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 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 Week in Rap Junior for grades 3-5) is not only a way for students to stay clued in to current events, 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 Week in Rap has to offer, let’s take a look behind the scenes.
Each week, the Flocab team creates the Week in Rap 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.
Here’s what a typical week looks like:
This process happens each week and involves nearly every member of the Flocabulary content team. But how can teachers and students engage with the Week in Rap once it’s published on Flocabulary?
Video Instruction: The Week in Rap Lesson Sequence
Just like every other Flocabulary lesson, the Week in Rap includes activities that complement and go beyond video instruction. The first part of the lesson sequence is the video itself. Each Week in Rap video includes 5-7 news stories ranging from world news to science and technology to 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. With the Week in Rap, 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 is 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 give students a chance 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 as well as 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 Current Events with Quiz
After students work through vocabulary, it’s time for the Quiz. The Week in Rap Quiz is a natural extension of Week in Rap video instruction. The 10-question Week in Rap quiz and 5-question Week in Rap 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 Current Events 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 students an opportunity 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 deeper understanding of the content.
Going Beyond the Lesson Sequence
In addition to the activities on the lesson page, each Week in Rap lesson includes a printable handout. These handouts invite students to participate in a deeper analysis of the content at hand by treating the Week in Rap 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.
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 formats of media is an important 21st century skill that can be honed on a weekly basis using the Week in Rap—and the printable handouts are just a starting point. The Week in Rap is built to invite conversation by covering engaging news stories that are relevant to students’ lives. Making a weekly habit of news analysis and discussion 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.
Interested in reading more about this topic? Check out this blog post: 6 Ways to bring current events in the classroom