Joanna and Matt Pace write videos on a popular YouTube channel, Hopscotch. Joanna is an elementary teacher and Matt is a songwriter from Las Vegas. Their 7 Continents song has almost 300K views. Today they talk about what makes a great learning video and how to select good videos on YouTube for K-6 students.
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Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.
K-6 Educational Music Videos: Selecting the Right Videos for Learning
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Vicki: Today we are talking to Joanna and Matt Pace. So this is really a unique couple – they have a great YouTube channel for K-6 – lots of free resources. Now Joanna, you are a 2nd-grade teacher. And I’m guessing that part of this is your desire to help kids remember. How do we help kids that age remember things?
How do we help kids remember?
Joanna: Well, that’s a great question. I think that most kids learn in different ways. And in my classroom, we try a lot of different things. And some of those include movement and repetition. Music is a great way to take both of those – as they are repeating things over and over and attitude. So, for different kids, some are more powerful than others, but we have noticed (at least in our classroom and my experience with my team members) music helps almost all kids to learn and remember things.
How did you get started?
Vicki: So, what happened Joanna? Did you go home and say, “Write me some music, Matt because you’re the composer?” What happened?
Joanna: That’s exactly what happened! I will look online, I look in stories to see what I can find to help teach concepts that my students are struggling with. And at the end of the day, sometimes I really can’t find things that meet our needs. So, I say, “Matt, you’re awesome at writing a song! Can you please take your skills and make up for what I lack in teaching sometimes?”
Vicki: So, Matt, I was looking at your Continent song. And we’ll post that in the show notes. You’ve got over a hundred thousand people who have seen that particular one. How do you write an engaging song about the continents?
How they wrote the 7 Continent Song
Matt: Well, that one we started off just talking about the key points – what we wanted the kids to get out of the song. And so after we had figured all of that out, then I had to work my songwriter magic to make it rhyme, to make it have an appealing melody. One of the big aspects of a song that we want to keep, is keeping it really short. Because then you can repeat it and then you can remember it. The longer you go the less attention you have because and so trying to say that idea in as concise a way as you possibly can and still make it melodic and singable and rememberable.
Vicki: Matt, are you surprised with the response you are getting to your videos?
Matt: On one side, yes. I didn’t expect our third song that we released on YouTube to have that much of a response. But on the other side, we had seen lots of videos on YouTube that have .. were about similar subjects. Similar type things that were song animation that had so many views. We didn’t know why they had that many views. So people must have been in need of that content. No matter how high or low the quality of the video was, they were getting millions of views. So we figured, if we put something out there that is good quality, that’s educationally sound as well as musically sound then hopefully we’ll get the same response.
Vicki: Yes, because you know YouTube has a lot of great resources. But some things are just are being viewed that are not being made by educators, and I guess that’s the difference. You’ve kind of got a partnership of music and education. So Joanna, what’s the response of your own students to this music, knowing that you are involved?
Joanna: They love the fact that they can put a name to the music. But on the other hand they will beg to listen to it over and over again. They always ask for Mr. Pace to write them another song. Can Mr. Pace write us a song about this? So, it’s fun to see they are understanding the way that they are learning. And that they appreciate music as a learning tool.
Thoughts on memorization
Vicki: Does it bother you that we have so much memorization? I guess that just has to be part of it in the elementary grades?
Joanna: It’s a great question. There’s a lot of different parts going into learning. We hope with all memorization that students have a conceptual understanding before memorization takes place. For example, addition facts. We want them to understand what 1 + 2 means before they memorize it. But at a certain point, as they get further along in their academic careers, or their academic experience, we want automaticity so they can apply those concepts to 2 and 3 and 4 digit addition, subtraction, and eventually multiplication. So, I don’t know that every subject matter needs a song. But I certainly feel like it helps, especially with those students that are on the fringes. That maybe don’t have the same parental support or maybe struggle with some learning disabilities, or autism, or other social disabilities. So I feel like music has a place in the classroom and it is definitely underutilized.
How do we pick effective videos to help kids learn?
Vicki: But not all music is going to be educational or worthwhile. So, either of you can answer this question. When educators are selecting videos for their classrooms, do you think there is a common mistake that educators make when they pick those videos and maybe it doesn’t have the results they want?
Joanna: I would definitely say in my experience, because of the level of desperation and low-funding for educators a lot of times they will go with the cheapest option, not necessarily the best option. And sometimes, at least in our experiences, if we do our research before creating a song, we will – we’ll see a song that repeats the same melody over and over again, but with different lyrics. Which kind of waters down the effectiveness, because the kids get confused on what goes where. If they hear the same melody with different lyrics, I guess it is either…I don’t know if Matt could better explain that. But it definitely confuses them.
Vicki: Well, and Matt, aren’t there some copyright issues with what some people are posting because they are actually not original. You’re making original music, right?
Matt: Well, it depends on the song they are using. We’re going to try to do most of ours original music. One we have done so far was to an old tune that’s now in the public domain. So, people can use that tune however they want for commercial or noncommercial purposes. And that’s totally fine. It just depends on how long the song is. Or how long it’s been since the song was published or how long since the song’s author has died. A lot of the tunes use old folk tunes, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”, things like that. That’s totally fair game to use a melody for a learning song. Hopefully it is used well.
What mistakes do people make when writing videos for kids to learn?
Vicki: So Matt, a lot of educators are getting into writing music for learning. Do you think there is a common mistake that educators may make as they are creating music for learning?
Matt: Well, there are a lot of things that go into writing a song, and especially with such a specific purpose as we’re trying to do. I think one it has to be fun for the kids. If they are going to be engaged, if they’re going to want to use that as part of their learning it has to be a fun song. And the other thing, as I mentioned, concise, short and sweet, and obviously you want it to be correct.
Joanna: We also noticed some are just terrible to listen to. So having some quality in there doesn’t hurt.
Vicki: Well, we’ve gotten so many great tips. I know you want to check the show notes and you definitely want to check their [YouTube] channel, because they have lots more to come in this collaboration because it’s important to select the right videos for learning. I’m so excited, Joanna and Matt, to see you working together because I think that when educators and musicians collaborate that we are going to continue to see an increase in the quality of the videos we are using in our classrooms.
Bio as submitted
Joanna grew up as a military child overseas mainly in Europe. She studied Elementary and Early Childhood Education at BYU, and this will be her fifth year teaching. She married Matthew Pace, a songwriter from Las Vegas, in 2010. They love working together on various projects, including raising their baby boy whom they adopted last year.
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgM7EYFFz_dba0OIZs5L9kg
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