Imagine memorizing topics like history, vocabulary and Shakespearean text as easily as you memorize the lyrics to your favorite songs. That was the inspiration behind Flocabulary, a range of multimedia products that combine educational topics and hip-hop music to help kids learn. Gayle talks with lyricist Blake Harrison and producer Alex Rappaport about the creation and success of Flocabulary.
In 2004, Blake and Alex teamed up to produce an audio demo based on the idea that putting information to music improves memorization. Blake started writing lyrics, while Alex laid down the beats. Both were involved in the extensive research behind their topics. The demo was a huge success with publishers and teachers alike, and Flocabulary began to take off.
Book titles in the Flocabulary series are accompanied by a musical CD and include Flocabulary: The Hip-Hop Approach to SAT-Level Vocabulary Building and Flocabulary: The Hip-Hop Approach to U.S. History. To further spread the message of learning and hip-hop, Blake and Alex created Word Up, a multimedia vocabulary program for middle-school students, and tour the country doing live performances at schools. "The classroom can be more fun, and hip-hop can be very effective," Alex says.
Alex and Blake say there's considerable evidence showing that Flocabulary is helping students. In schools that have adopted Flocabulary's books and CDs school-wide, SAT scores have increased an average of 50 points. "[Students] use it passively—they use it when they're on the bus on the way to school or their iPod or at home while they're doing other homework," Alex says. "They're learning SATs words kind of subliminally."