Posted Mar 26 2006
Well, this is an ever evolving arena for me. Basically, I get an idea, I try it in the classroom and see what works. Most of my work has been with high school-aged students, including "at risk" youth, but I've also done work with college undergrads. Each population requires a different approach and I'll address these nuances as time permits.
Originally, I began designing a curriculum based upon The University of Michigan's Program on Inter Group Relations and Dialogue. My idea was to tailor the program for teens and use hip hop as an entry point to discuss everything from power and privilege to homophobia. This is a sixteen week program, but I have not been able to implement it in its entirety due to the nature of my current position. As of now, I just pick out bits and pieces and integrate them into my lessons when it seems appropriate. Thus far I've integrated hip hop into my math, economics, and social sciences classes. But I don't just use hip hop. I use whatever type of pop culture the students are familiar with so they can draw upon knowledge that they already have. The majority of our academic work is related to core subjects such as math, but teachers need a "hook," to get students interested in the material.
Furthermore, it's hard to give students an article to read when they have poor reading skills or don't understand basic things such as metaphors. This doesn't mean that we don't do the work. It means we adjust it to make sure the students' core skills are being developed. The key idea for me is teach skills and concepts that will help students in the real world. For example, if someone says that they want a record deal, I try to give them skills that will help them get ANY job, not just an idealized one as a multi-million dollar rapper. As I mentioned before, working with high school students is a world away from working with undergrads at a four-year university. As such, many of the lessons that I'm teaching are things that university professors and teachers in better-off schools take for granted. For many of our students, it's a victory to merely get them to participate in a discussion and show some excitment about academics. So much of this work is about relationship building and I'm very deliberate about doing lessons that reflect the students' experiences and interests while also teaching them academics.
There's not a great deal of structure to this portion of the site, yet, but I love exchanging ideas with others so this was the best way to do it! I'll keep adding lessons as time permits and please e-mail me your thoughts and suggestions!