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!


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!


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.


New student assessment features and reporting tools for teachers are here!

Last week, we rolled out some brand new features on our site. We’re really excited about how these updates will not only help teachers to check student comprehension but also to use Flocabulary for planning, differentiation and intervention in the classroom. Our new online assessments offer students a more interactive experience, allowing them to demonstrate what they learned from our videos and activities. And with these student features, we’ve created some great new assigning and reporting tools for teachers, too!

Explore our new features and what they’ll bring to your classroom below:

Check comprehension with a quiz
Now, in addition to the videos and activities you see in all of our instructional units, you’ll also find online, auto-graded formative assessments for students. See how the quiz fits into our updated recommended lesson sequence by checking out the new video on our Lesson Resources page.

New quiz feature for students

New quiz feature for students







Assign a unit
We’ve updated our our teacher dashboard, so educators can now set up classes or student groups on their Flocabulary accounts. Teachers can quickly and easily assign units directly to students, notifying the group about work to complete when they login to our site. Assign a unit to the whole class for homework or as an in-class activity, or create groups to support differentiated instruction – the assignment feature creates more options for integrating Flocabulary in the classroom seamlessly.

My Classes in teacher dashboard

My Classes in teacher dashboard







Use reporting tools for planning
Our new teacher dashboard includes several handy reports to check in on assignment progress and view students’ quiz performance (see more about the reporting tools here). Teachers can scroll through their class list to check out individual student scores or use the Comprehension Analysis grid to see how the group performed as a whole. Whether identifying trends in student understanding or pinpointing areas for reteaching or independent practice, use these tools to make more data-informed decisions for planning instruction. And with individual student logins, assignment notifications and quizzes to complete right on our site, the updates make Flocabulary an even better blended learning tool for students.

Comprehension Analysis grid of quiz results in teacher dashboard

Comprehension Analysis grid of quiz results in teacher dashboard












Our assessment and reporting features are available for school-wide and district subscriptions. Have a school subscription and want student assessments enabled? Get in touch with us! Have questions about how the assessments or new teacher tools work? Check out our FAQ page. Have a school-wide subscription, but don’t want to use the new features? Don’t worry – we still have our shared student logins available for schools that prefer to implement Flocabulary that way.

To support this roll out of student-facing features, we’ve updated our privacy policy and signed the Student Privacy Pledge. Check out our new privacy policy here.

Press Release: Flocabulary Debuts Student Assessments and Reporting Tools for Back to School

Brooklyn, N.Y., July 21, 2015 Today Flocabulary announced the launch of a new suite of features to help teachers, schools and districts assess student knowledge and diagnose needs for differentiation and intervention. In addition to the educational hip-hop videos and interactive activities Flocabulary is known for, each instructional unit now features an auto-graded formative assessment for students. Updated features include a new dashboard for teachers to assign units and analyze student results to inform their instruction.

“Teachers have enjoyed using Flocabulary’s videos and activities to engage students and supplement instruction across the curriculum,” says Flocabulary co-founder and CEO Alex Rappaport. “Our goal with these new features is to allow our customers to use the platform to not only demonstrate student achievement but also to diagnose knowledge gaps and differentiate instruction.”

Using the program’s new features, teachers will have the ability to create classes or student groups on their user dashboards and assign Flocabulary instructional units to students directly. The dashboard features a series of reports that allow teachers to review quiz results at the individual student level and at the classroom level, and make data-informed decisions about planning further instruction. The assessment and reporting features are available to all schools and districts that subscribe to Flocabulary’s online program.

Teacher Assignment Dashboard

Assignments overview in teacher dashboard

Comprehension Analysis grid in the teacher dashboard.

Comprehension Analysis grid in teacher dashboard


















“The enhanced teacher dashboard affords teachers the ability to not only differentiate their instruction, but also to better monitor student progress,” said Carl Bucciantini, Technology Integrator at Auburn School Department in Auburn, Maine. “With the increased reliance on data being used to inform instruction, these tools are a great addition to any teacher’s toolbox.”

To support this roll out of student-facing features, Flocabulary has updated its privacy policy and signed the Student Privacy Pledge, introduced by The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).

“With more data in our system to drive student results reporting, we wanted to be on the forefront of student privacy and security,” says Flocabulary Product Director Aliza Aufrichtig. “Flocabulary has set the bar for engaging curricular content and now we’re in a position to lead the industry in the right direction when it comes to respecting the sanctity of student data.”

About Flocabulary
Flocabulary creates educational hip-hop videos for students in grades K-12. Over 35,000 schools use Flocabulary’s standards-aligned videos, interactive activities and assessments 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.

Molly Cronin
718-852-0105 Ext. 28

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