teach the kids the melody, then give each kid a copy of the words and play the song while they read/sing it a few times.

    So the actual song isn't educational at all, but the activity is.
     
  8. Teach'em

    Teach'em Companion

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    I wouldn't play the song unless it had educational value. If he was in my class everyday, he would probably enjoy engaging in Flocabulary which would most likely bring him out of his shell and help me understand his interests better.

    I have kids ask me all the time if we can do this or that. If it's not appropriate, then the answer is no. Simple.
     
  9. Teach'em

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    In the future I might bring in pop culture that's not educational to use for song fluency. I've heard of other teachers in my school doing this with Michael Jackson songs where they teach the kids the melody, then give each kid a copy of the words and play the song while they read/sing it a few times.

    So the actual song isn't educational at all, but the activity is.[/QUOTE]

    I do this all the time! My kids love it...we are currently learning: All Star, We Are the Champions, etc. to get ready for testing.
     
  10. LUCHopefulTeach

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    I student taught in an urban fifth grade classroom and incorporated hip hop into my instruction. We created raps about photosynthesis. I taught rounding my modifying a Beyonce song. We had a policy about turning in paper and assignments with your names on it and to teach it I modified another Beyonce song. I would play appropriate hip hop music during choice time. They loved it and I loved it.
     
  11. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I might talk about the song/rapper with the kid, but I wouldn't allow the kids to listen to any "pop culture" stuff in my classroom. For example, I have a really rough group of kids in my afterschool program. They'll often talk about songs or tv shows that aren't really school appropriate. I sort of "connect" with them by saying something like "oh yeah I have that song on my ipod..." and acknowledging them, but then I'll also say something like "but we can't really sing/listen to that at school." They usually understand. As for playing this type of music, I think the possible consequences outweigh the benefits.
     
  12. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    with hip hop I draw the line at hip hop.
     
  13. 2ndTimeAround

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    I would never go against school/district rules just to gain the favor of a student. If the 'hook' to grab that one student was something prohibited during school hours I would turn it around to something that is allowed.

    Johnny can't listen to the song during school. But he can write down the lyrics and explain how it applies to a certain lesson. I wouldn't expect such a student to do extra work. Therefore, I might create an assignment for the class as a whole to do something along those lines.

    I really feel strongly about changing school rules 'just one time' for the good of one student. It is one thing to feel cherished and heard. It is another to be told outright that students can break rules if they just show enough apathy during classtime.
     
  14. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I think this is a really great post.
     
  15. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    If you as the teacher don't feel the song is appropriate, then it doesn't get played. If you as the teacher do not like the song, it does not get played.

    I play music in my classroom, at times that I deem appropriate. The music is what I like and what I deem appropriate. Sometimes, the students like it, sometimes I take student suggestions, but again, I have to like it, and deam it appropriate.
     
  16. EMonkey

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    I might do some work as a whole class to compare the children's interests in music. I might investigate various types of music.

    I might have him and others bring in songs so I can listen to it first (with the forewarning that I will check them for whether it is okay). I then might do investigation with the various music. I might have them listen and do art from the music, listen and write about their opinion, I might have them use their bodies to develop emotional pictures with the music, I might have them do freeze dances with the music... That way I am incorporating the child's interests and integrating things I would normally teach anyway as well as giving him an opening to see commonalities with the other children.
     
  17. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Alright, so it seems that most people here would a) try to find an alternative that definitely crossed no lines, and b) wouldn't play any music that could be considered inappropriate in the classroom at all. There seems to be a pretty strong consensus with this.

    Let me hit this issue from another angle: literature. Have any of you ever decided to have your class read a book, or even let one child read a book, that could be considered by some to be inappropriate?

    And let me do a little further definition of inappropriate here - let's assume there are three categories - 1) books/music that all would agree are appropriate; 2) books/music that all would agree are inappropriate; and 3) books/music that only some would agree is appropriate. For example, Harry Potter - some think it's ridiculous that a child couldn't read this book, some think it's the work of the devil. I bring this up because I think the discussion so far has assumed that the music I'm talking about is reprehensibly over-the-line inappropriate. Let's assume we aren't talking rated R, but some mildly suggestive content.

    So, either going back to the music question, or moving toward the novel question, what are your updated thoughts if any?
     
