Adam Sandler & Our Unconventional History Unit
How a silly song got my kids interested in 20th century events and media
During the 2019 holiday season, I had just quit my job as a full-time classroom teacher and had returned to homeschooling three of my children.
We start listening to holiday music on November 1st (no, I do not care what your opinion about this is) and so we had several weeks of the semester left when my kids all started hearing Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song kind of a lot.
Of course, they started asking a lot of questions:
What’s a Bowser-from-Sha-Na-Na?
Who is Arthur Fonzarelli?
What’s a yarmulke?
WHY does a line about OJ Simpson get such a big laugh?
Having just left behind a job where I taught music history to 7th and 8th graders, I saw an opportunity.
Our Modern History Unit
First, I had to pull up the lyrics and paste them into a word doc. Then I went through and identified all the things I wanted to teach my kids about. Starting right at the top, we learned what the Chanukah holiday was about, why there are “eight crAAAAzy nights” and the significance of both the yarmulke and the menorah.
From the beginning, the kids had these “Oh, so THAT’S what that is!” moments. They’d seen men wear yarmulkes (mostly on tv, since there isn’t a big Jewish community in our part of town), and now they had some understanding of why they were important to Jewish men.
Once I had the lyric sheets printed out — with plenty of space for taking notes or drawing pictures — I connected my laptop to the television.
Since my kids were young, I used wikipedia a lot. Wikipedia isn’t great for in-depth research, but it incredibly useful for surface-level understanding of something. When you need the gist of an event, not the nuances. And when we’re teaching history to 4th and 5th graders, the gist is all they’re gonna understand.
Teaching Them How to Learn
By using wikipedia, and by having them watch my screen directly, I taught them how to use this massive tool…