ELA Raps 2016


Have you heard of Flocabulary?  It is a terrific teaching resource!  Flocabulary features “hip-hop videos to teach standards-based skills and content.”  Raps cover ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, Current Events and more! There are loads of activities and assessments that are built right in, and they even have lessons on how your students can write and perform their own educational raps.

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Challenge Accepted.  [It didn’t hurt that my teaching partner and I are products of the late 90s and early 2000s and have a soft spot for hip-hop from this era.]

We began by analyzing a few of Flocabulary’s raps/lyrics.  We looked at rhythm and rhyme, and highlighted content.  We circled hooks and talked about repetition.  Sounds a lot like a poetry lesson, doesn’t it?

We introduced students to a short list of original Flocabulary beats.  There were just too many to choose from!  Student groups were assigned topics such as the different reading genres and types of writing.  They drafted lyrics and practiced by placing them to the beat of their choice.

Then came the tricky part:  recording the raps.  Once they performed for a teacher, we allowed them to move into a “recording studio” or empty classroom equipped with a tri-fold presentation board.  They downloaded their beat from Flocabulary into their Google Drive, uploaded it to SoundCloud, and started their recording.  Note:  SoundCloud does not allow for editing.  Some of the groups became frustrated when they made mistakes while recording.  However, we decided that this was an important lesson in perseverance.  They had already invested so much time and energy that not one student wanted to give up!

The most ambitious groups reached a new height when they were able to move their recorded raps to the iPads and use the Video Star app to film in an original video.  View some of our top performances below.  What an amazing experience!

Click here to view a free sample of Flocabulary’s product. Learn about the “Rock Stars: Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic.” We’ve enjoyed using Flocabulary and just know you will too!

State Bingo and Road Trip U.S.


Age Scale: 7-13

Device: iPad

Quick Line: Hit the Road With This App!

What Educators Need to Know:

Planning on traveling this summer? Download State Bingo and Road Trip U.S. and have your child learn about the U.S. as you go!

The app features two games, the first of which is State Bingo. Choose a level: Easy, Medium, and Hard. Users answer questions and riddles about states. Stumped? Use the fully illustrated map to help you on the first two levels. Think you are an expert? The reference map has only state names and you have to answer questions by state shapes instead of names. Talk about a challenge! Win the games to send states to statehood.

In Road Trip, select a travel direction for Pep the car. Answer at least one question to move Pep to the next state. Choose wisely or you’ll end up with flat tires! This isn’t a problem if you stick with the Easy level, like me!

There are several things that sets this app apart. One, it is very comprehensive. The content includes state capitals, state shapes, U.S. regions, map navigation, facts, landmarks, nicknames, and more. Two, the built in reference map is stellar – very pleasing to the eye and contains just enough information to not overwhelm the user. Three, I gravitate towards multi-level games. It allows a teacher the flexibility to meet the needs of individual learners so easily! I can easily envision a classroom of mixed ability learners enjoying this app.

Price: $2.99

State Bingo and Road Trip US - Niyaa LLC



Age Range: 10-adult

Device: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad

Quick Line: See the World!

Pictures are worth a thousand words? You bet! This is especially true when teaching about other cultures and locations throughout the world.

Our class is currently studying East Asia, and, as you may have guessed, our textbook is outdated. The world changes so quickly! Enter supplemental materials. Fotopedia is a series of free apps that feature photographs from professional photographers in locations such as China, Japan, North Korea, Paris, Morocco, Italy, and even our own national park system.

Breathtaking is just one word to describe the beauty and depth of some of these pictures. You can click into a slideshow of hundreds, even thousands, of pictures. But my favorite features are the “stories” that were created around a central theme. Take, for example, the infamous leaders of North Korea. Why are they so popular? How did they come to power? What’s it like to live there?

And here lies the foundation of what I teach. I pulled up Fotopedia North Korea, and showed a series of photos of the propaganda littering this secretive country. I was also able to show students what life was really like “behind the veil” as public photos are often staged to promote North Korea’s image. What happened after the viewing? The kids had even MORE questions! It means more work for me, but it also means they are engaged and learning!

Critics complain that there are too few captions, and I would agree. However, guided sets are documented well. I found enough reliable content to support my curriculum. Also, I would recommend previewing the photographs before using them, but so far, I have not found anything objectionable for the upper elementary student.

In addition, I’ve always wanted to use photographs to spark writing! Check out this link to the National Writing Project for additional resources on how to use photos in your writing class.

Price: FREE!

Fotopedia North Korea - Fotonauts Inc.



Age range: 8-14

Device: iPad

Quick Line: Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

As a social studies teacher, I feel the need to use resources that are timely. But it is difficult to find articles that contain a) content appropriate for intermediate students or b) written at an appropriate comprehension level. News-o-Matic surprised me with both.

I pleasantly zipped my way through articles on Thailand’s Splash Water Festival, sea turtles in Puerto Rico (my absolute favorite animal), an app where children can practice coding, and a story about a twelve-year-old who started a bike charity for children in India. Good stuff!

I think teachers should take a look at this app. Our school currently subscribes to Scholastic News which is weekly. But I would love to have access to something that is daily. In addition, there are several features that set this app apart from most resources. Each article offers an additional FACT, encouragement to ACT, and access to a map to relate to the location of the topic. Readers can also see what happened on this date in history and “chat” with Russ in the newsroom (not in real time).

This is a free app, but regular reading will require a subscription. As I understand it, I can subscribe for a week, month, or year through iTunes. I’m thinking of using it during my day of “plugged in” learning. More information to follow!