Journal of Undergraduate Research


slam poetry, suburban schools, hip-hop arts






Since the birth of hip-hop culture as youth culture in the 1970s, exploration of hip-hop influenced pedagogies in formal schooling has grown increasingly popular (Hill, 2009). By centering classrooms on elements of hip-hop arts such as spoken word, graffiti culture, and hip-hop music, educational research has seen notable improvements in student attendance and critical engagement with literature and popular media (Petchauer, 2009). Most studies of hip-hop pedagogies have examined the qualitative benefits of teaching critical hip-hop literacies in urban public schools, but since the popularization of performance poetry on social media platforms, there is a growing use of slam poetry and hip-hop literature in suburban classrooms as well. In 2010 a student teacher began a slam poetry unit in his 7th grade English class at Payson Junior High, which became a district wide slam poetry competition. My research worked to identify how slam poetry units taught in these junior high English classrooms in the Nebo School District of northern Utah function successfully or unsuccessfully as extensions of hip-hop pedagogy in schools where the dominant student culture is not hip-hop. I also looked at how individual teachers approached spoken word poetry as both a literary and culturally significant art form.