*Featured image screenshot from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8saYHfCNaDI
If you’re like me, you grew up watching cartoons filled with fun colors, wacky characters, and musical numbers that had no business being so good.
One surprisingly musically gifted example is Schoolhouse Rock!. Despite its outdated animation and goofy drawing-style, Schoolhouse Rock! stands up to the test of time. The songs are still catchy, and, if you’re struggling with identifying the function of the different parts of speech, look no further than its second edition, “Grammar Rock,” for an engaging learning tool.
As someone who remembers these songs and feels deep nostalgia when listening to them, I have unnecessarily strong opinions over which songs are the best (both in terms of enjoyableness and usefulness as an education tool). Read on for the 4-1-1 on all 9 “Grammar Rock” songs.
Song 1: “A Noun is a Person, Place, or Thing”
“A Noun Is a Person, Place, or Thing” is a bouncy tune that features a little girl encountering various nouns across shifting settings. Whenever the chorus plays, the background switches to a TV background to review all the nouns she’s come across.
My rating: three out of five people, places, or things. Like its subject, this song is fine enough—it gets the job done and concretizes the abstract concept of a noun. The chorus can be a bit repetitive, though, which is why it is one of the forgettable songs of this bunch.
Song 2: “Verb: That’s What’s Happening”
This song features a little kid who goes to the movie theater and encounters “Verb!” the superhero (see the image above). As the concept of verbs suggests, the song is fast-paced and full of action.
My rating: four out of five nouns being “bent.” This song is engaging, beautifully sung, and provides ample examples of verbs in-context (and how to transform nouns into verbs). It ends with a mother-son hug when the boy returns home, and the scene is adorable. However, the lyrics only really explain one type of verb, meaning that there is room for improvement on the usefulness-as-a-tool front.
Song 3: “Conjunction Junction”
If you remember one song from Schoolhouse Rock!, it is likely this song, which depicts a stout railroad conductor using coordinating conjunctions to link railroad cars.
My rating: five out of five trains on a track. This song lives up to the hype. Out of all the “Grammar Rock” songs, “Conjunction Junction” provides the best visual symbolism of the function of its part of speech. Also it’s a certifiable bop.
Song 4: “Interjections!”
“Interjections!” takes its audience through three different storylines, all revolving around a dramatic chorus, and it’s chock full of zany interjections throughout each.
My rating: three out of five heys! This song is loud and bold, symbolic of its subject’s energetic nature. It’s also very catchy, but the repetitive chorus can be a bit grating, particularly so because of all the shouting. [Also, the second storyline has the “nice guy” trope who gets the girl (to use an interjection—gross!), but the third storyline has a delightfully nerdy character who shouts “hooray! I’m for the other team” (I’ll let you interpret that for yourself), so the storylines kind of balance each other out.] In terms of the song’s use as a resource, it explains how interjections function in a sentence including what purpose they serve, but, after watching, you might still be a little unsure what an interjection actually is, so this may not be the best study-tool if you find yourself having to define interjections.
Song 5: “Unpack Your Adjectives”
“Unpack Your Adjectives” stars a little girl describing a camping trip to friends. With floaty flute music and a small deep-voiced accompanying her, she uses adjectives to lead her friends through her journey.
My rating: five out of five big ugly bears. Full disclosure: this song is my favorite on this list. It clearly explains the adjectives’ function through a cute story, providing tons of examples of adjectives along the way. The little girl with the giant pack full of adjectives and her turtle friend make me smile. I love Blossom Dearie’s soft, jazzy voice for the little main character. I love the floating flute notes scattered throughout the background music. Although unconventional, I love the break in the song where the character starts to directly explain how to make adjectives out of other parts of speech. (Also the little bit where the girl grows taller and taller until she stops on the small boy is wonderful.) Because it’s about adjectives, the accompanying video is full of fun descriptions and vivid images. I can understand why “Unpack Your Adjectives” is not everyone’s favorite, but it will always hold a special space in my heart.
Song 6: “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here”
In this song, the Lolly family owns a shop that sells adverbs. They run around the shop, explaining the function of adverbs. The accompanying video reads like an advertisement for the “Lolly” shop.
My rating: four out of five ly-innators. This song is delightfully catchy and upbeat, albeit a bit odd at times because the singers are directly addressing the audience. (At one point, the little boy interjects, “Hi! Suppose you’re going nut-gathering” with very little context.) From a learning perspective, the song excels; it clearly explains what adverbs are, their purpose, and what kinds of questions they answer. As adverbs are something students often struggle with, it could serve as a helpful tool.
Song 7: “Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla”
The titular character of Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla wanders through the jungle with his sister and various animals as the song’s narrator, Albert Andreas Armadillo, explains how much easier the story can be told through the help of pronouns.
My rating: two out of five aardvarks. To be honest, when I started to review “Grammar Rock” for this blog post, I discovered that had completely forgotten about this song. While the piano melody and the pulsing beat of the song are catchy enough, in demonstrating how time-consuming it is to speak using no pronouns, the song becomes repetitive and a bit irritable. However, from a learning perspective, it would be a useful resource for people who don’t understand what pronouns do. (And I can’t deny that many people who complain about the use of pronouns could probably use a refresher on what they actually are.)
Song 8: “Busy Prepositions”
This song depicts prepositions as construction ants on the march. Through the visuals, the prepositions within the words of the song are highlighted, often through a different color from the rest of the words.
My rating: one out of five busy “p’s.” While certainly not the worst song I’ve heard, it has several flaws. The song is a bit confusing because it uses different musical atmospheres throughout. Additionally, it has no repeated chorus to help the listener follow along or remember the information about prepositions. Even worse, prepositions are a part of speech that often confuse people, and this song could leave some questions on what prepositions are and what their specific purpose is (especially as compared to conjunctions).
Song 9: “The Tale of Mr. Morton”
Arguably, this “Grammar Rock” song is the one that has the clearest storyline. The narrator describes the actions Mr. Morton, the lonely cat-owner, takes in his courting of Pearl. This song’s goal is to teach its listeners about the difference between basic subjects and predicates.
My rating: four out of five kid-chasing-neighbors. This song features fun and catchy repetition and rhyme because the narrator repeats phrases to separate the subject from the predicate, and he uses the same tense of verbs to do so. The characters, including the cat, have a sense of life to them. (You gotta love seeing Pearl breaking gender norms by proposing herself. A true feminist icon.) In regards to its helpfulness for English students, “The Tale of Mr. Morton” provides an explanation of the difference between subjects and predicates, which, while not perfect, could serve as a good basic reminder.
And that’s a wrap on rating the songs of “Grammar Rock.” Hopefully this small reminder of Schoolhouse Rock! will give you a new study tool or two as you prepare for finals. The next time you’re confused about parts of speech, be sure to check out a song or two (especially “Unpack Your Adjectives”). All the Schoolhouse Rock! collection can be found on YouTube for free.
Danielle | 2022