Dropping Beats, Raising Grades
By: Dana Schneider
There were plenty of unique and intriguing sessions at this year's AMLE conference, but even so, the session entitled Hip Hop in the Classroom: Engaging Students with a Standards-based Approach stood out. What a radical idea—students actually enjoying memorizing facts. The session encompassed a program called Flocabulary, co-founded by Alex Rappaport. As Rappaport explained, it is a program that teaches kids by making raps about facts, ranging in subjects from language arts to history. The program is now available in book form, CD, or online subscription. It has been used in about 15,000 schools and has been proved to raise standardized test scores. Rappaport claims that his program is based on three beliefs: motivated students succeed; when you win a student's heart, you win their mind; and finally, educators should respect the things that interest students. These beliefs do tie into the program, if you analyze it.
Students who lack enthusiasm for school normally do get less than desirable grades. I mean, think about it, that kid who sits in the corner with his head down, hood up doesn't exactly bring home the bacon when report card time rolls around. So a method that delivers curriculum in a way that interests him? That's a golden idea. That "golden idea" happens to be Flocabulary. The majority of kids today think they are little Kanyes in the making; kids love rap. If a teacher asked students to memorize a rap, I'm sure they would be motivated to do so. And as Rappaport said, "Motivated students are successful students."
But this golden idea also has a few catches. The raps have to be good. If the raps are good, and the kids are feeling it, the teacher wins the students' heart. As Rappaport said, "If you win the students' hearts, their minds will follow." Thankfully, Flocabulary produces some great rhymes that are both catchy and educational. It's the perfect marriage, and as students try to duplicate Flocabulary artists such as D-Story's performance, the information seeps into their minds. It has been proven that music and rhyme help you remember information.
The final belief behind the program is that "educators should respect the things that interest students." Well, as strange as it seems, periodic tables and literature written decades ago doesn't really appeal to current teenage generation. As I said, kids love rap. Rather than sticking to their conservative and closed-minded guns, educators should accept the pop culture of the younger generation. Not only should they accept it, they should use to their advantage, because rhyme is a scientifically proven memorization skill. In addition to this, teachers bashing a student's interest will only make the student feel even more disconnected from the educator.
In conclusion, hip-hop should be used in the middle school classroom, and Flocabulary is a wonderful way for that to happen. The beliefs that are the foundation for this program are: motivated students succeed; win students hearts, and you will win their minds; and educators should respect the interests of students. After using Flocabulary in the classroom, I think students will come to class saying: "I came to win, to fight, to conquer, to thrive. I came to win, to survive, to prosper, to rise, to fly."