Why Flocabulary Takes Field Trips to Schools (And Why Every Edtech Company Should, Too)

At Flocabulary, we visit the classrooms of NYC teachers as often as we can to observe Flocab lessons, answer questions and gather feedback. We went on our first visit of fall 2015 today and had a blast! Our Product Director, Aliza Aufrichtig authored this post, originally published on EdSurge.com, to explain why we started this classroom visit tradition and how other edtech companies can do the same. 

First Student #336 by ThoseGuys119, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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The Week in Rap Shout-Out Contest: Congrats Slatington Elementary School!

Each week, we challenge students to think critically, create and innovate to win a shout-out for their school through The Week in Rap Shout-Out Contest. Friday’s winning entry came from Mrs. Coppolecchia’s 6th grade English class at Slatington Elementary School in Slatington, PA, which designed a way to improve on existing camera technology. Here’s what they thought up!

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Milton Hershey School’s 2nd Graders Use 3D Printing for Good to Win the Week in Rap Junior Shout-Out Contest!

The Week in Rap Junior is new for Flocab – and keeping pace with the program’s big bro, The Week in Rap, we kicked off a shout-out contest just for our Junior viewers! In a recent edition of the series, we introduced the technology of 3D printing and asked students: if you could print a 3D object, what would it be and why? This question “hijacked the entire learning day” (luckily, in a good way) in Mrs. Halliday’s 2nd grade class at Milton Hershey School, winners of the shout-out. Read on to learn how these students used the challenge as a chance to do some good for the world.


Mrs. Halliday’s class watches The Week in Rap Junior every Friday. After watching the video, they use our interactive lyrics and do a close read of an article that sparked the students’ interest. Sometimes they’ll use their personal whiteboards to write about the cause and effect of a story, or write two facts and an opinion – they even pull out their class microphone from time to time to share their opinions loud and proud.

Mrs. Halliday wasn’t sure what students would think about 3D printing, but because their school recently added a STEAM lab with a 3D printer, she was ready to give the contest a shot. It turned out the class was enthralled! Students’ curiosity fueled a day of 3D printing conversation, research and innovation. Students wanted to know what was already being 3D printed, leading the class to use research skills to find relevant news. In their search, they learned about a baby who was given a breathing apparatus made from a 3D printer, and students were hooked.

Mrs. Halliday’s classroom has an initiative they call #kindnessmatters – as part of building their classroom community, it’s a theme they use to discuss how even small acts can make a difference. They used their #kindnessmatters theme as a lens to explore 3D printing as well.

Later in the day, students met up with their STEAM coordinator, Mr. Crowley, who told them that 3D printers can even create prosthetic limbs. He shared Enabling the Future with students – a network of volunteers who use their 3D printers to create free prosthetic hands for underserved populations around the world. The students were so excited about the prospect of giving back that at the time of publishing this post, they are still working with Mr. Crowley on printing a prosthetic hand for someone in need.

See Mrs. Halliday and her students as they discuss their ideas for ojects they would print in 3D, including their project for Enabling the Future!

FlocabJr 3d Printing from Christine Halliday on Vimeo.

When we spoke with Mrs. Halliday about this project, she noted how design thinking is such a big theme in education right now, and how creating links to the real world is so important. She also shared her thoughts on the process of presenting students with a problem and empowering them to come up with a solution. “I think there’s so much power in letting kids know that they can be problem solvers and that most problems are surmountable, if you’re willing to use your resources and time. This project was a really clear example of that.”

A big shout-out to Mrs. Halliday and her students for inspiring us to think about using technology to change the world!

Do your Week in Rap Junior fans want a shout-out? Click here to find out about the next Week in Rap Junior Shout-Out Contest Challenge.

The Week in Rap Shout-Out Contest: Barrington Middle School-Prairie Campus!

Each week, we offer the chance for students to win a shout-out for their school by completing a critical thinking challenge through our Week in Rap Shout-Out Contest. Friday’s winning entry came from Mr. Boscarino’s 7th grade science class at Barrington Middle School-Prairie Campus in Barrington, IL – and it had a little something to do with pizza. Read on!

Barrington Middle School Shout-Out

Last week, after covering a story about how video games may develop key parts of the brain, we asked students to design their own educational game to teach an academic subject or skill.

A favorite from Mr. Boscarino’s class was a game that used pizza making to help students learn division, multiplication, and inequalities. As master pizza makers, players of the game get orders of different size pizzas with an array of toppings. Here’s an example of how the game works according to the student:

The customer orders a large pizza (12 slices) with 24 mushrooms and 36 olives. As the student, I would divide 24 by 12 to get two and then 36 divided by 12 to get three. This shows that there should be 2 mushrooms per slice and 3 olives per slice. To double check their work, a student might want to multiply (12 times 2 equals 24).Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 1.09.08 PM

The student added in additional layers of complexity as the player moves up levels within the game. For example, at level 3, the game starts to give the player two orders with a prompt to write an inequality about the toppings, slices, or number of pizzas the customers ordered.

