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Teaching With Rap:
Hip-Hop Headlines


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"We started The Week in Rap last September to help students get connected to current events," Blake Harrison recalled. "We know that a lot of students aren't picking up the newspaper every day, and so we wanted to create something that would help engage young people with the world around them. We try to make our songs informational, humorous, and thought-provoking. At Flocabulary, we've created raps on everything from Shakespeare to world history, so tackling current events seemed an obvious next step."

It isn't possible to fit a full week's worth of news into a two-minute song, so Harrison, a founder and creative director of Flocabulary, and co-founder and CEO Alex Rappaport select a dozen headlines that they feel are the most relevant and appropriate for students.

"We try to cover at least one story from international news, politics, science, arts, and sports," explained Harrison. "For each of those headlines, we'll write a few rhyming lines that briefly explain the story. By providing links in the lyrics to the newspaper articles, we hope to encourage students to dig further and learn more about each topic."

The election of Barack Obama inspired a favorite track for Harrison and Rappaport. Performed by soul singer April Hill, the song embodied the excitement and energy that the world witnessed during the inaugural week. The response of the online audience was overwhelming, and they were even invited to perform it live.

"Many teachers have said that they can see their students immediately engaging with the news after watching the video, and in many cases, that engagement leads to critical writing and debate on the issues," shared Rappaport. "Teachers have attributed that sparked interest to the new medium (Internet video) and the fresh voice that a rap song brings."

Teachers have used The Week in Rap as a model for interdisciplinary projects in which students create their own news videos and even write their own songs. Rappaport characterizes this as a "dream scenario" because the students can make the leap from social studies to music to film, while creating a single, powerful project.

"We encourage teachers to give the videos a try in class," he added. "Students often say that they're interested in the news, but don't feel as though they have easy access to it. We created this project to provide more access and, hopefully, help students have fun in the process."

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