Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Feel the Beat! A lesson on Hip Hop History

If you follow me on social media, you've probably already seen some of my favorite books to teach during Black History Month. Of course, we shouldn't be waiting until February to feature Black excellence in our music rooms. That should be happening year round! One thing I do differently in February is focus more on historic events and biographies to tie in with the theme of the month. 

My students are always fascinated by this book, When the Beat Was Born, written by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. In the past, I would read it, discuss some of the terminology in the book, and then just move on. This year I decided my students needed something a little more hands-on, so I've included a technology component, along with a written check for understanding.

Let's dive in!

  1. First, read the book
    You can purchase a copy of the book here (Amazon affiliate link.) In my classroom, I like to project a read-aloud version so that students get a better view of the illustrations and get to hear someone else's voice besides mine reading the story. Here's one that I recommend by Mr. Alicea's Arcade of Knowledge on Youtube.

  2. Reading Guide

    For students who need a little more guidance to focus on the story, I created a reading guide with ten questions about the book. I will often pause the story to discuss the answers to the questions as we go along. You can sign up for my free insiders newsletter to get access to the reading guide.

  3. Dance

    Depending on the age/maturity of the group, I might play some old school hip hop recordings and have my students try breakdancing themselves.

    If I'm doing the lesson with younger kids, I've found that they benefit from more guidance with the dance moves, so I've been opting to play a couple of hip hop dances on GoNoodle: two that I like to use are Jump! and Can't Touch This.

  4. Google Doodle turntables

    The final way that I have my students interact with this content is by giving them a link to this Google Doodle, which begins with a brief introduction to DJ Kool Herc and then allows students to take the reigns and become a DJ themselves. My students LOVE to look at the album artwork as they select their records, and some of them figured out how to scratch the records on the turntables, too!

Have you used this book in your classroom before? I'd love to know what else you do to teach hip hop in your elementary music lessons! 

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