They listen while they study. They have in earbuds in the halls between classes. They listen in the car. Our students love music. It’s an artistic medium with something for everyone! And it’s an artistic medium we can use to build engagement in our classrooms.
I don’t force my students to listen to music at home, they tell me all about their Spotify play lists full of songs we have heard in class. I don’t give them “song homework” yet they come back with the words memorized. I tell them on Monday “DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO! We are watching it in class on Friday.” and they tattle on each other for watching ahead.
Music has universal appeal! Not every song hits with every student but if we incorporate a lot of great styles, we can find something that sticks with almost everyone.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use music with links to songs that use the same activities:
- Surely you Gesture: Some songs just FEEL like movement. I listen the first time and I know that it is one my students will have fun gesturing. I got the idea from Cindy Hitz and started incorporating it in my own classroom. At first, I thought they’d be embarrassed but they are NOT. As they get more familiar with the gestures, they get more and more engaged in doing them. PLUS, it’s a great brain break! Yesterday, Jesse and Joy released the song Tanto in collaboration for Luis Fonsi. I listened once and fell in love! Not just in love, in gesture love. I knew it was a song my students would love gesturing to. Monday, Spanish 3 is going to give it the first try! Spanish 2 is also diving into a gesture heavy song. It’s a couple of years old but I still love it every time I hear it. The video for Suena el dembow is not classroom appropriate but the lyric video is a good substitute! Their hands are busy with the gestures anyway!
- Part of a Unit: At the end of the school year, Sebastián Yatra released En guerra. I loved it and have blogged about it here. This is a great example of a song that carries such a heavy meaning, it is better within a unit of study. Using the song as a catalyst, students become engaged in using their developing language to discuss deep topics. One of my favorites from a few years ago is Morat’s song Aprender a quererte! I used it as part of a unit on education. A song inspired me to address one of the SDGs before I even knew about the SDGs!
- Focus on the Artist: Sometimes its the body of work that is important! I’m a big fan of Lin Manuel Miranda and I wanted to introduce my students to his music in class. His music is in English (for the most part) but his roots are in Puerto Rico. Consider using music, bios, video clips, images, and quotes at the beginning and end of class to bookend the lesson for the week. In my unit, students have a warm up and wrap up each day that teaches them little bite-sized chunks about LMM.
- Focus on a Grammatical Feature: Our upper level students are great at using the language they’ve acquired and are ready to start polishing up their output a little! Sometimes I use a song to highlight something grammatical in context. When I heard the David Bisbal song A partir de hoy for the first time, I knew I wanted to use it in conjunction with talking about student plans after graduation! What a great expression to learn! (The video is not school appropriate but there is a great lyric video)
- Reading and Listening Skills: I use Cloze activities with music frequently but I also love having them listen for other things as well. Consider handing out the lyrics of the song as a “Move or Keep” activity. I copy the song lyrics, add 10-12 lines in front of different lines of the song. I choose 4-6 of these to switch places with each other. As my students listen, when they come to one of the lines, they have to write a K if they want to keep what is written or an M if they think it’s one of the lines I moved. If you’d like to try the activity, I included it in with Álvaro Soler’s Bajo el mismo sol. It is also great listening practice to have them try “Antes o después”. Give them a pair of lyrics and ask them if they heard lyric A before or after lyric B. I try to keep the two lyrics very close to one another in the song so they don’t forget if they heard it or not! Try it out with Luis Fonsi’s Sola.
No matter how you use a song, music is sure to make acquisition magic happen in your classroom. I’ve had such an interesting time watching my son Nick this year. Nick has been interested in music in Spanish since he was in 4th grade and saw his older sister singing songs she’d learned in my class. Over the last 5 years, he’s memorized around 40 songs in Spanish but has no idea what he has been singing. Now that he is a freshman and enrolled in Spanish 1, he comes home regularly and says… So if quiero means “I want” then when Sie7e says “quiero tu love” he is saying “I want your love”, right?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I want learning language in my classroom to feel like the zucchini in my meatloaf. Invisible to the naked eye but secretly forcing everyone to have something good for them whether they like it or not.
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