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 Despite its outdated animation and goofy drawing-style, Schoolhouse Rock!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 fiveheys! 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
Goosebumps Screening … or is it Screaming?
Come hang out with the spookiest tutors at McDaniel College while we watch Goosebumps! We’ll have candy and snacks, and costumes are encouraged! The show will start at 6 pm in Hill Hall 108 on Friday, October 26th!
5 Songs to Listen to While You Write
I find that listening to music helps me when writing papers, as it gets me energized and activates my brain, forcing me into motion. However, there is a lot of debate among researchers as to the effectiveness of listening to music while working (USA Today online). It is widely accepted by researchers that music without lyrics is more beneficial than music with lyrics, however, I enjoy listening to a balance of both. Hence, I set out to create a playlist of 5 songs that will inspire you while writing that next essay, poem, or term paper.
To prove the effectiveness of each song in fostering the process of writing, I wrote my descriptions and defense of each while listening to the very tune I was describing. I hope you take a listen and enjoy!
Picked as the first song for this beautiful introduction and immediate pick-me-up, this should awaken you from the creative hibernation that has prevented you from writing your next masterpiece. Understand that lyrics can distract from writing, so this instrumental should provide the perfect backdrop for your initial brainstorming and outpour of creativity. Both chill and energetic, Boeboe inspires your fingers to fly on the keypad, crafting eloquent phrases and ideas that will provide a solid foundation for your work. Just like your favorite pair of jeans, you can always build off this classic “Denim.” This song just inspired that intelligent quip, imagine the wonders it will do to get you writing!
Mac wastes no time in getting started, and neither will you when listening to his beautiful croon and classic guitar. The album of the same title as this song also provides a great backdrop for writing. As very easy listening, Mac keeps you in the groove and you start to vibe, both with the music and the writing. Lalalalalalalalalala ooooooo… At this point, words drift out of your consciousness onto the page effortlessly. Now, the music begins to push you to higher spheres of creation…
An old-school hip-hop song like this maintains the easy vibe of Mac Demarco, while pushing you deeper into the writing process. Doctor Beck will “take you higher than a skyscraper,” as you can’t help but produce material with the ease and precision of his flow. The classic beat and Becket’s lyricism are both relaxing and inspiring. Sooner than you know it, you’ve completed much of the writing you set out to do. The Doctor’s words don’t distract you, and his clinical flow is reflected in your work.
Keeping the hip-hop vibes going with some quintessential J Dilla is a must. Widely considered one of the greatest producers of all time, this instrumental probably influenced great works such as the Sistine Chapel and Mona Lisa in another life. It is such a shame that J Dilla passed at the young age of 32, but his music continues to inspire to this day. It isn’t hard to feel the passion and creativity of Dilla through the beat. The instrumental also provides a break from the lyrics of the last two songs, clearing the mind as you begin to refine your writing and hone your creation. Ideas and thoughts are clear in your mind, as you set out to perfect the details of your creation.
Now this whole writing deal is effortless fun. Nick Drake’s voice sounds off in your head, but to be honest, the words you have molded hold more value than what he sings of, and your mind understands this. You start to play with your writing, sprucing it up with fanciful adjectives and stylistic sentence structures. The play of the piano and guitar provide an upbeat backdrop for the finalization of your creation. The pleasure brought by a perfect product is unmatched. You sit back in awe of the incredible capacity for writing that you demonstrated, inspired by the music and voice of such diverse artists.
Castillo Y Tickell, Sofia. “Should You Listen to Music While You Study?” USA Today College. USA Today, 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.
The Rhetoric of Kanye West’s VMA Speech
Disclaimer: Many people have contempt for pop culture, claiming it is nothing but vapid and shallow nonsense. But pop culture is human culture, our culture, plain and simple – and what’s considered vapid in one era may be regarded as high art in the next. And even if pop culture truly is nothing but shallow, there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun.
“Kanye 2020” art by McDaniel student Cait Cahalane
Before analyzing Kanye West’s VMA speech, let’s have a quick and dirty rundown of rhetoric. Rhetoric is the study of how we use and how we are affected by language. There are three main aspects of rhetoric: logos, pathos, and ethos. Logos is an appeal to logic: the facts and rationale of an argument. Pathos is an appeal to emotion: the words we say that make others laugh, or cry, or tremble in terror, etc. Ethos is an appeal to ethics: what establishes our credibility and our character.
Speeches are a useful text to analyze rhetorically, so let’s turn our attention to Kanye West. He begins with addressing and thanking Taylor Swift, with whom he had a memorable moment at the 2009 VMAs He says, “You know I think about [the 2009 VMA moment] when I’m in the grocery store with my daughter and I have a really great conversation about fresh juice… and at the end they say, ’Oh, you’re not that bad after all!’” West evokes pathos, making the audience feel sad about how people he meets in the grocery store think West is horrible for a six-year-old incident. Mentioning his daughter also reminds us that he is a father, which further increases our empathy for him. He continues, “And like I think about it sometimes. … It crosses my mind a little bit like when I go to a baseball game and 60,000 people boo me.” His pathos makes us imagine what it must be like to have thousands upon thousands of people – over 30 McDaniels worth of people, to put it in perspective – boo him for, again, something that happened the better part of a decade ago.
