Getting Reluctant Learners Hooked: A Success Story
Britt Pumphrey is a 5th grade teacher in Kansas City. His students, mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants, struggle to keep up in school and often feel intimidated by school work. A combination of creativity, determination, and finding the right teaching tools has helped Britt bring out the curious, confident learners hidden inside these kids. Here's Britt's story.
Picture a class of high poverty students - many of whom read two or three or more levels below the 5th-grade level they should be at - following along with the lyrics of a social studies rap and singing the whole thing. Now picture them being interested in Native Americans because they are hooked. They are not hooked by the rap song, the rap song was the bait. They are hooked because the content of the rap song is intriguing to them. The song is over and hands are up all over the room. "What does it mean by 'land bridge'?" and "where is the Bearing Strait?" and "where are all of the Native Americans now?" and "Why does it say, 'nomads; hut to hut like quarterbacks'?" The class is ready to have fun researching those questions and sharing their work.
My class is made up of predominantly Hispanic immigrant children. Spanish is the dominant language at most of their homes and their families are spread out all around this country and the one they have immigrated from. The language issues make it difficult for them to keep up in school and the social issues of the low-socioeconomic neighborhood attack them everyday. The real-life circumstances these students face on a daily basis can make it very difficult for them to care much for their education, and often they fall behind.
In social studies, it requires a lot of reading and a lot of background knowledge. When reading is so difficult and the textbooks are written at and 8th grade level; how is the student going to become interested in something so confusing and complicated? That challenge made teaching social studies incredibly difficult my first year here. My students lost engagement and they didn't learn the content. It left me frustrated. I felt like I was floundering. I knew these were incredible kids. In other subjects they would work day and night to learn the concepts. I had seen them love math and love reading and writing, but developing a love for social studies proved to be beyond my grasp.
A friend introduced me to Flocabulary. Even though the lyrics to the songs were well above many of their reading levels they wanted to learn to understand them. The content covered in a single song could serve as the foundation for an entire unit, be it Native Americans or the American Revolution or Civil Rights. Flocabulary helped me bring out the passionate learners I had seen in other subjects. They had smiles on their faces and their minds were busy.
Flocabulary has helped me, a 5th grade teacher in the poverty-stricken inner city, by providing songs that were created with skill in their craft and lyrics with the depth of a textbook. Flocabulary has helped my students by getting their heads nodding with the rhythm which magically helped their minds start asking questions. It helped my students become interested and engaged in the complicated concepts of history and social studies.
5th Grade Teacher
Kansas City, Kansas