  18. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    The difference between music and books is that everyone in the class would hear the music. If a child were reading a book that other students/parents might feel is inappropriate, that kid is not participating in it. Music everyone, including myself are listening.
    Students have read books in my class that I felt were inappropriate for them, but their parents allowed it. Music, I have to control that since all ears hear it.
     
  19. krose

    krose Rookie

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    Another alternative to playing the song itself would be to play the intrumental. The student would recognize the music but you would not have to worry about any inappropriate language or messages. I do know that kidsbop remakes songs (pop, hip hop, etc) and children are singing the song, and most inappropriate language is omitted.
     
  20. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I think nearly any book could be considered inappropriate by a small number of people. But as far as reading a "certifiable" controversial book, I have taught The Giver many times despite some parents who have been upset by the content. I kept the parents informed about our whereabouts in the book as well as our activities and discussions to help make them comfortable—or at least less uncomfortable. There are many, many books in our school library I would never read with my students because I find them to be inappropriate, but my professional decision was the The Giver was not inappropriate for the grade and academic level of my students, especially when being taught.

    Have there been books I wouldn't allow to be read by individual students? Yes. And I won't apologize for that. Sixth graders reading books about a “horny English teacher” who stares as the young students’ breasts and pursues a sexual relationship with one, discussions of “going down” on guys numerous times, a girl “squirting when she comes”, a father telling his daughter she forgot to “mow the lawn” in reference to her pubic hair...not to mention the underage drinking, an obscene amount of cuss words, and plenty more disturbing material...that sent me straight to our library media specialist. I was beyond appauled we were offering that book (TTYL, for your reference) to eleven year old children. If after speaking to the parents about this book they approved of their children soaking all that up, there isn't much I can do. But in order for me to sleep soundly at night, I made what decision I felt to be appropriate.
     
  21. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    That's crazy! There were actually books in the library with all of those references? Were they part of a popular series or donated? I'm wondering how they possibly passed inspection by the media specialist?!
     
  22. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Yes, they were in the library purchased by the librarian. My students were driving me nuts to reserve copies for them, so I finally asked to borrow a copy so I could enjoy it as well. I was furious by page three. The librarian, for the record, is horrible, horrible, horrible...not that these things can always be avoided (sometimes only corrected), but sheesh!
     
  23. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    JustMe~could you PM what series that was?
     
  24. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I'd also like to know the name of that series.
     
  25. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    When students are working individual, I normally put music on, but most of my student like country so I don't have to worry about bad words. If I know there is a bad word in there, I skip that song.
     
  26. LUCHopefulTeach

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    I think finding appropriate and academically meaningful ways to incorporate hip hop. in fact any type of music, is beneficial in a classroom and can increase creativity. We cannot allow our personal preferences or biases to become more important than opportunities that benefit our students.

    JustMe- That book sounds rather inappropriate and shouldn't be allowed in the library. Unfortunately though most parents allow their children to read whatever they want and sometimes the more controversial topics in a book are extremely subtle. I had a fifth grader come to me and tell me that she felt both Edward and Jacob were too controlling and abusive in Twilight: Eclipse. Most parents are just happy that their children are reading and don't think about the content.
     
  27. Cerek

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    My son's math teacher supposedly let's the kids listen to Journey while doing class work. He has previewed all the songs to make sure there is no suggestive or controversial content.

    I use Pandora in my classroom. During my prep time, I like to listen to 80's Pop or Hard Rock, but during class I usually choose the "Cool Jazz" station. I play this during classwork time and tests. I also have a Classical station I use if I'm tired of Jazz.

    I tried playing some Journey and Chicago at the beginning of the year, but kids were becoming more interested in listening to the music than doing their work. With Jazz and Classical, I don't have that problem, but they still have some nice background music while they work.

    In high schools, students are allowed to listen to their MP3 players while doing classwork. I don't preview their personal content. Instead, I tell them that if they spend more time looking for specific songs instead of working, then the MP3 player will be put up.

    I'm not a big fan of rap, but I don't outright dislike. I have a very eclectic taste in music. However, there is one commercial on the Pandora site that is done rap-style. Nothing wrong with the commercial, but the kids will invariably look up and start be-bopping along with the commercial when it comes on, so I think it would be too much of a distraction, just like the other artists I mentioned. In my experience, it's best to stick with instrumental selections.
     
