05 April 2009

They Might Be Giants educational video podcasts

I just discovered that the music group They Might Be Giants- popular in the 1990s for their alternative rock- are now making children's music. They have weekly Friday Night Family Video Podcasts on YouTube. The above link is to a music video about the number 7 and an ABC song. They are not that great in quality/educational value, but I could see them attracting a group that's over Sesame Street, but still needs reminders of the basics. Some of them, especially the High Five and 9 Pirate Girls videos, attract people of all ages who are still children at heart (I'd assume most, if not all, of us children's librarians.)


  1. This made me think of the oh-so-popular (at least when I was in school) Schoolhouse Rock videos. My favorites were:

    "Conjunction junction, what's your function?"

    "I'm just a bill, yes, I'm only a bill. And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill."

    And the whole Multiplication Rock series

    "Three is a Magic Number" was redone by Blind Melon, an early 90s alternative rock band, and apparently fleetingly caught the fancy of Jack Johnson, a "soft rock" singer/songwriter. Not sure if any of the other numbers got any attention from the music community!

    I think there is something to be said about using music videos to stimulate learning. I tutored a third-grade boy who learned his multiplication tables just because he watched the Schoolhouse Rock videos over and over, and he eventually started singing along. If kids can learn the lyrics to popular songs on the radio, then why not make up educational songs for them to sing too? I know that there are tons of other examples out there of teachers doing this. Another way to involve video and music in the library is to have students produce their own podcasts, vodcasts, or music videos--what a great chance to collaborate with classroom teachers!

  2. There actually was a tribute album that the Blind Melon song was on. It was called "School House Rock! Rocks". According to Wikipedia, this is the list of tracks and artists.

    1. "Schoolhouse Rocky" - Bob Dorough and Friends
    2. "I'm Just A Bill" - Deluxx Folk Implosion
    3. "Three Is a Magic Number" - Blind Melon
    4. "Conjunction Junction" - Better Than Ezra
    5. "Electricity, Electricity" - Goodness
    6. "No More Kings" - Pavement
    7. "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" - Ween
    8. "My Hero, Zero" - The Lemonheads
    9. "The Energy Blues" - Biz Markie
    10. "Little Twelvetoes" - Chavez
    11. "Verb: That's What's Happening" - Moby
    12. "Interplanet Janet" - Man or Astro-man?
    13. "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here" - Buffalo Tom
    14. "Unpack Your Adjectives" - Daniel Johnston
    15. "The Tale of Mr. Morton" - Skee-Lo

    Jack Johnson also is doing some videos at Explore.org, but they aren't specifically really created for kids. However, his main focus for teaching children is with a foundation of his own called the Kokua Hawaii Foundation. Clearly if you listen to him at all you know that he is very concerned with finding peaceful solutions to problems and taking care of Mother Nature, but it is fun to see that he is using his celebrity and money towards making the world a better place in a concrete way (especially focusing on children). I think we should keep an eye on Jack Johnson. He is very talented and clearly he has an interest in making the world a better place and I would not be surprised at all if he did more music for children that adults too can enjoy. He did do the Curious George soundtrack after all. What I think is great about his music is that his songs tend to have a good message that is multi-generational and to be honest, and giving away a bit of my taste in music, it is just good music. Like he said on Explore.org, the message is in the melody or the hook and it just gets stuck there and it plays over again in your head and it impacts your life (paraphrasing lesson #3).

  3. I linked to things in my response, but they aren't showing up so if you are interested:

    School House Rock! Rocks:


    Jack Johnson's Charity:


    Sing-a-longs and lullabies for the film "Curious George:"

  4. "School House Rock! Rocks"