As a kid, we lived for Saturday mornings! We never slept in because we knew that all morning long we had our choice of back to back cartoons! There was Scooby-Doo, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Hong Kong Phooey, Blue Falcon & Dynomutt, The Laff-O-Lympics, The Flilntstones, The Pink Panther and many more! It was great! We’d sit and watch these shows all morning long with a big ole bowl of cereal and laugh away!
One of the things I remember most about Saturday mornings was also one of the things that helped me in school – School House Rock. These little musical features helped me learn multiplication, history, and English. If that it what they set out to do, it worked. Oh, how many times did I find myself singing those songs in school!
Learning the times table is one of those things that ALL kids absolutely hate! God, I hated those 60 second tests where you had to write the answers to as many problems as you could. The stress of that was awful for an elementary student. School House Rock helped!
Let me start with the most memorable. I remember when I had to help my son learn his times tables, I sang the “ready or not, here I come” song which helped you count by 5. This little song centered around a game of hide and seek, and they had to count to 100 by fives while the rest of the kids hid. To this day, when I have to count by fives – I think of this song!
Counting by twos was illustrated by Noah and the ark. The biblical account talks of Noah bringing all the animals on the ark in pairs. So throughout this number, Noah answers his son’s question of how many animals were on the ark by counting the animals two by two as the exit the boat.
The first song that was recorded for the series was “Three is a Magic Number”. The story goes that creator Bob Dorough’s son could remember “every lyric to a Rolling Stone’s song, but could not remember his multiplication tables”. If it truly is a magic number, what better way to illustrate it than with a magician?
What child didn’t do a bit of daydreaming in school? To remember how to multiply 8, all we had to do is think about the little school girl who daydreamed she was a figure skater. She skates her figure 8 and the song told us how.
English was one of my best subjects. I remember being in 5th or 6th grade and going to something called the Academic Olympics. Schools within the district had these little game show like contests with teams for Math, Science, English, and History. I was chosen to be on the English team. I certainly never had an issue with the parts of speech because of School House Rock.
Well every person you can know,
And every place that you can go,
And anything that you can show,
You know they’re nouns.
Yep! Thanks to SHR, the little girl and her dog – we knew a noun was “a person, place or thing”!
What’s happening? Verb! That’s what’s happening! The coolest “action” hero? Well, I don’t know about that, but a verb shows action….and I always remember him!
I get my thing in action (Verb!)
To be, to sing, to feel, to live (Verb!)
(That’s what’s happenin’)
A verb expresses action, being, or state of being. A verb makes a statement. Yeah, a verb tells it like it is!
Why do I remember this? Because the music was cool. The character was cool. We didn’t even know they were trying to teach us something!!! We were learning and it was cool!
And what about describing a noun? Well all you had to do was unpack some adjectives…but watch out for the scary, hairy bear!
Adjectives and adverbs were so hard for some kids to get. I could not ever understand why. I got it pretty quickly … because of a little girl and her trip. You see, her friends ask her to describe her camping trip. She said that all she had to do was unpack some adjectives.
We hiked along without care.
Then we ran into a bear.
He was a hairy bear,
He was a scary bear,
We beat a hasty retreat from his lair.
And described him with adjectives.
Moving on to Adverbs, I had help from SHR and also The Electric Company (which was mentioned yesterday). On the Electric Company, they turned to Tom Lehrer (who is pretty darn funny and has some comedy albums you can still get today). He created the simple song “L-Y”. Why? Well, most adverbs end in “ly”.
School House Rock’s song about adverbs was memorable because it was just a fun little song that takes place in (where else?) an adverb store! Need an adverb – shop at Lolly’s! The brilliance of this song is it is like a commercial for the store…and they really sell it! Hell, if I really needed to go buy and adverb – I would shop at Lolly’s!! After all … they are family owned!
Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here.
Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, got some adverbs here.
Come on down to Lolly’s, get the adverbs here!
You’re going to need
If you write or read,
Or even think about it.
I still remember learning about interjections for the first time. I also learned about the punctuation that followed it …
Interjections (Hey!) show excitement (Yow!) or emotion (Ouch!).
They’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
Or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.
