Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2016

Flocabulary

Schoolhouse Rock meets Tupac in this delightful hip-hop-based platform

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K-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Smart songs are helpful and catchy; they hit all the right spots to satisfy both teachers and students.

Cons: Some subject areas are lighter on content than others, but new material is added regularly.

Bottom Line: Flocabulary has the goods: It's savvy enough to keep kids focused, and teachers will be tapping their toes to the unorthodox learning method.

By listening to media that kids actually enjoy, the lessons within the songs should sink in quite nicely. Flocabulary tucks some vocab lessons into a totally entertaining song about a lost cat named “Biggie”; while kids get sucked into the tale, they'll subtly learn about opposites and some word definitions. Awesome! Songs for older kids are denser, with nearly each rhyme containing some hard facts that they can be quizzed on afterward.

Skeptics might say, “Why can't kids just learn the old-fashioned way?” Yeah, we know, but Flocabulary has a ton of legit research behind it, and their in-depth approach to really morphing hip-hop beats with lasting learning is sound.

Editor's note: In the past, Common Sense Education has partnered with Flocabulary. However, Common Sense Education's reviews maintain editorial integrity and independence.

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Schoolhouse Rock meets Tupac with Flocabulary, an online platform that delivers educational hip-hop songs and videos for kids in grades K-12. Flocabulary covers math, vocabulary, language arts, social studies, science, and offers a weekly news update, The Week in Rap. Each subject features a series of songs, clickable lyrics with extra information, activities, and more.

The individual teacher subscription gives access to the videos, lessons, activities, and CCSS correlations. The full, whole-school plan includes quite a bit more, including a teacher dashboard and assignable, automatically scored quizzes. Created by pros committed to education, all Flocabulary content is standards-based, and they'll even let you know which standards are covered in each song.

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One of Flocabulary's best qualities is that the songs sound like real rap songs, not an embarrassing facsimile that's obviously for educational purposes. The backing beats and samples are catchy and memorable, and videos contain a fun combo of stock footage, original animation, and, for The Week in Rap, current news clips. You might think you're listening to Lil' Wayne when you hear “Would You Drop It?” -- a song about nuclear war. The lyrics don't dumb down topics but speak directly to a young audience, and provide a subtle way for students to learn content.

The downsides to Flocabulary are pretty limited. Lyrics are occasionally kind of stilted, but this happens in real rap songs, too. Teachers should know that, as in the real rap world, some songs contain light questionable language. Example: In "Big Ballin' in the Gilded Age," a song about labor tycoons of the early 20th century, lyrics include "I'm bigger than Big Pimpin', I'm bigger than Jay-Z ... I'm a real hustler puttin' trains on tracks." Kids probably won't bat an eye, but it's something to just check on beforehand.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
5

Often irreverent and funny, these super-entertaining songs and videos will keep kids' attention. Don't worry: The songs about serious subjects are treated respectfully as well.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Each song is packed with educational info, from simple math ("5 and 6 in the Mix") to heavy lit ("The Pit and the Pendulum"). As kids learn to listen for details, they can become more focused.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

Flocabulary offers a pretty solid support system. Teachers can search by subject and Common Core State Standard. Each song has a sidebar with extras like lesson plans and quizzes, and their tech support page covers all the basic problems.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Jill L. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
4
The slow down speed is an awesome modification for special needs population. Great catchy tunes to reinforce concepts and information.

I love this website as long as teachers are using it to integrate the content into what they are already teaching, and not as a "babysitting" tool or an "instead of". The videos and raps are really fun and engaging for students of all ages and levels. I have heard students sing a jingle or two while trying to remember how to do certain math skills in class, so the tunes certainly resonate with the students. I love how easy the site is to navigate and how many tools they offer to help. Flocabulary is constantly making great changes, and always improving their site for special needs students.

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