SAT Prep Set to Music
Songs Aim to Teach Teenagers Vocabulary
Teenagers grooving to music on their iPods may look as if they’re fooling around. But some are actually studying for the verbal portions of the SAT college-admissions test, thanks to two music lovers.
The duo, whose own days prepping for the tests aren’t all that far behind them, say that rap and hip-hop are excellent devices for learning new words. And their new CD and workbook, “A Dictionary and a Microphone,” offer 12 songs with 500 SAT-caliber words to help teach young people the beauty of the English language.
The idea behind their project, called Flocabulary, is to use a medium popular with teenagers to help them learn new words and their meanings and pronunciations.
“The difference between Shakespeare and Mos Def is really a lot less than people would assume,” Blake Harrison, one of the founders of Flocabulary, said last week.
He was referring, of course, to the famous bard and a popular hip-hop artist and actor, whom he described as “both poets playing with the language in a cutting-edge way.”
Mr. Harrison, who studied English at the University of Pennsylvania and tutors students for a private firm in Boston, wrote the lyrics for the songs. Alexander Rappaport, a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Tufts University, wrote the music for the CD.
Students can download the songs for $2 each from the Flocabulary Web site at www.flocabulary.com, or buy the entire CD and a workbook that goes with it.
Flocabulary’s founders hope their study program finds its way into schools, and they already report inquiries from a Baltimore middle school interested in using it in the classroom.
The SAT words used in the lyrics were provided by Sparknotes, the publisher of a series of study guides, Mr. Rappaport said. Sparknotes commissioned two songs and gave the songwriters its list of the top 1,000 vocabulary words to know for the admissions test, two-thirds of which is language-related.
“By using hip-hop we can connect, engage, and motivate students and let them learn in nonintimidating ways,” Mr. Harrison said.
The lyrics to the song “FLO + CAB,” for example, contain several weighty words: “I’m sanguine, optimistic and cheery / the opposite of enervated and weary, you hear me?”
Vol. 24, Issue 40, Page 3Published in Print: June 15, 2005, as SAT Prep Set to Music