Schoolhouse Rock meets Tupac with Flocabulary, an online platform that delivers educational hip-hop songs and videos for kids in grades K-8. Flocabulary covers math, vocabulary, language arts, and science, and offers a weekly news update, The Week in Rap. Each subject features a series of songs, clickable lyrics with more information, activities and more. Skeptics might say, “Why can't kids just learn the old-fashioned way?” Yeah, we know, but Flocabulary has a ton of legit research behind it, and their in-depth approach to really morphing hip-hop beats with lasting learning is sound.
One of Flocabulary's best qualities is that the songs sound like real rap songs, not an embarrassing facsimile that's obviously for educational purposes. The backing beats and samples are catchy and memorable, and videos contain a fun combo of stock footage, original animation, and for The Week in Rap, current news clips. You might think you're listening to Lil' Wayne when you hear “Would You Drop It?” a song about nuclear war. Also, the lyrics don't dumb down topics but also speak directly to a young audience.
The downsides to Flocabulary are pretty limited. Lyrics are occasionally kind of stilted, but this happens in real rap songs too. Also, the science section could use a bit of expansion. Teachers should know that, as in the real rap world, some songs contain light questionable language. Example: in "Big Ballin' in the Gilded Age," a song about labor tycoons of the early 20th century, lyrics include "I'm bigger than Big Pimpin', I'm bigger than Jay-Z...I'm a real hustler puttin' trains on tracks." Kids probably won't bat an eye, but it's something to just check on beforehand.
How will kids learn? By listening to media that they actually enjoy, the lessons within the songs should sink in quite nicely. Flocabulary tucks in some vocab lessons in a totally entertaining song about a lost cat named “Biggie,” while kids get sucked into the tale, they'll subtly learn about opposites and some word definitions. Awesome! Songs for older kids are denser, with nearly each rhyme containing some hard facts that they can be quizzed on afterward.
It's probably not necessary to spring for the $1200 full access package (but if your school has the cash, go for it!); you can get a lot of educational mileage from the $7/month plan. A single computer plugged into a video screen allows students to watch a few Flocabulary videos during class time; the handouts and tests that are included can be used afterward.
Created by pros committed to education, all Flocabulary content is standards-based, and they'll even let you know which standards are covered in each song (teacher bonus!).
Editor's note: In the past, Common Sense Education has partnered with Flocabulary. However, Common Sense Graphite's reviews maintain editorial integrity and independence.