L.A. Times article dated April 26, 1998
LESSONS OF NOTE
Newport Beach couple creates songs out of basic math, grammar and geography facts. Experts are convinced of a connection between memory and song.
Newport Beach - How did you learn your multiplication tables, grammar rules and state capitals? Chances are it was through drill: rote memorization, repeated writing.
For the past 14 years, though, a Newport Beach couple has banked on a more entertaining method of learning basic facts - singing. Kathy and Larry Troxel are mainstays in the business of educational music tapes.
I'm running, jumping, singing-that's because I am a verb.
I'm hopping, dancing, ringing-that's because I am a verb.
I'm coming, going, hitting, throwing...
From "The Verb Song"
Back in 1979, Kathy Troxel was a high school English teacher in Long Beach Unified School District when it struck her that her 10th graders couldn't explain the difference between adjectives and adverbs, nouns and verbs. She was appalled.
She was also convinced that they could learn more quickly- and retain more - with music. So she invented a rhyme using the Beach Boys' song "California Girls." By 1984, she had quit teaching and started Audio Memory. Last year, the company sold 24,366 cassettes.
The firm, which operates out of the Troxel home, sells eight cassettes of original songs that drill the fundamentals of math, grammar, vocabulary and geography. Cassettes cost $9.95 or $19.95. The jingles are reinforced with a workbook of written exercises and copies of the lyrics.
The songs don't try to teach complicated subjects. It's just the basics, repeated and set to music.
Humming, rowing, sitting, blowing
Riding, hiding, gliding, sliding
Because I am a verb.
Who didn't learn the alphabet by singing the ABC song? And children in the 1970s watched "Schoolhouse Rock" - the televised cartoon set to rock music - to find out about the parts of speech and the three branches of government.
Elaine Weiner, a teacher at Allen Elementary School in Garden Grove, has used the Troxels' cassettes to teach her students grammar for more than a decade. When they master the basics, she begins lessons on diagramming sentences. "I'll ask them questions and they'll stop and think and I'll hear them sing the songs," Weiner said.
Gordon Shaw, a UC Irvine physics professor who studies such issues, says the brain naturally looks for patterns of information, such as music or rhymes. And "certain patterns are more conducive to remembering," he said.
Educators too are convinced of a link between music and memory. "The repetition, the rhythm, the melody seem to engage the whole child," said Phyllis Berenbeim, the coordinator of visual and performing arts programs at the Orange County Department of Education.
That's why Fama Nelson, a fourth-grade teacher at Maranatha Christian Academy in Costa Mesa, has been using "Grammar Songs" for four or five years. "It's another way to learn," she said, "a fun way."