Hip Hop Language Arts Thematic Textual Analysis


So, you say you're teaching in an urban high school where no one gives a dang?  Where school seems irrelevant to the world your students live in?  No one seems to care about the Central Idea or Analyzing Themes?  But the school board still wants you to teach:

Understanding Author's Purpose, Deducing Tone and Mood, Comprehending Style, Providing Evidence-Based Reasoning and more?

Here comes the cavalry.

I've known Alan Sitomer for a few years now.  He's the guy who was awarded Teacher of the Year in California in 2007. I've heard him speak at conferences and seen his video about taking his students to a college campus so they could see that college students are people just like them. Yes, they can do this. Yes, they belong in college.  

It comes as no surprise to me that he has gotten inside the heads and lives of his students and created a way to connect the goals of standards-based literacy to the goals of high school students in urban settings.  What he has built in this book is called a bridge.  He's made connections between the big learning we want to give and the big learning the kids are searching for.

He has built the book around a series of what he calls essential questions.  Here is one example:

Essential Questions: Is violence ever an appropriate solution for resolving conflict? 

After being presented with the question, students read the text from "Murder to Excellence" by Kanye West (with Jay-Z).  Next the lesson presents them with questions that attack the learning goals.  The two authors ask questions that require inference skills.  They learn to deduce the meanings of Key Words and Phrases.    The unit includes voices that range from Nelson Mandela and Gandhi to Ernest Hemingway and Enimen.  The unit targets Close Rading, What is Stated/What is Inferred, Providing Textual Evidence and much more.

Basing each unit on critical Essential Questions and integrating familiar sources with more traiditonal academic sources, Alan Sitomer and Michael Cirelli have created a set of lessons that address the goals of the curriculum and bridge them to the questions circling in the minds and daily lives of these students.  Isn't that what education is all about?

Sequel:  Hip-Hop Math Conquering Word Problems 

Highly recommended by:  Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com

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