Last Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021

Hip-hop culture: a primary motivator

What is this?

​This exemplar shows how contemporary arts forms such as breakdancing and graffiti art can be used to provide breadth and depth in learning, motivating learners and allowing them to express themselves creatively.

Who is this for?

​This exemplar will be useful to staff in all settings.

​How to use this exemplar to improve practice

The information provided in this resource, along with reflective questions, invites you to consider how the learners in your school or setting might benefit from learning experiences and opportunities that draw on contemporary arts culture.

You are invited to read and hear the views of learners and practitioners about the learning which took place. Then, individually or as a team, explore the documents and files that accompany the study and consider the following improvement questions in your own context:

1. How might contemporary culture be used to enhance learning and teaching in your setting?

2. How might contemporary culture be used to provide opportunities for breadth and depth in learning?

3. What opportunities and activities do you currently provide that motivate learners and allow them to express themselves?

What was done?

By employing the services of a local breakdancing instructor, the school provided a series of sessions for learners to learn skills associated with breakdancing. The overall programme was developed to include several other aspects of contemporary arts associated with breakdance culture to inspire and motivate the learners, including:

  • t-shirt design
  • graffiti art project
  • Guitar Hero project.


The project initially developed out of the need to support and motivate a group of learners. Primary 7 can be a testing and challenging time for many young people. They are developing physically, emotionally and may be anxiously anticipating the transition to high school. The dance project was an excellent vehicle to focus the learners in a positive way.

The depute headteacher who co-ordinated the project wanted to use the context of dance to increase the learners’ engagement with school and learning.

What was the impact?

The programme promoted a strong sense of teamwork and respect for others, as well as highlighting the importance of collaboration and listening to each other during tasks.

Learners demonstrated skill progression as they learned to listen to the instructor and to copy moves until they had achieved a level of skill. They went on to explain and demonstrate to others a series of moves they had mastered in both informal (during 'Golden Time') and formal (teaching sessions with younger learners) situations.

'Tag' designs were recognised and used as an effective way to emphasise self-identity, especially at this stage when learners are going through personal and social changes in regards to personality and style. Links to hip-hop culture helped to motivate learners.

Learners returned from lessons very positive, happy and excited about what they had achieved. They were particularly excited when they had mastered a new skill that they initially thought was unachievable. This positive frame of mind was an effective stepping stone in encouraging learners to tackle challenges, set goals in class and become involved in new things.

It is clear that the breakdancing programme had positive social effects within the class.

The class teacher had envisaged that the children would not be able to focus after the physical exercise but discovered that, having expended energy, the learners were able to concentrate and settle quickly once back in class.


PDF file: Hip-hop culture: a primary motivator (6MB)