We loved that this idea offered a great way to practice math skills while playing with pizza – because who doesn’t love pizza? Amazing job, Barrington Middle School-Prairie Campus.

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




Fullerton Union High School Students Survey 2,000 of their Peers to Win the Week in Rap Shout-Out Contest!

In a recent edition of The Week in Rap, we covered research findings on how much fast food U.S. kids and teens eat, so for the Shout-Out Contest, we asked students to design their own survey, predict its outcome, and then summarize its results. Tenth grade AVID students at Fullerton Union High School took the challenge to the next level by surveying 2,000 of their classmates. Here’s what they did to win last week’s shout-out…

Fullerton UHS

Every Friday, AVID Coordinator Mr. Hebert and his students watch The Week in Rap, using the fill-in-the-blank exercises to practice test-taking and note-taking, and later collaborate as they work with a partner to revise their work. When students saw the survey challenge, they were itching for a shout-out, and felt up to the task. They spent class time that Friday brainstorming a wide range of a questions they might ask their peers in a survey. They saw a common thread emerge – they were interested in time management and how students spend their time after school. Mr Hebert immediately saw the value in exploring this topic. “It is something we as educators and administrators could use, and time management is a theme we discuss often in AVID.” The students constructed a five-question, multiple choice survey to find out, on an average school day, how much time their peers spent on:

  • social media
  • homework and studying
  • enjoying media entertainment
  • doing physical activity
  • sleeping

The class wanted to reach as many students at their school as possible, and brought the project to the school administration, getting approval to conduct the survey widely. The following Monday, they worked together, collaborating with other teachers on campus to administer their survey to almost 2,000 students in one day! Knowing data is only useful when people can read it, the students created graphs and explained their findings in the following video:

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Mr. Hebert, AVID Coordinator at Fullerton Union High School

According to Mr. Hebert, the data that students collected was sent to the entire staff, and has become a conversation starter, leading staff to consider how the findings correlate with grades and college readiness. Prior to the students’ project, the school hadn’t completed a comprehensive survey related to time management. They are considering making it a more frequent initiative, perhaps adding additional categories to reflect other student commitments, such as working.

Beyond conducting a successful, large-scale survey, collecting valuable data, and raising awareness about student time management at their school, students practiced other skills putting together their Shout-Out Contest entry, according to Mr. Hebert. “Projects like this give students an opportunity to practice real-world skills, like communication. They had to figure out when to meet, and determine roles and scheduling,” he said. Mr. Hebert noted that many of the skills students exercised – including leadership and collaboration – are directly applicable to skills needed in the workforce. We’re super impressed, Fullerton Union High School! 

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

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




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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne




(And if you’re curious about other titles questioned through history, check out BannedBooksWeek.org’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!


Flocabulary All Week and All Year: Use Our New Planning Guides!

Maybe you’re a middle school ELA teacher, planning to review comma usage, how to write a thesis, or the plot of the Odyssey this school year. Or maybe you’re a 5th grade teacher looking for standards-aligned content that will excite and engage your students – and is varied enough to cover the breadth of subjects that you teach each day. Either way, there are hundreds of videos and lessons on Flocabulary ready for you – but maybe you’re looking for some guidance to help with planning and pacing with our resources.

Because we’re always looking for ways to support educators, spice up lessons, and make learning fun, we put together two new planning guides. They’re the first of many and aim to help teachers find new and different ways to use our resources on a regular schedule. Who doesn’t like a little bit of the legwork done for them?

test-taking-strategies-imageCheck out our planning guide for middle school ELA teachers, which offers four common implementation schedules for bringing Flocabulary into your classroom throughout the year. From regular vocab practice, to Friday current events discussions, use these ideas to help your students think critically and write creatively. Find the planning guide here.

6-double-dutch-imageWe’ve also mapped out some sample schedules to show how Flocabulary content can be used on a weekly basis in a 5th grade classroom. Get a sense of the breadth of content that we have across subjects, and then map out how you can bring Flocab into your weekly vocabulary, ELA, and math, science and social studies lessons. Check out the planning guide here.

Once you scope out the planning guides, let us know what you think! Did they inspire you to use Flocab in new ways? Help with planning ahead? Please share your feedback in the comments below.

We’d also love for you to share any creative lesson plan you’ve developed for your class. Contact us, and we’ll post them so the Flocab community can learn from your example!