One of my favorite things to do, because I am just that guy, is to scour the Internet for interesting resources we can use to teach our kids about civics, history, government, and our beloved Constitution. While I love the Schoolhouse Rock videos that are from our childhood and remain all over the ‘Net today, we are always looking for more. So today I come to you with some videos that you can use to introduce or review civics topics with your students or for your own civic knowledge and thought.
Barney Fife Recites the Preamble
Are your students struggling with remembering the Preamble to the US Constitution and the role and purpose of government described therein? This could be a good way to help them focus on those important lines while introducing them to one of the most paragraphs in our history!
Daffy Duck Runs for Office
This is an awesome way to provide students with a quick and visual overview of the three branches of government while also getting to some important civics ideas. Majority Rule! Search and Seizure! Separation of Powers! Legislation! Power of the President! and so much more. Who knew that Looney Tunes could be so civic-minded?
Richard Nixon Goes Beyond Executive Orders
One of the Florida Civics Benchmarks, SS.7.3.12, requires students to understand the constitutional arguments being made concerning significant court cases. United States v. Nixon is one of them. There are of course additional benchmarks that get to such things as presidential power and authority, in the civics, US history, and US government courses. This video can do so much as it reveals a perception on the power of the President that many outside of Nixon could possibly share. I have had a number of great debates with my own students that involved this clip, and it is also a good way to introduce the concept of the Imperial Presidency.
Schoolhouse Rock (By Way of SNL) Teaches About Executive Orders
I love what you can find on the Internet. This is a great way to begin a discussion about, again, the power of the president as compared to Congress and whether executive orders are a good idea or even constitutional. Please note that there is some very mild language in this clip. I would still be comfortable using it to introduce the topic with my own students.
The Animaniacs Sing About the Presidents
Now, in Florida, students do NOT need to identify any presidents to do well in the 7th grade Civics course. That being said, they do certainly have to have a passing familiarity with them for other social studies courses. This video, while dated, provides a humorous overview of every president from Washington to Clinton, and it can be an interesting way to introduce the presidency. You could also use this as a way to encourage research for your students. DID Reagan’s speeches all come from old movies? What was Johnson impeached for? Was Grant really a heavy drinker as president? Oh, so many possibilities!
An Epic Rap Battle: Keynes vs Hayek
Those of us that teach economics need our own resources too, and this is a GREAT one to introduce a perennial economic debate. While it does take a particular perspective on the debate, it presents economic concepts in an effective and engaging way. My own students loved it, because they would watch with the lyrics in hand, and it would form the foundation of units throughout the year! We played this video quite often.
An Epic Rap Battle Part Two
This is the sequel to the previous video, and another worthy way to explore deep economic ideas.
The Brain Explains Why We Should Study History
I have actually used this video at the beginning of the year when I taught world history to humorously introduce the importance of history in general. This is also a nice path towards research projects if you teach a world history course. All those leaders!
Too Late to Apologize (A Declaration)
Friends, you haven’t lived until you have seen the authors of the Constitution as members of a hard rock band. In all seriousness, this is a WONDERFUL approach to the Declaration of Independence, and I have seen it used in many classrooms to really excite students to explore one of the foundational documents of American history and government.
The Fight for the Vote: A Bad Romance
I want to finish this up by sharing with you one of my favorite videos, relevant as we approach the anniversary of the 19th Amendment in just a few short years. This look, based on Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’, provides a nice lesson on the fight for woman’s suffrage. Interestingly, it uses Alice Paul as its central character.
I hope that you find some use for these videos. Some of them may be more appropriate or relevant for you than others, but at the least they serve as an additional resource for you! I would love to know any additional ‘outside the box’ videos that you have found useful in civics, government, history, or other social studies content areas. Shoot me an email or leave a comment!