hip hop - classroom

Illustration: Chris Kindred for NPR

*The power of hip-hop has been apparent in many areas over the years and Austin Martin is using that power to make learning fun with Rhymes with Reason, an interactive program that uses lyrics from rap songs to teach and strengthen vocabulary as well as reading and English skills to students.

For Martin, the culture is very useful in that it incorporates a variety of words one might need to know for the SAT or ACT. Thus far, the 20-year-old Brown University junior has amassed more than 450 examples, NPR notes, while pointing out that Martin uses a website he developed to further utilize Rhymes with Reason.

“I just got out of high school. My sister is in high school,” Martin told the news outlet. “I’m in tune with that climate.”

According to NPR, Rhymes with Reason is the latest effort to use hip-hop culture for educational purposes. Founded by New York University professor Martha Diaz, the Hip-Hop Education Center lists hundreds of programs that specialize in this style of learning by transforming hip-hop into a proven teaching tool.

At this time, Martin admits that Rhymes with Reason is still in the testing phase and is used in only a handful of classes. In addition, the college junior has yet to possess reliable data to show the program actually improves test scores or vocabulary.

Nevertheless, Rhymes with Reason has proven to be a success for Eddie Moyé, an eighth-grade teacher at Community Preparatory School in Providence, R.I. who admits his students instantly took to the program.

“They were saying, ‘This is so much fun!’ ” he says. “They were saying, ‘Not to dis you, Mr. Moyé, but we like what Austin is doing with us,’ and I said, ‘I don’t have a problem with that.’ ”

Reflecting on the creation of Rhymes with Reason, Martin admits that while he was a smart kid in school, the things he was really intellectually curious about weren’t valued in the classroom.

“I knew every last thing there was to know about hip-hop and basketball,” he shared with NPR, which acknowledge Martin’s ability to relay “incredibly detailed facts about rappers and NBA players,” including former pro-basketball star Allen Iverson.

Nevertheless, with Rhymes with Reason, Martin hopes to appeal to kids like him who might be turned off by traditional schoolwork, but have a love for things outside the classroom. With that comes the satisfaction in knowing that he has touched young minds like the ones in Moyé’s class.

“It’s really good to have that validation in the classroom for something you generated from your own mind,” said Martin.

For more details on Rhymes with Reason , click here. To hear NPR’s story on the program, click on the audio below: