School of Education News

UW’s Dando helps bring unique hip hop class to high schoolers, State Journal reports

January 18, 2017

The Wisconsin State Journal recently put the spotlight on a unique and innovative class at Clark Street Community School in Middleton that uses hip hop as its foundation.

And UW-Madison’s Michael Dando, the newspaper explains, is playing a leading role in making this course a reality.

Michael Dando
UW-Madison Ph.D. candidate Michael
Dando helped create the Clark Street
hip hop class.
Dando is a Ph.D. candidate with the School of Education’s No. 1-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction. The former high school journalism and English teacher helped create the course and garnered funding to support it with a mini-grant from UW-Madison’s Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment. The newspaper report also quotes Professor Carl Grant, a scholar of multicultural education who is Dando's graduate adviser. Grant is the university’s Hoefs-Bascom Professor of Education with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Describing hip hop and the class, the State Journal reports that the “multi-faceted art movement — along with its political roots, social history, use of poetry and other literary conventions, not to mention its worldwide impact on culture and the arts — is the foundation for a yearlong course at Clark Street Community School in Middleton. The course aims to sharpen academic skills but, even more, to get students engaged.”

This winter, the newspaper explains students in the class are “writing, revising and rehearsing raps, then recording them in the Media Lab studio at Madison Public Library. They're designing album art and a marketing campaign with area professionals in anticipation of the limited-edition, vinyl record they'll cut by the end of the school year.” The students have “studied the history of hip hop — a subculture (encompassing more than music) that grew out of political and social disenfranchisement in the 1970s. Lessons have included discussions of social justice issues, and even standard fare such as metaphors and alliteration.”

Clark Street student performing
Students in the hip hop class write, revise and
rehearse raps, and then record them​.
As with a typical high school essay, Dando tells the State Journal that students writing raps in the hip hop class use "similar cognitive processes: thinking, editing, evaluating. But because there's this internalized investment — because this 'matters' (to students) — I've heard everything from kids from 'This is what I came to school for today' to 'I worked on my homework 'til 2 a.m., and I loved every minute of it' ”

Grant explained to the newspaper that pop culture has long served as a way for teachers to reach students.

“One of the things that Michael talks about is that you can't just take hip hop and drop it into a classroom, and say, 'Let me do a lesson using hip hop,' and call that good instruction,” Grant tells the State Journal. “He doesn't believe in that. You have to think about it, you have to prepare students for it, you have to know what it is you're teaching.”

To learn much more about this remarkable project, and to view several photos from State Journal photographers, check out the in-depth report for free on this Madison.com web page.

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