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Banned Books Week: What’s the Hype?


Photo courtesy of Sam Bortle, Woodward Memorial Library

Flocab LOVES librarians! I mean, we even have a whole rap about it. And this is a special week for our favorite book-loving friends. Between September 27th and October 3rd, bookworms all over the country celebrate Banned Books Week!

 So why are librarians putting on their party hats for a bunch of banned and challenged books?

 According to the American Library Association, Banned Books Week is a celebration of the freedom to read. The week brings the topic of censorship into focus, and celebrates that despite some texts being banned, most books have remained available, allowing continued access to information, spread of knowledge and expression of ideas.


Photo courtesy of Gwyneth Jones

 We talked to our friend and teacher librarian extraordinaire, Gwyneth Jones (AKA the Daring Librarian), to get some insider perspective. As a middle school librarian, Gwyneth noted, “We want to have books that appeal to and are available for every year of growth for students, from entering middle school to leaving middle school.” She pointed out that while it’s important to guide students to books that are appropriate for their maturity level, it’s also important to provide a wide variety of reads. She also highlighted that books that touch on topics that are intense or controversial may help us explore the world and connect with important themes in our own lives.



Gearing up for Banned Books Week at her school, Gwyneth put together a display of banned books in the library (check it out above) – a move that has students gobbling up contentious texts, with many in the library’s collection checked out even at the start of the week. To see more about how Gwyenth and other librarians are celebrating Banned Books Week, check out this story in School Library Journal.

 Are you talking about banned or challenged books with your students this week? Here’s how you can use Flocabulary for discussions that touch on language arts, history, and more!

Check out one of our literature videos focused on a challenged book from history. Some key picks are:


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain




The Call of the Wild by Jack London the-call-of-the-wild-thumb




scarlet-letter-thumb (1)

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne




(And if you’re curious about other titles questioned through history, check out’s list of Banned Books That Shaped America)

What is freedom of speech and why is it important to all of us in the U.S.A.? Review the 1st Amendment with our Bill of Rights video.

Check out our lesson plan for a class debate, but instead of crafting arguments about news topics, task students with centering their positions around one of the challenged works above or on the topic of banned books more generally.

 How are you celebrating Banned Books Week? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

The Week in Rap Shout-Out Contest: Thomas E. Weightman Middle School!

Every week, our Week in Rap Shout-Out Contest gives students an opportunity to win a shout-out for their school by completing a critical thinking challenge. Last week, Thomas E. Weightman Middle School really wowed us – and won! Wondering what stellar work they created to win the shout-out honor? Read on!


At the start of the school year, we recapped the summer’s top news stories with a special edition Week in Rap. For last week’s shout-out, we wanted to give students the chance to learn by doing and complete a similar task – with a little literary challenge thrown in the mix. We asked students to summarize their summers using the 5 W’s of a story, considering:

  • Who were the most important people they spent time with?
  • What were the most important things they did?
  • When did they do them?
  • Why did they do those things?
  • Where did they spend their time?

Students in Mrs. Anderson’s 6th grade class from Thomas E. Weightman Middle were up for the storytelling challenge.

One student told us about an amazing experience he had during the summer – and what an intro!

Pic 9.28. WIR shout-out post

Through the story, we learned that this student met another young person who really inspired him – an 11-year old boy living with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, who is fulfilling his dream by playing baseball and assisting a local college team in his community. We were moved by the descriptive language and detail that this student used to describe the young baseball star, whose first game brought nearly 1,000 members of the community to watch and cheer. According to the story, the young player was “everyone’s hero.”

Many students in Mrs. Anderson’s class shared their captivating recaps, drawing on the 5W’s to create descriptive narratives of their summer adventures. Great work, Thomas E. Weightman Middle School!

Does your school want a shout-out? Find out about the next Week in Rap Shout-Out Contest challenge!


3 Ways Flocabulary Engages Your Students

Flocabulary is guided by a mission to engage students and increase achievement across the curriculum. But just how well do we do that? To find out, in June we invited classroom teachers who use Flocabulary to complete a multiple choice survey about how their students respond to our videos and activities.

We wanted to examine three branches of engagement:

  • Behavioral engagement – a measure of persistence and participation, and of complying with classroom rules.
  • Emotional engagement – a measure of students’ feelings about school, their teachers, and their classwork.
  • Cognitive engagement – a measure of how students feel about their abilities to complete work and how hard they’re willing to focus.

achievement engagement retention

Because student engagement is, in part, a measure of how invested a student is in learning and applying knowledge, it has strong ties to academic outcomes. As examples: a behaviorally engaged student is more likely to listen and participate in classroom discussions; an emotionally engaged student is less likely to skip school and more likely to respond to teacher directions; a cognitively engaged student is more likely to focus on and work through tasks he or she perceives as difficult.