  28. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I haven't played too much music in the classroom this year, but in the past I've played a bit. Favorites of mine and students are Stevie Wonder, one of those "Sounds For Relaxation" CDs, a compilation of Mexican guitar music, and Morrissey. If I'm being honest, that last one is a favorite of mine but my students hate him. :lol:

    Music is an important part of some people's lives, including mine. I can definitely understand the appeal of using it to bridge the gap between the teacher's life experiences and the student's. With that having been said, I think it's also important to remember that school is supposed to be a safe place where students shouldn't be subject to things that would reasonably make them uncomfortable or would be somehow "bad". I think that any genre of music that reliably talked about disrespect towards women, violence, and drug use should not be present in the classroom, especially in younger grades. It's too likely that young students would hear and internalize that stuff and start to think that it's okay to call women "bitches" or smoke a lot of weed while you're riding around in your car. I don't think that we as teachers need to glorify that stuff in our classrooms.

    There's got to be another way to reach this student.
     
  29. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Cerek - I think that's awesome that your middle school kids were getting hooked on journey :). Not sure if it was all Glee, but these last 2 years its been like a new band.

    So, I'm hearing a consistent message, which is that music can be good if not distracting, but that most wouldn't play any music that is any level of depth into one's "gray area." In addition, most people have suggested looking at alternative ways to incorporate the kid's interest, such as some academic content that might incorporate elements of hip hop.

    So, probing yet another angle, does anyone here find any instructional value in working through inappropriate content with kids so as to neutralize it, discuss it, and teach an understanding of why certain parts of music may be appropriate?

    Here's where I'm going: if a good number of kids already listen to the music, then would listening to a popular song with questionable content, then analyzing that song and talking about the themes in an instructional way (e.g., why it is inappropriate to glorify violence, objectify women), be helpful? Perhaps even a good intro to a segment on moral reasoning? If so, at which age do you think a child/teen is old enough to be able to digest inappropriate content without internalizing it, but objectively analyze it for what it is in a healthy way?
     
  30. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    It was the "Internet Girls" series including TTYL by Lauren Myracle.
     
  31. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I still feel their Greatest Hits is one of the best albums ever made. I found a new version with more songs at Wal-Mart at the beginning of the year. Tried it a few times. The kids liked it, but like I said, began paying more attention to the music than their work. Jazz and Classical have worked very well as alternative choices.



    I think that would be a great lesson for either an LA, Social Studies or Enrichment class. Middle school or high school would likely be the best areas for such a class, although there is a valid argument to be made for beginning such discussions at younger ages when the lesson may become more imbedded.
     
  32. Miss84

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    I use instrumentals of the songs they know/familiar with and make up an "educational" version to it lol. It's silly but it works.
     
  33. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I don't think that's silly at all - quite clever, actually!
     
  34. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    That was the whole idea behind the "Schoolhouse Rocks" series in the 70's.

    A dad was worried about his son's constant low grades. His son claimed the material being taught was too hard and he couldn't remember any of it, but when the two of them went camping for a weekend, the dad noticed his son listened to the radio and knew all the words to most of the songs. So his son COULD remember material, it just had to be in a format that was interesting.

    Who can forget "3 is a Magic Number", "Conjunction Junction" and "I'm Just a Bill"?

    There is nothing "silly" about putting lessons to music at all! :thumb:
     
  35. luckyal29

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    After reading this post and the ideas, I got a great idea and started using Hip-Hop in the classroom. Of course it wasn't 50 cent rap, but it was the Flocabulary mentioned by another poster. Consider it a modern day version of Schoolhouse Rocks. The particular rap I'm using is from their social studies rap album. We listened to the song, my students were definitely interested! Then we looked at the lyrics, and groups are going to research their part of the lyrics more and create a presentation for their part of the song. They even asked to create a music video to accompany the song.
     
  36. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Of course, most of Schoolhouse Rock isn't rock, but deft jazz written by the inimitable Bob Dorough - who still performs both "Three Is a Magic Number" and "Electricity, Electricity" with some regularity and considerable panache.

    Schoolhouse Rock songs generally pass the TeacherGroupie Parent Revulsion Test: even on the forty-seventh iteration, you're not quite "I-have-had-it-up-to-HERE!" enough to chuck the DVD/CD/videotape out the window or into the trash, whichever is closer.
     

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