January 18, 2013

Verbs, Multiplications, And The Constitution: Learning Our Subjects Was Definitely Fun

Rarely does a day go by in my Composition classes when the Schoolhouse Rock song, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?” does not run through my mind. Even when I am not helping students with editing issues, I still remember the jazzy skit that taught so many how to use a conjunction. In all honesty, I often wonder why some of my students do not know how to use a conjunction when Schoolhouse Rock is out there on YouTube. Frankly, it is a real shame that more members of this generation have not been exposed to Schoolhouse Rock and its innovative and fun way to teach math, English, and even political science.

CNN recently reported on Schoolhouse Rock’s impact on millions of Americans over the years…forty years to be exact. Children nationwide loved the little shorts that played in between Saturday morning cartoons. They were like even more cartoons, only better. Children who watched the Schoolhouse Rock shorts learned about multiplication, grammar, and even how a bill becomes a law (quite possibly the most famous Schoolhouse Rock lesson to date). They had wonderful little jingles to help children learn and fun visuals to accompany the sounds. They appealed to the visual, auditory, and even kinetic learner. Awesome.

Perhaps the best thing about Schoolhouse Rock is its impact has lasted for four decades. Parents today hop on YouTube to show their own children the three to five minute videos both as nostalgia but also as a means to teach their children those same lessons. Recently, parents even packed the Kennedy Center to listen to the creator and sometimes voice of Schoolhouse Rock, Bob Dorough, sing a couple of the popular ditties. That is a pretty powerful and lasting impact.

For those of us missing the quick lessons, we can check them out easy enough.

A quick Google search with the keywords “youtube” and “schoolhouse rock” will bring up the most popular videos available through YouTube’s network. I often consider using these in my class to show students some of the information available to them on the internet; however, I teach college freshmen and sophomores, so I am not sure they would react so positively to the obvious elementary nature of the videos. Still, I learned much of my grammar via these videos, and I am a college English professor, so they must be worth something, right?

So many methods have been tried and failed for teaching math and English, but some worked. Schoolhouse Rock is one those in my humble opinion. Millions of Americans are a testament to the strength and success of the Schoolhouse Rock videos. Many learned the conjunction and connects this and that while but works as the opposite of and in not this but that, and or provides options like this or that. To this day, I still use these explanations to help my students who struggle with conjunctions.

Schoolhouse Rock was multi-disciplinary, addressed multiple learning styles, and it was super fun to watch. I mean, what kid doesn’t want to spend time in school essentially playing while he learns? Schoolhouse Rock recognized a child’s need to enjoy learning. We should all be so understanding and observant.

I wish Schoolhouse Rock still played today. It is nice to know that any parent can check out YouTube for many of the shorts in order to help their children. I guess that’s a good second best to seeing Schoolhouse Rock in between cartoons on Disney, Nickelodeon, Boomerang, or Cartoon Network. I hope we never forget about the benefits and fun of Schoolhouse Rock.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email


Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

Send Rayshell an email