Ok, I get it. I’m old. No, really, I’m staring down the barrel of the big 5-0. Many moons ago I learned to read by watching The Electric Company. It was like Sesame Street for the elementary school crowd. We’d already learned our letters. This helped us put them together so we could read. EC was fast-paced and featured sketches illustrating various phonics concepts like the two sounds of g, actors in profile silhouettes pronouncing word segments (c, at, cat), and the amazing silent e.
The show featured some very big talents. Check out the photo. Second, third, and fourth from the left are Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, and Bill Cosby. The Adventures of Letterman was narrated by Joan Rivers. Mel Brooks even had a few voice-over segments.
Years ago I purchased The Best of The Electric Company on DVD to use in my classroom. I like to show it sometimes when we have the time with the stipulation that if there’s a word on the screen, you need to read it.
That brings me to one day this past week. We had a Professional Development Day, so the students were dismissed at 11:30. We brought our lunches back from the cafeteria and I put on the next episode of The Electric Company for the kids to watch while they were eating.
I have 25-year-old intern with me this semester. Enthusiastic Intern was clearly unfamiliar with the program and she was as excited as the kids to read the words on the screen and to sing along with the songs.
“Wait! Is that Bill Cosby?” she at one point asked, incredulously.
They all, Enthusiastic Intern included, watched in rapt wonder as Bill drew something on a large poster.
“It’s a square!” shouted Enthusiastic Intern.
Bill added a few more details to the square and one of my short-fry friends said, “It’s a tv.”
“It’s an old tv,” quipped E.I.
At that point, 6-year-old Preciously Precocious turned around in her chair. You might remember her from the post Progressive Children’s Programming (Or Not) https://notyourmamasteacher.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/progressive-childrens-programming-or-not/ . She’s a delightful old soul masquerading as a small child.
“This was made in, like, the 1960s,” she patiently explained to Enthusiastic Intern.
In, like, the 1970s, actually. But who’s counting?