Across the board, teachers attribute engagement and achievement benefits to Flocabulary, but teachers who use Flocabulary more often — weekly or more — report the strongest results. For instance:

  • 96.5% report that students focus on Flocabulary longer than on other lessons
  • 89.4% report their students work harder on all subjects because of Flocabulary
  • 95.6% report Flocabulary increases achievement
  • 96.4% believe Flocabulary increases engagement in school, generally
  • 88.6% believe that their students are more invested in school due to Flocabulary
  • 99.1% report that students voluntarily participate during Flocab activities (vs 72.8% for non-Flocab activities)
  • 100% report that students complete Flocabulary activities when asked
  • 85.1% report that their students’ behavior has improved since using Flocabulary
  • 90.3% report that Flocabulary increases critical thinking amongst their students
  • 97.3% report that it increases retention
  • 87.6% report that Flocabulary increases test-taking ability

Based on the strength of these responses, we are confident that Flocabulary has the
ability not only to engage students across all three metrics of engagement, but also to improve academic outcomes. To see more results from Flocabulary, please visit:

Flocab’s Freshest for Back to School

The Flocab team skipped a few pool parties these past few months – we spent the summer hard at work! Since last fall, we’ve added nearly 100 new units to support learning across the curriculum, and we’re not slowing down! As you kick off the first few weeks of school, here’s a recap of the new things you’ll find on Flocabulary.

wir-junior-logo-2_360The Week in Rap Junior
We just launched our weekly news program for students in grades K-5, The Week in Rap Junior! With a new video, standards-based exercises and a shout-out contest each week, the series connects real-world news to elementary science and social studies curricula and promotes the development of important skills like reading, writing and critical thinking. Read more about The Week in Rap Junior in our recent blog post here.

themes of geography 2Geography
You talked and we listened! We added a new collection of geography units – part of our social studies resources for elementary and middle school – based on popular requests from our educator community. We rolled out new units this summer like “Longitude and Latitude,” “Landforms & Bodies of Water,” “Five Themes of Geography,” and our very latest – “Oceans.”   Check ‘em out – and check back soon to see even more!

managing frustrationSocial & Emotional Learning
Maybe you’ve seen the first few units in one of newest subjects, SEL! The videos tell relatable narratives – through rhyme of course – to help students learn about topics like bullying, conflict resolution and managing frustration. During the fall, we’ll continue to support learning of more important SEL skills with new units on empathy, managing worry, active listening and more.

Flocabulary_-_Educational_Hip-HopPlus – new features: assessment, planning and differentiation!
Over the summer, we announced some major updates to our site with student assessment features and reporting tools for teachers. With auto-graded quizzes now on every unit, educators can assign our units directly to students online! And with a series of reports to check assignment progress and quiz performance, educators can use Flocab to make data-informed decisions for planning instruction. Have questions about how the assessments or new teacher tools work? Check out our FAQ page.

Tell us what you think about Flocab’s freshest in the comments below. And don’t forget – if you’re new to Flocab – you can try our resources free by signing up for a trial here.


Reporting Live From Flocabulary: It’s The Week in Rap Junior!

Breaking news: we’ve got a fresh weekly program for elementary students called The Week in Rap Junior! Drawing on stories from the news, the program teaches students in grades K-5 about the world while reinforcing core skills across the curriculum. And like its popular older cuz (The Week in Rap, for grades 5 and up), The Week in Rap Junior will serve up new videos and activities every Friday (starting after Labor Day)!

So what will you find when you tune in to The Week in Rap Junior?robin cruz

“Back to you, Robin”
You’ll get to know Robin Cruz, our host, along with her sidekicks – reporters in field, Corey Lox and Jean LeBlanc, and Weatherman Bob, who happens to be a fish.

Relevant stories to bring the curriculum to life
With younger students in mind, we’ll select stories that create relevant connections to elementary science and social studies curricula. We’ll also use maps, graphs and other text features each week to support reading and math literacy.

News stories in the series will build on students’ existing knowledge, while introducing new concepts, from countries and cultures, to innovations and discoveries! We’ll also include stories about young people doing inspiring things that students can relate and aspire to.

Cross-curricular vocab
In each video, you’ll find new key terms from the stories highlighted on screen and defined in context, so students acquire new vocabulary as they watch each week. This vocabulary is relevant across subjects – add it to a classroom word wall to use throughout the year to help with reading and writing instruction!

WIR Jr. Activity Jul 10 - smaller cut

Activities that challenge students to think critically
As with all of our units, The Week in Rap Junior comes with activities to promote development of important skills like reading, writing and critical thinking. Weekly activities will help students practice organizing their thinking with graphic organizers, and expressing themselves in the written word through thoughtful, non-fiction writing prompts.

