A high school designed for students who have failed in traditional classrooms is not necessarily where you’d expect to find award-winning teachers. Inspiring such students requires innovative teaching methods. At W.E.B.DuBois High School, in Crown Heights, a transfer alternative school, teacher Timothy Adams has just won The College Board Bob Costas Grant for the Teaching of Writing. The award recognizes “exceptional teachers for the innovative methods they use to inspire their students to write.”
Adams, who has been teaching high school for three years, began incorporating hip-hop into his writing workshop two-and-a-half years ago, as a way to spark the interest of his students. He says the principal of W.E.B. DuBois was “immediately receptive and supportive of my curriculum,” and even allowed him to invite a young hip-hop artist, Franklin Rossman, into the classroom as a paid consultant.
Adams encourages his students to write by bringing their lives outside the classroom into it; through hip-hop music, the students learn about the literary techniques they need to understand to do well on state exams and other standardized tests.
Adams, who said he is a fan of many musical genres, including hip-hop, also intertwines folk and classical music into the hip-hop curriculum, but he says he uses hip-hop as the starting point since “that is what interests my students the most.” He introduces the concepts of allegory and irony by looking at hip-hop songs, and gets students to perform their own writing pieces. The Dean of his school, Patricia Panetta, says Adams “has enticed many students with academic failure to completely turn around and become excited about learning.”
Not surprisingly, Adams also teaches a drama workshop at the school.
The Bob Costas Grant, which comes with a $2,000 honorarium, is open to teachers of grades 6-12, in public and private schools. For more information, go to www.collegeboard.com/costasgrants.
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