May 20, 2018
School & Youth
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  • Chesapeake Bay Middle teacher Lee McCloskey (right) and Baltimore County teacher Andrew Parker said their music video parodies have helped students explain subjects in a more analytical manner.
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    Chesapeake Bay Middle teacher Lee McCloskey (right) and Baltimore County teacher Andrew Parker said their music video parodies have helped students explain subjects in a more analytical manner.

Right Or Wrong? Refer To The Song

Kerrigan Stern
Kerrigan Stern's picture
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January 23, 2018

With Music Videos, Maryland Teachers Aim To Make Learning Fun

For decades, teachers have instructed students to remain silent during lessons. But for Chesapeake Bay Middle teacher Lee McCloskey and Baltimore County teacher Andrew Parker, that rule is waived when humming popular songs.

This philosophy was borne from McCloskey and Parker’s project, the Singing History Teachers. The project is “two teachers who really enjoy making complete fools of themselves for their students [in order] to help them learn complex topics in a fun and engaging way,” said McCloskey. Within this project, these teachers take popular songs and rewrite the lyrics in a way that will help their students learn a particular lesson in various topics.

McCloskey and Parker are not only both history teachers but also Frostburg State alumni. The pair met at the university while running on the cross country and track team together.

“We both chose the path to become history teachers and always stayed in touch,” said Parker. “We knew kids really responded to music, and we wanted to use it to our advantage as a teaching tool in our classrooms. I started playing guitar or keyboard and would sing songs to the students. Lee had the idea and found a way to mass-produce so all students could see it on the internet. We started to work together and continue to have a great time.”

The teachers insert informational phrases into the beat of the songs, and by humming the tunes, students remember their lessons.

“You Don’t Know They’re Useful,” a parody of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” explains the importance of latitude and longitude. Named after “The Fox,” known for the lyrics “what does a fox say,” the aptly titled “What’s Newton’s Laws Say?” discusses the laws of motion. Set to the tune of Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in The Dark,” another song is dedicated to adding and subtracting decimals.

“I try to start with a popular song, and then look at the chorus and see if there is something in that part of the song I can relate to a topic,” said McCloskey. “We would then build the rest of the song around that, trying to use the lyrics to help explain the main points.”

The teachers continue the project thanks to the positive feedback they have received. “Most students and teachers find our material to be fun and educational,” said McCloskey.

Perhaps the best feedback these two receive isn’t vocalized, but it is instead shown by the students’ performance in class. “I have seen an improvement in students work after [I’ve] shown them a music video on a concept,” said Parker. “Students are better able to explain the subject in a more analytical manner. In addition, the students appear more confident and competent when they either write, speak or debate about the topic.”

They didn’t expect the positive feedback they would get overseas. “It's pretty cool when I would tell my students who are in a few of the videos that I received an email from a teacher in China, Australia or the Philippines letting me know how much their students loved the video,” McCloskey said. “When you get feedback like that, it really helps boost not only your self-esteem, [but] it also helps boost the self-esteem of the students who are in the some of the videos.”

With the Singing History Teachers’ becoming such great success, these partners do not plan on stopping the production of these videos anytime soon. “As of right now, we want to continue to create fun educational music parodies, but I feel that I want to venture into some documentary-style videos and short explanation videos that break concepts down and explain things in the simplest way in two minutes or less,” explained McCloskey. “My goal for the future is to be able to create a new video every week and create videos that people will actually want to use in their classrooms and even maybe help other teachers to inspire their students to create their own music parodies.”

McCloskey wants not only to continue to educate these students in a fun way but also to teach them an important lesson to use throughout their lives. “I want my students and others to know that no matter what anyone tells you, you can do anything that you put your mind to. I want to give students who might be seen as below average the drive and the confidence to know that if you work hard then you too can be successful.”

Find “The Singing History Teachers” on YouTube and Facebook.


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