A chance to win a shout out for your school!
Activities each week will give students the chance to be recognized for their creative work through our Shout-Out contest! Every week, we’ll spotlight a winning school in The Week in Rap Junior video.

And because we want all elementary educators and students to get the chance to check out The Week in Rap Junior, we’re offering the first editions free! If you’re new to Flocab, you can also sign up for free trial here. We can’t wait to hear what you think about The Week in Rap Junior – let us know in the comments!

Press Release: Flocabulary Debuts Cross-Curricular News Program for Grades K-5

Flocabulary, creator of educational hip-hop videos, activities and assessments, today announces the launch of TheWeek in Rap Junior, a weekly program that engages elementary students in cross-curricular learning through age-appropriate news stories. With a new video, standards-based exercises and an interactive creative challenge each week, the dynamic series provides a unique platform to teach core subjects through real-world news and promote the development of important skills like reading, writing and critical thinking. The new program reflects Flocabulary’s commitment to bringing value to a wider range of students and educators while continuing to deepen and enrich the curricular experience on its online learning platform.

“We have learned that helping students make connections to the broader world around them is a powerful way to bring the core curriculum to life and get kids actively participating in the learning process,” says Flocabulary CEO Alex Rappaport.

The Week in Rap Junior is a spin-off of The Week in Rap, Flocabulary’s popular program for grades 5-12. All units in the new series start with an educational hip-hop video, offering students a selection of news stories, and emphasizing age-appropriate vocabulary pertinent to each story. With an emphasis on creating connections to elementary science and social studies curricula, the program draws on global and domestic news to build on students’ existing knowledge while introducing new themes and concepts, from countries and cultures, to innovations and discoveries. Activities included in each edition are inspired by stories highlighted in the week’s video, and provide opportunities to develop core skills like reading, writing and critical thinking. Each weekly unit also includes a contest with an interactive challenge to engage students in the creative process. A winner will be chosen each week and featured in an upcoming video. Educators new to Flocabulary can sample the first editions of the The Week in Rap Junior series free at The series starts weekly production in early September.

“In the process of developing the program, elementary educators we spoke with were enthusiastic about a resource that naturally integrates social studies and science content into their curriculum,” says Emily Helfgot, Curriculum Director at Flocabulary. “We also know that there is a huge push to get students writing and creating, and we built each Week in Rap Junior offering with activities that ask students to form opinions, organize their thinking, and produce work that is thoughtful and original.”

Beyond TheWeek in Rap Junior, Flocabulary continues to create new content across subject areas, while building out entirely new subjects for 21st-century learners. Last month, the company announced the release of auto-graded assessments and data tools to help educators use Flocabulary for planning, differentiation and intervention.

Flocabulary offers free trials for teachers, schools and districts year-round. For more information on Flocabulary, visit

About Flocabulary
Flocabulary creates educational hip-hop videos, interactive activities and online assessments for students in grades K-12. Over 35,000 schools use Flocabulary to engage students and increase achievement across the curriculum. The company’s team of artists and educators is committed not only to raising test scores, but also to fostering a love of learning in every child. For more on Flocabulary, visit or connect on Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook.


Celebrate Financial Literacy Month with Flocab!

With April marking Financial Literacy Month, it’s a great time to get funky with some financial knowledge!

Back in the fall, we released a new video series for teaching financial literacy. Why financial literacy, you might wonder? We know that these concepts are very important for students (and adults), many of whom are starting their first jobs and thinking ahead about going to college. Personal finance knowledge is necessary for students preparing for their futures. At the same time, we know personal finance can be – we’ll say it – boring for young people. So when CUNY and HESC asked us to partner on the subject, we felt it was the perfect time to create a series of videos and classroom activities to support lessons on setting SMART goals, handling student loans and a bunch in between.

Credit Cards 2

We’ve had great conversations with teachers around the country using our video series about some of their best financial literacy lessons. We loved how these teachers were bringing financial literacy to life, so we had to share. We hope their ideas will inspire you as you plan your own ways to celebrate Financial Literacy Month!

