Thursday, April 7, 2011

Curriculum Resource: History Teachers Music Videos, or History a la Gaga

This is a wonderful learning resource I got from my friend Michelle, who maintains two great web presences:  she runs the website Homeschool Literature, which reviews books with protagonists who homeschool, as well as blogs on her own homeschooling experience at Pandahoneybee's Homeschooling Adventure.

Anyway, Michelle turned me on to the series of YouTube videos being done on the Historyteachers channel called History for Music Lovers.  In these videos, actual teachers dress up in cheesy wigs and costumes and change the lyrics to popular pop or rock songs to teach actual history content.  But lead vocalist and actress Amy Burvall is a good singer, and looks like she is have a lot of fun while actually conveying historical information.  She's like a real life Holly Holiday, the Gwyneth Paltrow character on Glee, except that she sings about her subject matter instead of her students' love lives!

To get an idea of her work, check out this video on the French Revolution, set to Lady Gaga's song, Bad Romance:

And just like everyone remembers that "In 1400 and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue," so no modern middle schooler will ever forget the year of the Norman Invasion after watching this version of the story of William the Conqueror set to Justin Timberlake's Sexyback:

She has a lot of videos set to songs from the 80s, such as this hilarious one about Charlemagne, based on Blondie's Call Me:"

But some go back to the 60s, including several Beatles' songs and this classic by the Mamas and the Papas (except this time it is about The Canterbury Tales):

I also love the way that Burvall tries to incorporate some of the look or dance moves of the original artist in addition to all the historic content.  But in addition to how much fun they are, and how well they incorporate some key facts and figures about the subject of each video, what is really remarkable about these is that Burvall wrote and recorded many of them while she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.  However, when her hair fell out, it gave her an excuse to go buy more wigs, and she used the insomnia produced by the cancer drugs as an opportunity to write more songs.

So kudos to Amy Burvall and her video partner, fellow teacher Herb Mahelona, for creating some wonderful educational videos IN their spare time after a full day of teaching and (in Burvall's case) while deal with a baby and breast cancer (thankfully, Burvall has been in remission now for about four years).   All in all, they've made about 52 videos on all sort of subjects in world history, particularly ancient history.  It's a great testimony to the wonderfully creative ways to approach their subjects that outstanding teachers take...that is, when all of their time and energy isn't tied up taking standardized tests.


  1. Thanks Carol;) As always, your posts are filled with all the info,mine are usually hey check this out! tehe! Have a great weekend!

  2. Thanks. I just love this, not only because I think the videos are fun and memorable and have some good educational value, but I love the story behind it all too.

  3. I forgot how "California Dreamin" went, maybe 'cause I never heard the song. The parodies are hilarious, though!

  4. Yeah, well, the Mamas and the Papas WERE a little before your 50 years or so!

  5. They aren't THAT old...unless you are taking about Chaucer, who is a LOT older.

  6. Chaucer!? Who is he? Rudolph valentino's assistant?

  7. Did you pay any attention to the CONTENT of the video, or were you too swept away by the music ; )?

  8. Er... I paid some attention... Aha! Was he the author?