Making Hip-Hop Music Videos to Bring History to Life in the Library: A Spotlight on Mt. Bethel Elementary

Last school year, Teacher-Librarian Heather Kindschy at Mt. Bethel Elementary in Marietta, GA wanted to expand on a songwriting history research project she’d led with students in the past. With a focus on project-based learning, the assignment would challenge students to work in groups to explore the stories of important historical figures from Reconstruction through the Great Depression using the Big6 Research Model. Students would then create their own music videos about these characters from history. And the project needed to be something students would get excited about. So using Flocabulary as inspiration, Heather created a hip-hop music video challenge, a project that had students eager to get to work – even during indoor recess and time before school! Here’s how she did it.  

Mt. Bethel Post Image

GarageBand + iPad!!??? by Joseph Thornton, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

So, why hip-hop videos in the first place? Heather noted that she always wants to make learning experiences memorable for students. For this project, she wanted to come up with a way to challenge students to take risks, allowing for learning to take place through failure. Using Flocabulary videos as a model to provide context, the project gave students the freedom and creativity to create something brand new. According to Heather, that’s what excites students, keeping them coming back and looking forward to what they’re working on.  

Heather Kindschy at Mt. Bethel Elementary

Heather Kindschy at Mt. Bethel Elementary

For the project, students were tasked with putting themselves in the shoes of a Flocabulary employee. From the prompt, students were told: “Your job is to create a high-quality and engaging rap music video. Your driving question for this project is: How can we, as educational video creators, make a rap music video that teaches other students about these important people who changed the course of history?”

Given list of people from Susan B. Anthony, to Langston Hughes, to Orville Wright, students picked historical figures and dove into the project during their once-weekly period in the library. After weeks of gathering and collecting research, it was time to write raps. The school’s music teacher helped out with songwriting expertise, and the group also referred to our Writing Academic Rhymes resources to help with that tricky rhyming process. Finally, using iPad minis to access programs like Garageband and iMovie, students worked together to create their music videos. Some students had experience using these programs already, and were able to assist their classmates, even “appsmashing” with some of their other favorite video-creation programs. Throughout the course of the project, students viewed different Flocabulary videos, critiquing elements they’d incorporate or exclude from their own creations.

Heather wrapped the project with a film festival and award show, “The Buckies” (named for their school mascot, the Buccaneers). To make the experience even more special, Heather sent fancy invites to the event and rolled out a red carpet. Students received awards for categories for topics like “Best Research” and “Best Hook,” and Flocab was tapped to select the overall winner (what a tough decision!).

The music video project has become a 5th grade tradition – and this year the project will take on an element of performance! Mt. Bethel Elementary will host an Epic Rap Battle for it’s 5th grade researching rappers, and we can’t wait to hear how it goes.

Want to challenge your students to create their own historical rap videos? Find Heather’s lesson plan here.

Molly Cronin

Molly's love of education began when she landed her first job at age 17 as a preschool teacher's aide, where she changed countless diapers and led groups of toddlers in many a nursery rhyme. She studied communications, marketing, and education at Cornell University, where she wrote articles for university publications, co-hosted a radio show and led PR for a children's advocacy organization. After a stint in the crazy world of agency PR, she now blends her background in communications and her passion for education in her sales and partnership work at Flocabulary. When she's off Flocab duty, she can be found scouring food blogs and old cookbooks or traipsing around Alphabet City.

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