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Associate professor brings hip-hop education to elementary classrooms

Kathryn Kao

April 22, 2016

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On a typical school day, most elementary school students spend less time expressing their thoughts and experiences with their peers than they do sitting at a desk listening to a lecture at the front of the classroom.

Bettina Love

For the past several years, Bettina Love, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice, has worked to incorporate hip-hop education into the classroom by taking cues from students' real life experiences.

Today, she is focused on developing Common Core hip-hop curricula for middle and high school students. As the 2015 recipient of the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellowship from Harvard University, Love can use hip-hop as a vehicle for delivering instruction to students.

In a recent interview with WABE-FM, Love cited classroom management as a fundamental key to hip-hop education.

"Kids are not raising their hands; kids are organically speaking, using the social and emotional intelligence that comes with hip-hop, much like a cypher," explained Love, who also teaches at the Kindezi School in Atlanta. "If you are in a hip-hop cypher, how do you know when to rap? You don't raise your hand; you just know when to go."

According to the article, "hip-hop education falls under the principle of culturally relevant pedagogy, where schools match students' culture with the classroom."

Love's elementary school program, "Real Talk: Hip Hop Ed for Social Justice," is available online for other teachers and schools to use in the classroom. Heavily focused on civics, Love believes hip-hop studies should be incorporated into all classrooms.

"Hip-hop is part of American culture ... I don't think this is something that is just for African-American kids," she said. "This is something for all kids because we are talking about a rich culture with traditions, sensibilities and roots."

Love's research, teaching and service are focused on understanding, contextualizing and deconstructing the formal and informal educational experiences of marginalized youth, especially in queer, urban and African-American students.

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