Teaching current events: How the Week in Rap is created
Over the past two years, the role of video instruction has steadily expanded in the classroom, especially when teaching current events. Facing school closures and remote learning, many teachers turned to video as a way to keep students engaged. Video is a familiar format for a generation of digital-native students and can serve as a great hook and sometimes the bulk of instruction for certain lessons. But finding quality, timely video content can be a challenge. That’s where the Week in Rap comes in.
Teaching Current Events with the Week in Rap
The Week in Rap (WIR) is a weekly, rapped recap of important headlines and student news used for teaching current events. With a new installment each Friday, the Week in Rap (and WIR Junior for grades 3-5) is not only a way for students to stay clued into current events, but it’s also an opportunity for teachers to spark discussion on important topics and promote literacy across the curriculum. Before we get into all the features WIR offers, let’s look behind the scenes.
Each week, the Flocab team creates these weekly videos from scratch for teachers to use when teaching current events. The process begins on Monday morning and ends with a finished song, video, and set of lesson activities on Flocabulary.com every Friday morning.
How is the Week in Rap created?
This process happens each week and involves nearly every member of the Flocabulary content team. But how can teachers and students engage with the WIR once published on Flocabulary?
Flocabulary has standards-aligned hip-hop songs and videos for students in grades K-12. To access videos and activities shared on this post, sign up for Flocabulary below.
Video Instruction: The Week in Rap (WIR) Lesson Sequence
Just like every other Flocabulary lesson, the WIR includes activities that complement and go beyond video instruction. The first part of the lesson sequence is the video itself. Each video includes 5-7 news stories ranging from world news to science and technology, relatable student news, and everything in between. We strive to strike a balance between major news stories, stories related to academic fields, and fun, exciting, or just plain strange news. Each story is selected with students in mind, and our lyricists aim for clear, unbiased reporting. We’re committed to making use of video instruction to discuss real, relevant news through engaging, academic hip-hop. To enhance video instruction and spark discussion, teachers can turn on Discuss Mode. This feature will pause the video at specific points and pose custom-written discussion questions about select stories. It can be helpful to watch first with Discuss Mode off and then a second time with it on to ensure students have a chance to take in each story.
Teaching current events with Vocab Cards
Next up in the lesson sequence are Vocab Cards. Throughout the lyric-writing and review process, members of the Flocab curriculum team identify and select tier 2 and 3 vocabulary terms to be included in the lyrics. Vocab Cards allow students to familiarize themselves with these terms and build word knowledge by writing a sentence or drawing a picture for each word. Students can then put their knowledge to the test with the Vocab Game, an interactive game in which students “build a beat” by matching words to definitions, images, synonyms, and antonyms and filling in blanks in sentences and lyrics. Viewing the video, interacting with Vocab Cards, and playing the Vocab Game provide multiple exposures to vocabulary terms—all within a timely and relevant current events lesson.
Teaching about news stories with Quiz
After students work through vocabulary, it’s time for the Quiz. The Quiz is a natural extension of the video instruction. The 10-question quiz and 5-question Junior quiz are auto-graded and a great way to check if students need more support in understanding the news and events featured in the video.
Teaching news articles with Lyric Lab
The final lesson activity is Lyric Lab. Lyric Lab gives students an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the content and get creative by writing their own lyrics when teaching current events. The options are endless. Students can rewrite the Week in Rap or respond to it. They can zero in on one story or write about something we didn’t cover. We do our best to provide a neutral retelling of current events, but that doesn’t mean students have to do the same. Lyric Lab gives empowers student voice, allowing them to express themselves and explore what they’re most passionate about in relation to the news. The chance to create their own academic hip-hop offers students a sense of ownership and a deeper understanding of the content.
Go beyond the lesson sequence
In addition to the activities on the lesson page, each lesson includes a printable handout. These handouts invite students to participate in a deeper analysis of the content at hand by treating the WIR like a text. This deeper analysis is a way to extend video instruction beyond recall. It offers students an opportunity to examine their understanding of the news by considering their role as a consumer.
Our rotating schedule of handouts guides students through analysis ranging from text-to-self connections and reflections to identification and summarization of major points, to consideration of hip-hop as a medium of communication.
Start teaching current events with Flocabulary
With the growing role of video in the classroom for teaching current events, it’s crucial to incorporate literacy and reading comprehension skills into video instruction. The ability to analyze and think critically about multiple media formats is an important 21st-century skill that can be honed every week using the Week in Rap—and the printable handouts are just a starting point. The WIR is built to invite conversation by covering engaging news stories that are relevant to students’ lives. Making a weekly classroom routine news analysis and discussion habit helps develop a sense of global citizenship in students and provides an opportunity to practice literacy skills in a fresh context every week when teaching current events.
Flocabulary has standards-aligned hip-hop songs and videos for students in grades K-12. To access the videos and activities shared on this post, sign up for Flocabulary below.