Creative Writing Through Hip Hop PSAs


Today’s class was just another example of how setting high standards for your students, after laying the proper foundation, proves that they will always meet or surpass those expectations.

Like always we began class with our afternoon cypher. At this point in the program, the students gather in the cypher without any prompt from me. The message of the day was to “Show What You Know.” If we know anything about Hip Hop culture, it’s about showing our skills in a variety of ways.

After our cypher, I asked the students to think of a social issue or topic related to Hip Hop that we have discussed in class and write a rap or song that highlights that issue. I also asked the students to include their vocabulary words and think of creative ways to convey their message. After a brainstorming session, each group was given an iPad with a DJ’ing app, so they could set their PSA to music.  The students got to work without much prompting, as they were excited to create a PSA that would be recorded.

Another critical element of Real Talk is democratic education. We allow students to pick their groups, topics and music, and give them freedom to create. Mike, Masha and myself walked around the room brainstorming ideas with each group, but their final product was their own. The students also used the iPads to research more about their particular topic. This aspect also gave students time to work together and collaborate on ideas.

After 45 minutes, the students were ready to showcase the PSAs. The first group’s rap focused on the tragic world of stray cats and dogs; the second group’s rap focused on graffiti as art and knowledge; the third group’s PSA was anti-bullying and anti-smoking. That last song was entitled, “No Bullying, No Smoking, No Smoking, No Choking.”

This lesson was a great way for students to work with each other, but also display what they learned in a creative and fun way. It is also a dope way to assess students’ knowledge. Below are the Common Core Writing Standards that support the lesson.

Enjoy the video!!

Production & Distribution of Writing

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Comprehension & Collaboration

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and

formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, sound) and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.

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