Briefly from Around the State

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Spoonful of Sugar to Help History Go Down


Kate is always thrilled to find kindred spirits who are as excited about history as she is, so she was intrigued when stumbling across a recent news article about a history teacher in Hawaii who has a particularly fun way to share facts with her students.

Amy Burvall is one of the HistoryTeachers who have become YouTube sensations with well over a million upload views of their videos - on history. Band members "Mrs. B" (presumably Burvall) and "Mr. H" (still unidentified) created 50 videos over the last few years on topics from Prehistoric Man to Martin Luther to Napoleon.

The HistoryTeachers "band" takes popular songs from artists such as Madonna or Brittney Spears, rewrites the lyrics to be a sort of Cliff Notes version of the topic, and then has Burvall sing the new words a la karaoke. She dresses up in costumes and wigs appropriate to the period and adds a few flashy production tricks afterwards to make some very appealing music videos.

Occasionally the lyrics sound a bit contrived, but some are positively catchy, such as the memorable refrain from the Gwen Stefani-influenced Black Plague song. ("Ooh, ooh! Fleas on rats, fleas on rats!") The French Revolution sung to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" is also a favorite and there's even a version with Spanish subtitles to the subtitles!

The HistoryTeachers have their own YouTube channel as well as a Facebook page, but you can just type "HistoryTeachers" into the search box at YouTube to peruse all of the videos.

Teachers across the country have been using the videos in class and some kids are stumbling upon them all by themselves. Obviously music videos will never take the place of actual study and discussion, but like Mary Poppins says "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap! The job's a game!" Or in this case, "Snap! The lesson's a song!"

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