Word Play: How Schoolhouse Rock Taught Us Grammar

Word Play is a series for the Grammar Police, former English Majors, Word Nerds, pedants and people who are curious about the evolution of language, grammar, standardization, style and prose. Be warned: this series will get very political. Red ink may bleed.

“Conjunction junction, what’s your function?”

If you didn’t just sing-along to that phrase, you are either a) a liar or b) too young to remember watching these wonderful cartoon animations on Saturday mornings or in school of the 40+ year old Schoolhouse Rock!

Schoolhouse Rock! was actually the brainchild of jazz musician Bob Doro who wrote jingles for advertisements. After observing that his children could remember lyrics to songs but not their multiplication tables, he created the show, often singing, writing and composing the famous songs.

In fact, there’s science behind this phenomenon. Different parts of your brain light up when you listen to music, specifically the memory centers in the brain, such as the hippocampus and lowest parts of the frontal lobe. Listening to and/or recalling lyrics will involve language centers in the temporal and frontal lobes. Because of the brain’s neuroplasticity, music can even expand the size of auditory and motor cortex.

Music is thus a perfect way to have children or English students learn fundamental concepts like grammar, multiplication, government, money and science. The comical, Peanuts-like visuals were a perfect match for the catchy hooks that taught plenty of lessons to Generation X and Generation Y.

Before you dismiss this as another wave of nostalgia on the internet, consider that Schoolhouse Rock! probably melded your fundamental understandings of grammar. Don’t believe me? Take a trip down memory lane here.

Schoolhouse Rock!'s Grammar Rock

By Emily E. Steck

Everyone's favourite educational Saturday morning cartoons influenced education more than anyone ever thought imaginable. Take a trip back down memory lane and sing-along.

  • Busy Prepositions

    By Emily E. Steck

    Prepositions are busy, busy, busy bees in this upbeat tune about a day in the life of bees.

  • Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla

    By Emily E. Steck

    Try saying 'Rufus Xavier Sarsparilla" when you just lost your two front teeth. I dare you. Thankfully, you don't need to because as the video reminds us, there are pronouns that do the trick.

  • Interjections!

    By Emily E. Steck

    The anthem for interjections everywhere, no matter the feeling or emotion.

  • Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here

    By Emily E. Steck

    Father, son, and Lolly sell adverbs in a less-than-memorable tune. But it's still cute.

  • Unpack Your Adjectives

    By Emily E. Steck

    This hippie-esque California swoon teaches you how to describe things from the perspective of a young camper girl.

  • A Noun Is A Person, Place Or Thing

    By Emily E. Steck

    A country twang take on the versatility of a noun, or in simpler terms, a "special kind of thing."

  • The Tale Of Mr. Morton

    By Emily E. Steck

    One of the more obscure entries in the series, "The Tale of Mr. Morton" informs viewers of the correct use of subject and predicate. All the while making you root for Mr. Morton's lonely life.

  • Verb: That's What's Happenin'

    By Emily E. Steck

    The gospel and R&B inspired song is a favorite among users for its soulful flair and integrated cast of characters.

  • Conjunction Junction

    By Emily E. Steck

    "Conjunction Function" takes from the classic 1940s background harmonies and honkytonk piano to create to create a classic Schoolhouse Rock! entry.

Image Credit: disney.wikia.com

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