I spent the month using this book to talk to some of my 4th and 5th graders about rhythm, beats, and structure. We looked at poems side-by-side with some lyrics, and we talked about how both poems and hip hop lyrics have a structure. We talked about how the number of syllables in each line needs to make sense with the whole verse or the way it flows will be broken…that sort of thing. We talked about how hard it can be to write a good poem or a good song, and I read them Nikki Giovanni’s introduction in the book. The intro talks about the roots of hip hop, compares it to opera, warns kids not to be fooled by all the embarassing rap songs out there. True hip hop is like poetry. And on and on and on.
They loved it, and we had a dance party at the end of each class to “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang (one of the clips on the CD with this book). One class even requested a poetry slam (we talked about the art of improvisation in hip hop), so I wrote some words and phrases on papers and folded them up in a bowl. The kids picked out 6 papers: 1 was the title, the other 5 had to be included in their rhyme. They did a great job, and some of the kids wrote song lyrics and made beats for each other while others wrote poems and read them out loud. They really got into it, I have to say it went better than expected. Next year I’ll try structuring the unit more because we really just talked this time. A great book to use, and a great unit for National Poetry Month.