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Learning through rhythmic lyrics—like nursery rhymes and the ABC song—is one of the most effective tools in education. That’s what Flocabulary has pioneered and promotes in the education technology space.

NewsOne recently met with Flocabulary’s co-founder and CEO Alex Rappaport to talk about the company’s approach to creating educational material.

The company launched in 2004 with a focus on helping students learn SAT vocabulary words. Today, its videos with catchy rap lyrics span a full range of subjects, from math and science to history and language arts.

For Black History Month, Flocabulary launched a special section of rap videos about African-American figures, like Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician featured in the film Hidden Figures.

Katherine Johnson At Work

Source: Donaldson Collection / Getty

Here are excerpts of NewsOne’s interview with Rappaport about Flocabulary’s new Black History Month section:

Q: When did you launch the Black History Month section? Why?

We launched the new section January 16 to pull together a collection of resources that relate to the people, themes and events of Black history. We’ve made Black history a focus of our work since our very early days, but this is the first time we’ve published a collection that includes videos, lesson plans and other resources all in one place. We’ve also made the collection free through the month of February so we can provide access to as many teachers, students and parents as possible.

Black history is a foundational and integral part of American history, and we feel it’s important to provide resources that not only teach the content but also provide resources for students to go deeper. For example, one of our lessons challenges students to write a journal entry from the point of view of Ruby Bridges.

Q: Is the Black History Month content available all year?

Yes. The videos and resources are a part of the core Flocabulary program and can be accessed and used throughout the year.

Q: What’s the coolest feature?

The videos are a great way to get kids engaged and teach the content. But the feature I’m most excited about is called Lyric Lab. This feature allows students to take what they’ve learned from the videos and apply it in their own songwriting. So, let’s say a student learns about the Selma March from our video. The Lyric Lab that’s attached to that unit would provide the student with key terms from the video and then that student would have a chance to use them in their own writing. A new level of learning is unlocked when students can synthesize and apply what they’ve learned in their own words.

Civil Rights Leader John Lewis Attacked by Police

Source: Bettmann / Getty

Q: Which video is the most popular?

In the last month, our video on Dr. King has been the most popular one in the collection. This isn’t surprising given that many teachers planned lessons to commemorate him around MLK Day, and our Civil Rights video has been popular as well, likely for the same reason. It will be interesting to see which topics draw the most attention over the course of Black History Month.

Martin Luther King Jr. Delivering 'I Have a Dream' Speech

Source: Bettmann / Getty

Q: Why is the Katherine Johnson video one of your favorites?

I love the music and the style of the video, but more importantly, this is more or less an untold story of history and we’re very excited to have a chance to teach about this remarkable and inspirational figure. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who have never heard of Katherine Johnson, and that’s just ludicrous given her accomplishments. Her story is an example of extraordinary achievement in the face of unbelievable adversity and discrimination. I think every student can be inspired by that, especially students of color and girls who have a passion for STEM.

Q: What feedback have you received?

Since launching the collection, we’ve gotten some great feedback from educators who plan to share the resources with their students, and from others who already have. Our MLK video is new, and one teacher shared, “It is so inspiring it brought me to tears” and another said it was “a powerful way to end our week of research and learning.” Another teacher shared a video on Twitter of a student performing an “I Have a Dream” rap that she wrote over a beat. Seeing students using our content as a springboard and taking ownership of their learning — this is the best feedback we can get.


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