“We have to cut through that cloud of information around them, cut through that media, and capture their attention.”
I’m hardly the only teacher playing music and videos as students come into class, but here are some examples and my rationale for doing so.
As students leave their previous classes and come to yours, they have to transition into the working atmosphere of your room. You need to get Spanish, math, science, and the sweat from gym class out of their heads to start clean in history. It doesn’t matter if you are a “meet and great” teacher standing at the door and trading banter with kids in the hall, or distributing homework and answering questions, it only takes a click to introduce students to the time period they are studying and subject of the lesson. Try this…..
YouTube Video – The Lego French Revolution (3:18)
Gimmick: Lego animation played with the music to Allen Sherman’s “You’ve Gone the Wrong Way Old King Louie”
Education Value: Not really, its just funny. We laugh at king Louie getting shortened “a little bit” and a guillotine made out of Legos.
Payoff: Every student is in their seat, they’ve forgotten all the gossip they just learned in the hall and they know they have to start dealing with the French Revolution.
TeacherTube Video – Cow Model Of Economics (4:17)
Gimmick: Just white text on black background set to the Beatles, “Hey Jude”. Each slide a variation of analogy of the dairy farmer’s cows to explain different economic systems.
Education Value: Not much, but some. You can make the link to the idea of “scarcity” which makes economic systems necessary.
Payoff: Music always sets a tone, and you may be adding to their cultural literacy by playing the Beatles. Keep in mind, we are not taking any class time to do this.
YouTube Video – opening credits “The Kingdom” (3:49)
Gimmick: High-def video in a torrent of outrageous graphics and historical footage, set against music and snippets of news reports.
Education Value: Students do not know about the little-acknowledged intimacy between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Now they will. They will also get ideas of how to use images to communicate, which they are required to do in an upcoming authentic assessment.
Payoff: Universal Pictures had to explain 80 years of middle eastern history in four minutes while keeping a modern American audience in their seats. Your students will be in theirs at the sound of the bell, guaranteed. Just as guaranteed are several questions about the middle east. How many times have you started a history class with the students asking questions that they wanted to know the answers to?
YouTube Video – Wizard of Oz/Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of The Rainbow
Gimmick: Capitalizing on the spooky convergence of Pink Floyd’s 1973 album “Dark Side of the Moon” and the 1939 film “Wizard of Oz”.
Education Value: This only works for a US History lesson using the American Quarterly’s 1964 article by Henry M. Littlefield “The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism“. The gist is that Frank Baum used the children’s story as a metaphor to explain the political, social and economic conditions of the Gilded Age. So students are given selected quotes from the original book and asked to identify who in the book was William Jennings Bryan, the farmers, the eastern city factory workers, etc.
Payoff: Compare the odds that Pink Floyd’s 1973 music was designed to synch with the 1939 movie against the odds that the 1900 book was designed to synch with 1890s America.
Teacher made slide show of Industrial Age/Information Age Quotes (7:11)
Gimmick: Series of quotes from Bill Gates’ famous “640k ought to be enough for anybody” to Ken Olson’s There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home” played with Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine”.
Education Value: This leads to single question to start a class introducing the Industrial Revolution unit, “What do these quotes teach us?”
Payoff: You are stealing students’ class changing time and they don’t even know it. The prompts are the quotes, and the music and mood are just part of the teaser.
Teacher made slide show of 1920s pictures(7:11)
Gimmick: Slide show of images including Houdini, Ruth, Lindbergh, Clara Bow along with Model T’s, gangsters, flappers and radios set against a recording of “You’ve Got To Be Modernistic” by Clarence Williams and His Jazz Kings. You can get this music from Dismuke’s Virtual Talking Machine.
Education Value: Not much more than setting the mood, but you may find more than a couple students talking about the 1920s before the bell rings.
Payoff: The Twenties were the first decade with an identifiable “mood”. What makes this period “The Roaring Twenties”? Again – another class discussion based on prompts the students received before class started.
There are many things to play just for cultural literacy’s sake. Will this generation ever see Gene Kelly singing in the rain or Fred Astaire dance with a hat rack? Can they figure out how Busby Berkley helped some people forget about the Great Depression for just a little while?
Can they appreciate how Lyndon Johnson felt when he lost Walter Conkite? Can they appreciate how Archie Bunker felt when he was kissed by Sammy Davis Junior?
I hope that many of you can add to this list, there must be a ton of these out there.