Hooking up clauses, and makin’ ’em run right.

Sometimes I forget that my morning GED class is made up mostly of non-native English speakers, folks who grew up somewhere other than here in the US.  I’ve got students from Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Yemen, Haiti, Mexico, Lebanon and the Dominican Republic.  Definitely not a homogeneous group as far as country of origin is concerned!

Today we were doing some grammar work and I made an off-hand reference to Schoolhouse Rock.  Yes, two students immediately knew what I was talking about (my other ‘born and grow’ Americans are all too young for this one).  Everyone else looked at me as if I was saying another of the wacky things I say that don’t make any sense.

Giselle, one of my lovely Egyptian ladies, asked me to write it on the board, to explain.  So we talked about ABC’s clever idea of teaching a little something in the middle of Saturday morning cartoons, about the fact that I can still sing the Preamble to the Constitution, my three times tables and Interplanet Janet.

I am in the middle of a lousy cold and my voice is all husky and just-call-me-Lauren (Bacall) today, so when Giselle asked me to sing the Preamble, I laughed.  “But we want to hear these songs,” she said.  “It will help us understand this story you’re telling.”  Still, no go.

But then I remembered my forever-resource: YouTube!  I hooked up the projector and laptop and we watched Conjunction Junction (what’s your function …), InterjectionsUnpack Your Adjectives … and, of course, the Preamble.

My Middle Eastern ladies all thought the idea was brilliant.  “It’s almost tricking kids into learning,” Narmeen said.  That was certainly true in my case.  I would never have said I was studying when I was trying to remember the lyrics to Three, It’s a Magic Number.

I was ready to stop after Conjunction Junction (“Out of the frying pan AND into the fire.  They threw out the sandbags, BUT the balloon wouldn’t go any higher.”).  Obviously I think they’re way fun, and I’d surely sit and watch them all if I were at home, but they’re a little hokey and we did have work to do …  But everybody got into it and wanted to watch more, and who am I to stand in the way of student enthusiasm?!  So we kept going.  We even played the Interjections song twice because that was a part of speech no one had heard of.

They were enjoying it enough that they talked about going home and watching the other songs.  If I hear humming during our practice test sessions, I guess I’ll know just who’s been watching!


12 thoughts on “Hooking up clauses, and makin’ ’em run right.

  1. I love school house rocks. Amazon as the 20th edition available with all the songs on it! Well worth the money if you ask me.

    Now you have me singing, “We the people in order to form a more perfect union…”


  2. Correction:

    That is what Saturdays (minus the apostrophe)
    were made for: cartoons (lower case c), and School House Rock.

    “Hooking (add the word “up”) words, phrases and clauses.”

    I can do this thanks to School House Rock!!!


  3. I have never heard of Schoolhouse Rock before. Maybe I’m too young or too old, or maybe it’s mostly that I didn’t watch cartoons as a kid–we were TV-less from the time I was about four until I was about ten, and by then I had an established habit of meeting my entertainment needs by reading while eating candy bars. Though once my parents broke down and acquired a TV, I did enjoy watching evening sitcoms like The Brady Bunch. (I still remember walking into the house and hearing that tiny high-pitched sound, which I recognized immediately: “Is that a TV???”)


  4. KT

    I love schoolhouse rock! Nothing cuter than a roomful of fifth graders singing passionately along to “I’m Just a Bill” in my opinion 🙂


  5. We had to memorize the preamble of the US Constitution for history class and most of us had to sing it. Thank goodness for Schoolhouse Rock. I have the anniversary edition and use it with my second graders. I can’t believe how much information they packed into those small moments.


  6. Did School House Rock include “I’m just a Bill…”? I’m not even American, and I know the words to all those songs…and probably I know more about the US political system than that of my own country!


  7. oooh…i work in cairo right now and teach in a school…i will have to remind the teachers of schoolhouse rock….
    they will love it.
    thanks! for the idea.
    oh and i love your blog…


  8. So glad to see I’m not alone! (Linda, get thee to YouTube and start watching! 😉 ) I’m really glad my students enjoyed the songs, too. My physics teacher in high school used to say that all important information should be taught to music, especially for girls because girls can remember every song they’ve ever learned. For boys, he thought maybe the best way to teach would be to put everything in the form of sports statistics.

    Ok. Setting aside the sexism of this notion, setting aside whether or not he might have been onto something … he really believed that (and Schoolhouse Rock would surely seem to bear him out on the memorizing important stuff) … and yet he never bothered to teach us that way. He really didn’t teach us much at all, but here he thought he had a whole workable theory and he never acted on it. I could be a scientific genius today! You know, or something.


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