English Teacher at
Hallie Wells Middle
Montgomery County Public Schools
Hallie Wells Hip Hop Empower Hour via SoundCloud
"Kids who have never before wanted to read, love to do so, because of Mr. Doggett. He is charismatic, dedicated and caring."
- Dr. Barbara Woodward, Montgomery County Public Schools
Doggett, a veteran teacher who moved into a brand new building comprised of a diverse student population, wanted to make his new school a ‘home’ for his students; he wanted to bring something unique to the table for kids. Previously, he utilized hip hop once or twice a term to reach students when reading poetry, but this time around he decided to become an advocate for the Hip Hop Education movement.
Doggett’s initiative has altered the trajectory of many of his students.
"Kids who have never before wanted to read, love to do so, because of Mr. Doggett. He is charismatic, dedicated and caring," Hallie Wells Middle School Principal Dr. Barbara Woodford explained as Doggett’s initiative has become a large component of the school’s Empower Hour, an hour instructional block offered multiple times a week where students get the choice of what they learn and where to spend their time.
Initiating Hip Hop in the Classroom
“It started using rap in my lessons to engage my students using a web site called Flocabulary,” Doggett explained as he wanted to reach each of the students in his classroom, especially some of most challenging students. “Next, I wrote a rap to support how to write an argumentative essay and another one to promote our outdoor education event; both were hits with kids. From there, I started challenging kids to make similar videos with rap lyrics.”
The instructional leap Doggett made has truly changed the culture of his classroom as he started to infuse hip hop into his Reading Response Menu, an instructional menu where students get to choose the way they are being assessed on a reading passage. For instance, if a student were analyzing theme in a short story he or she could write a poem, create a rap, or even utilize video in making their hip hop song among other options. Students were creating high quality original work to show mastery of the Maryland College and Career Readiness Standards and embracing the challenge in doing it.
Sharing original creations in the classroom and during Empower Hour is a norm in the culture supported by Doggett and his students.
“The feeling of seeing a kid who is not sure of himself or one not going to jump up in front of the group share their work is exciting,” Doggett recounted through his many positive experiences infusing hip hop into his school’s culture. “When you see that child pour their heart out and see their peers jumping up and down excited makes me love my job more every day.”
Empowering Student Choice
The premise behind Hallie Wells Middle School’s Empower Hour is for students to choose an activity to learn and build an interest in something. The instructional time is not graded. From a student’s perspective, they get to choose what they want to learn and surround themselves with like-minded kids who want to excel in that same area or want to explore their curiosity in a particular subject area.
Doggett’s hip hop initiative quickly became a stomping ground where children could express themselves freely without criticism in a niche community of learners.
“It’s about valuing others ideas, seeing others perspectives, and seeing where others are coming from,” Doggett shared about his time working with children during the hip hop sessions throughout the week. Students often examine lyrics for deeper meaning and make connections to the outside world. “If we can establish a community of mutual respect, that is what makes a difference.”
The expansion of the hip hop initiative has challenged students as well as Doggett himself. He said he will often model some parts of creating a rap, and students take it far beyond his expectations with their writing and technology skills. Students are now utilizing the Empower Hour as recording sessions, video creations sessions, and writing sessions.
Doggett’s students are sharing their work with a global audience creating a YouTube channel and a Sound Cloud of all of their original work. Furthermore, students created and directed their own concert under Doggett’s supervision.
“There are a lot of special events and things going on at Hallie Wells, but this was an opportunity for these students to shine for their peers and parents,” Doggett indicated as each performer recorded their work for a CD each audience member got at the concert.
Effect on Regular Instruction
“When I have students in both – Empower Hour and ELA class – it is its own intervention, even if it’s not designed as an intervention,” Doggett talked about the effect the hip hop initiative has on his regular instruction with students. “I have a much easier time getting those kids working and performing because I already worked with them in Empower Hour earlier in the day where I am listening about their lyrics and beats as well as the music they want to use in their next project.
“Where I have to listen to understand them to get a real understanding of their vision for their project, it flips the script and gives the student control. In the classroom, the respect has already been built and students are more willing to flip the script back and allow me to have control in helping them in my regular English classroom.”
Joining the Hip Hop Movement
One of the original challenges for Doggett in joining the hip hop movement was letting go control. Often he stated teachers are hesitant to hand over control, but Doggett said giving a child enough respect to take control and trust them has paid great dividends. Students are producing higher quality work than he ever expected and have self-taught themselves numerous technology skills in editing music and videos than he possesses himself through online tutorial videos available.
To keep up with the initiative, Doggett stated he has become active follower of HipHopEd, an organization that brings together a community of educators and scholars who challenge traditional educational systems to value the power of youth culture and voice. The group hosts a regular Twitter Chat using the hashtag #HipHopEd Twitter chat every Tuesday evening at 9 PM.
About Digital Learning Showcase
MSET is taking the opportunity to highlight best practices in classroom teaching, leading, and learning with educational technology from around the state of Maryland. The goal is to spotlight innovations of members and nonmembers throughout different public and private school settings. Each month teachers, school leaders, and community members are asked to nominate individuals who support innovation and educational technology in a school setting.
MSET is non-profit organization with the purpose of promoting the improvement of the teaching-learning process through effective technology integration into all curricular areas as well as fostering and promoting excellence technology in education. MSET is an affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), a leading international network for technology professionals.