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Hokey Pokey Classroom

Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing Senior Justice Paul Newby of the North Carolina Supreme Court speak. He tours North Carolina speaking about the Judicial System and his years on the bench. His theme was “People think they know, but they don’t.”  Or a little knowledge goes a long way and can be dangerous.  Civics and Economics is generally a freshmen high school course completed long before entering our American Government courses.  Students bring basic knowledge of the subject matter tinted by their classroom experiences and social media. They have a little bit of knowledge and to quote Justice Newby, “They think they know, but they don’t.”  To highlight this point Justice Newby starts his presentations with the Andy Griffith Show clip below, the Preamble of the Constitution. 



Justice Newby went on to say that students remember snippets from class and many are videos.  These are great classroom icebreakers used to quickly catch the attention of students.  But they have permeated into our social memory.  A quick search of YouTube sheds light on what teachers in elementary and high schools around the country are using.  This blast from the past includes  “I’m Just a Bill” from School House Rocks and the Animanics:



And “The Presidents.”



These old songs and videos are still being used to help students memorize information.  They are just as effective today as they were years ago.  Newer series include Liberty Kids which walks students through the American Revolution with two imaginary kids.  While SmartSongs publishes rap songs on a variety of topics including the Amendments, Bill of Rights and even history.  Their Three Branches of Government is a download favorite. The National Archives in conjunction with the History Channel even produced “How Do We Amend?” a cartoon on the amendment process.


The videos highlight the push for memorization and lack of critical thinking.  At first glance, these are not appropriate for college. But on second glance, the create a bridge between our lecture halls and high school classrooms.  Our students can sing, “I’m Just a Bill” and that can launch a great discussion.  Nostalgia is a great connector. Understanding the base knowledge our students bring can help us facilitate better lectures.  To paraphrase Justice Newby, “We think we know what they know, but we don’t. “


We want you to join the conversation:

  1. What videos do you remember from class?
  2. Do you use any of the clips?
  3. What do you do to bridge the gap between high school and college?