  • “I used Flocabulary’s financial literacy video and worksheet on paying for college. The students were very into the video and after they completed their research, we were able to have discussions on why someone would choose to spend the extra money on a private school. After the research and discussion I had the students use the worksheet to write a one page paper comparing and contrasting the reasons to choose each of the levels of college.” - Theresa Snow, high school instructional support services, New York
  • “Every week we have a new “economics” word of the week. We then tie it into our word generation debates, using words used for every core area.” – Marie Green, 8th grade social studies teacher, Michigan
  • “I had the students create their own product and sell it to the rest of the class, keeping in mind that setting a realistic price that will help them sell their product was key. They were given guidelines to create their product and help was provided. They learned that when creating their price, it was wise to make it cost enough so they could make a profit, but not too much where they couldn’t sell it. All of the students then went “shopping” and had to stay within a given budget. The students had a blast and learned the power of advertising and how the customer is often deceived.” – Andrea Smolin, high school resource, personal finance, and inclusion English teacher, Virginia
  • “The first financial literacy lesson I led was related to understanding the stock market and how it relates to the everyday person. My students were thoroughly engaged as they pretended to be stockholders and business owners.” - Mechele Arnold, business education teacher, Georgia

Now, we want to hear from you – how are you making finance topics fun and relevant for your students? Post your lesson ideas and learnings in the comments below!

For more Financial Literacy Month resources, visit the JumpStart Coalition and The Council for Economic Education

The Week in Rap Extra: Read All About It!


Here at Flocab HQ, we’ve been thinking a lot about the news topics that seem to come up week to week. For every Week in Rap video we release, we try to make sure to give you a quick summary of a bunch of major headlines – and sometimes, we don’t have time to dive deep into the larger, important issues (we’re working with a two-minute rap video, you know?!).

That’s why we’ve decided to kick off a new type of video – the Week in Rap Extra. With this series, we’re providing a more in-depth resource to help explain complex topics and events. We will release these videos throughout the year as different issues dominate the news cycle –  you can use them alongside our regularly scheduled Week in Rap programming.  And like our weekly videos, you’ll see each WIR Extra video comes with challenge questions, interactive lyrics and activities for classes looking to spend more time on the subject.

For our first edition, we decided to cover ISIS, since the the Week in Rap has featured many headlines about the group over the last year (because of ISIS’s nature, this video is appropriate for students grades 5 and up). To create this video, we did a lot research, looking at reputable news sources (like the ones we link to in our interactive lyrics) to offer the background and context you might be looking for. We hope this video helps you learn and talk about a topic that can be confusing and scary.

With the launch of our first edition of Week in Rap Extra, we’d love to hear what you think! Share any thoughts and feedback by filling out this quick survey. We’re all ears – and we’ll keep your answers in mind when we create our future editions.

Figurative Language Feast: Flocab’s Custom Rap Contest

This November, we found ourselves dreaming about our Thanksgiving favorites: turkey, mac and cheese, sweet potato pie, stuffing. And it got us thinking: love for these feasting foods could be a source of powerful poetic inspiration for all of our rhyme-loving Flocab fans.

So we asked you – teachers and students in our community – to take part in festive lessons on writing academic rhymes. We wanted see what savory raps you could cook up, with as much figurative language baked in as possible (all puns intended). And write you did. We had so much fun reading the many inventive submissions we received (the worst yet best part was how hungry it made us).

In the end, we chose this all-star rap from Shanna Mellott’s 10th grade class at Cache High School, in Cache, Oklahoma. We thought the lyrics were so smart, and we loved how they provided examples that helped define each type of figurative language used. Watch our video with their winning original rap, and don’t miss their clever lyrics below as well. Congrats, Cache High!

Apple pie dances in the mouths of the people.
Get this song famous and go for a sequel.
Like pie pieces, poetic patterns are parts to a whole.
Alliteration got us going out of control.
Did you catch that? Yeah, I said it kind of rhythmically.
Using like or as to bust out a simile.
Take away the like and you got a metaphor.
Apple pie is American down to the core.

With all the fabulous Thanksgiving raps we saw, we had to shout-out our runners up as well. Check ‘em out!

From Cindy Kelly’s 7th grade class at St. Robert School in Flushing, MI
I’ve got rolls on my plate, rolls on my mind
buttering em up-like six at a time.
Green bean casserole-an amount insane!
Hot stuffing and potatoes, I’m gonna bust a vein.
Rivers of gravy, enough to feed the Navy.
If my plate was a pacifier, it’d stop a crying baby!
So much food, I’m never gonna stop.
Not until I eat, each and every drop!

From Amy Ardoin’s 6th grade class at Youngblood Intermediate in Houston, TX
Chicken out the oven is like a million degrees,
when you cut in the skin you see the steam.
Chicken races my heart as fast as a road runner.
Chicken is the toast to my butter.
Chicken! Chicken! Thanksgiving is so nice.
You’re about to go on the ride of your life.
Chicken talks to me as I eat it.
BOOM! I blew your mind you have to admit it.

To all the schools that entered, we thank you for your amazing creativity and hard work. We hope you’ll enter again! Don’t forget to check back for more contests to get your chance at Flocab fame.