This song was full of characters – the kid with the flu who needed a shot, the gal getting asked out on a date, the fans at the football game, and others who were all full of interjections!
The chorus of this song is one of the most well known, so sing along:
So when you’re happy (Hurray!) or sad (Aw!)
Or frightened (Eeeeeek!) or mad (Rats!)
Or excited (Wow!) or glad (Hey!)
An interjection starts a sentence right.
While all of these are memorable, probably the most memorable Grammar Rock song is about three small words and a small little train conductor. The bluesy swing song with the repetitive refrain and the amazing vocal talents of Jack Sheldon makes Conjunction Junction one of the all time BEST sing a longs.
Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?
Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.
Conjunction Junction, how’s that function?
I got three favorite cars
That get most of my job done.
Conjunction Junction, what’s their function?
I got “and”, “but”, and “or”,
They’ll get you pretty far.
Ask any child of the 70’s to give you a conjunction and they will spout off “and”, “but”, and “or” immediately! That’s a sure bet!!
Moving forward, and wrapping up with History, we come to America Rock. Some of the biggest events in US history were brought to life in 3 minutes of musical perfection!
Interest in American History is still abounding today. Recently, there was an AMC series called Turn! which was about the Revolutionary War and George Washington’s spies as well as an HBO series on John Adams and the role he played in the Independence of America. Let’s start there.
No More Kings was a silly little song about the colonists coming to America and being taxed for everything. This leads to the Boston Tea Party and America wanting no part of King George (who can see what’s happening through his telescope).
They wanted no more Mother England.
They knew the time had come
For them to take command.
It’s very clear you’re being unfair, King,
No matter what you say, we won’t obey.
Gonna hold a revolution now, King,
And we’re gonna run it all our way
With no more kings…
Hence the colonization of America!
What followed was the Revolutionary War. Which got it’s own song called The Shot Heard Round the World, which of course is then followed by the Declaration of Independence, which got it’s own little song … and Fireworks.
The Declaration of Independence
In seventeen hundred seventy six
The Continental Congress said that we were free
Said we had the right of life and liberty,
…And the pursuit of happiness! (You totally saw the guy chasing the gal when you read that line right?!)
Thanks to School House Rock, today I can still recite:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,
That all men are created equal
And that they are endowed by their creator
With certain inalienable rights.
That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Who doesn’t sing the “Fireworks song” on the 4th of July??!
Then, of course, after we declared our independence, we had to have a Constitution. Memorizing the Preamble of the Constitution was no problem for me in school … I had it set to music!
We the people,
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
There have been many Amendments to the Constitution, and the 19th was a biggie! It allowed women to vote! It is hard to imagine that they didn’t have that right until 1920!! The right was referred to as Women’s Suffrage. School House Rock Tackled this historic occasion with the song “Sufferin’ Until Suffrage”.
Women were American’s too. They wanted the right to vote. The video for this song is part cartoon and part black and white pictures of women throughout history. It’s a rocking number that gets the point across and you can here the “victory” in her voice in this “gospel”-ish song.
Oh, we were suffering until suffrage,
Not a woman here could vote, no matter what age,
Then the 19th Amendment struck down that restrictive rule.
Throughout history, we’ve seen many inventions that have made our world a better place. “Mother Necessity” was the character who is in this song and the “mother” of the inventors of these wonderful things. We hear of the Wright Brothers and their airplane, Thomas Edison and the light bulb, Eli Whitney and the cotton gin, Samuel Morse and the telegraph, Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone and a few others.
“Mother Necessity where would we be indeed!”
Finally, the School House Rock showed me how the legislation process happens…with our friend, Bill.
Bill is just that – a bill. How does a bill become a law? I learned how with this song. Performed again by Jack Sheldon (Conjunction Junction) perfectly, you learn about the whole process and lengths a bill goes through to be a law. Naturally, we all feel great when he finally becomes a law at the end!
I’m just a bill.
Yes, I’m only a bill.
And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.
Well, it’s a long, long journey
To the capital city.
It’s a long, long wait
While I’m sitting in committee,
But I know I’ll be a law someday
At least I hope and pray that I will,
But today I am still just a bill.
Thank you School House Rock for helping me and many other children learn so much about so many things! Now, to end with an interjection….
Darn! That’s the end.