Kanye goes on to ponder what would happen if he got the chance to do it all over again. “[W]hat would I have done? […] Would I have drank half a bottle of Hennessy and gave the rest of it to the audience? Y’all know y’all drank that bottle too! If I had a daughter at that time, would I have went on stage and grabbed the mic from someone else’s?” He continues to utilize pathos by reminding us that we, too, might have gotten drunk and thus made similar mistakes. He refers again to his fatherhood and makes us consider how it has changed him.
He further reflects on the commercial aftermath of the incident, saying, “Look at that. You know how many times MTV ran that footage again? ’Cause it got them more ratings? You know how many times they announced Taylor was going to give me the award ’cause it got them more ratings?” Kanye uses logos, making us think about the increased ratings – and profits – MTV gained from the 2009 debacle – at the expense of Kanye.
West does not use much ethos in his speech – his authority as a popular musician and controversial public figure are already well established. He does evoke it somewhat, however, toward the end of his speech, when he refers to himself as a “fellow artist” to all of the attendees to further establish his credibility.
Kanye ends his speech with more pathos, “It’s about ideas, bro. New ideas. People with ideas. People who believe in truth.” His words make us feel confident and hopeful for the future – especially a future that includes a President West.
–Summer, peer tutor
Tips for Everyday Journal Writing and Illustrating
There is a special magic that comes along with documenting your everyday musings and experiences. However, journals are often stereotyped as adorable little notebooks filled with perfectly organized, dated, written entries that require a great deal of time and an even more immense sense of personal commitment to maintain. “Journals” are supposedly ravenous entities screaming, “feed me!” every time a new memory or observation encodes itself into your brain.
In some environments, keeping a consistent, daily record of your everyday thoughts and experiences may be extremely useful and worth your while, such in a study abroad or travel-based setting. But how can journaling ever be compatible with the stresses and demands of everyday campus life, you inquire?
In fact, I’ve often found that journaling can help you untangle that twisted knot of thoughts contributing to the writer’s block that’s impeding your current paper. But perhaps you don’t have the time, energy, or motivation to commit to a so-called “traditional” journal during college. After all, that 20-page research paper should probably claim precedence over freelance scribbles.
This may require broadening your horizons and dismantling that stereotype of the cute-little-notebook-companion. Perhaps you’re interested in engaging in creative self-expression during those scarce free moments, but don’t have the time to actually develop it into a dedicated hobby. What follows are a few quick tips and ideas to help inspire you to dabble in occasional, stress-free, fun self-reflection! :
1.) Your journal is there when you need it.
Oftentimes, it can be extremely difficult to find a spontaneous, creative moment. To reiterate, journaling does not have to require a huge commitment, especially as it pertains to college life.
2.) Abandon your rampant perfectionistic tendencies.
Focus on release. Think of grammar as a afterthought if you find yourself struggling with perfectionism. Refraining oneself from adhering to a specific format, structure, or style can be an incredibly liberating experience.
This goes back to defying the stereotype of the “traditional” journal. There are numerous ways to free your creative inhibitions, some of which don’t even have to be verbal. Treat your journal like a scrapbook if you feel this really whets your creative juices. I recently received a “junk journal” from Etsy and have been literally stuffing it with various ticket stubs, greeting cards, and other paper scraps to help me preserve particular memories.
Dream journals, whether handwritten or online, are also a fun, less time-consuming alternative to traditional journaling.
I’d also recommend these books by Keri Smith as extremely fun creativity starters:
Altogether, journals can be a fun and fantastic medium to express yourself in a multitude of ways. Don’t think of journaling as just another thing to heap on top of your already overstuffed to-do-list, but rather as a spontaneous opportunity to help you gain inspiration or insight whenever a spare moment might arise.
~Sarah F, peer tutor
Swap your books!
With all of the papers, exams, and other time-sucking assignments that inevitably accompany the end of the semester, it may be difficult to get excited about recreational reading. (In case you’ve forgotten, with your brain all muddled up with lit papers and math exams, recreational reading is reading you do for fun in this magical thing called free time.)
Here’s the thing: So much free time is coming! Believe it or not, we have less than a month left in the semester. When winter break hits, you’ll have time to do fun things, like reading! (Yes, reading is fun.)
During the week after Thanksgiving Break, members of the McDaniel College community can participate in the “take a book, leave a book” system. We already have over 150 books!
How did we get so many already? Well, this past weekend, three peer tutors (including myself) went with the Professor A and his wife, Mrs. Professor A, to the Book Thing. It’s a magical place full of free books, with no strings attached other than they are not for resale. Pretty cool, eh?
We’ll be posting photos of some of our best finds to Facebook and Twitter up until the event begins, but here’s a preview:
Don’t have a book to swap, but want to snag something to read over break? Never fear! You have options! Receive a free book by:
2) Following or liking the Writing Center if you don’t already, Facebooking or Tweeting a photo of yourself with your book, and then tagging the Writing Center in the post.
It’s so simple!
What if I have the opposite problem, you may ask? If you have books that you want to get rid of, and don’t want to acquire more, we also have options for you. Well, there’s really just one option, and that is: We want all of the books!
Yes, including yours. Even the ones the school bookstore rejected.
Now that we all understand what is going on with this book swap thing, there’s only one thing left to do- Join the Facebook event and tell your friends about it!