Attention: This site looks better in the latest Mozilla or Internet Explorer.

The Learning Conference 2003

Home | Newsletter | Call for Papers | Register

Presentation Details


Hip-hop and HOTS: Practicing Higher-Order Thinking Skills through Popular Culture

Kristin Lems.

Hip-hop, rap, and r&b music are a worldwide phenomenon of youth culture. In the English-speaking world and its spheres of influence, urban youth describe their lives in biting, clever, rich rap imagery which captivates its listeners. Youth who otherwise disdain literacy pore over rap lyrics and articles and interviews with rappers in teen magazines by the hour. Related publications such as Dave Marsh's Rock n Rap Confidential and other small publications, on paper and online, explore liberatory themes of hip hop culture.

When the meaningful out-of-school experiences of adolescents, and in particular, at risk youth of color, are acknowledged in the classroom, and opportunities are given for student input and choice, students are more likely feel a stake in going to school. Using rap and hip-hop lyrics as text can also give rise to opportunities to develop higher order thinking skills such as comparison and contrast, prediction, classification, and literary features. This in turn may lead to an increase reading comprehension, which impacts all content area study.

Rap music can also be an entree for adolescent newcomers to a country. Helping such students learn idioms, slang, and the rich literary devices employed by "street poets" helps provide scaffolding for a new cultural and language identity.

Hip-hop as represented by artists such as Tupac Shakur also touches upon important themes of equity and social justice, and transfers into a curriculum of critical pedagogy.


Kristin Lems  (United States)
Associate Professor
Dept. of Applied Language, College of Arts and Sciences
National-Louis University

Lems, a doctoral student in reading and post-secondary ESL teacher, has published and presented often on music and language topics. She is also a performing songwriter.

  • Hip-hop
  • Rap
  • Language learning
  • Higher order thinking skills
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Music
  • Arts-based instruction
  • At-risk learners

(60 min Workshop, English)