Hip-Hop Lyrics on the Lesson Plan

Ballou High School Students Have Hip-Hop Class

A D.C.-born educator has created a unique nationwide program designed to promote literacy through hip-hop lyrics.

Gabriel Benn brought the Hip-Hop Educational Literacy Program -- known as H.E.L.P. -- to Ballou Senior High School Students in Southeast Washington today.

He played a song by Rapper T.I. called "No Matter What." Students then filled out workbooks with questions about the lyrics, such as the life lessons in the song and the artist's poetic technique.

Benn believes the songs provide culturally relevant material that will get kids interested in learning. "Taking something that they are already familiar with and showing them how it relates to what it is we are trying to teach them... that is the whole trick," he said.

H.E.L.P. launched in 2005 and has since branched out nationwide.

Benn, an independent hip-hop artist, started the program with Rick Henning, a special education expert, with the goal of meeting the diverse and ever-changing needs of students struggling in school.

"I work with students reading extremely below their age or grade level, and because of that deficiency it played out in all of their other classes... it doesn't just affect their language arts class but all of their classes," Benn said.

The songs make it easier for kids to get engaged, he said. "That's the point of education, to get the student to care about what they are learning and to have an opinion and a say about what is being presented."

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