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What can I DO {-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-da} with a song?

September 24, 2015

I’ve yet to meet a world language teacher that does not want to use authentic songs from the target culture(s) in their classrooms. Like all good authentic resources, a well-chosen song will serve to excite and inspire, give new perspectives, intrigue, and excite your students. Like many teachers, I introduce a new song at least once a week; sometimes more than that. I choose my songs based on the language that they contain, the culture that they expose, or the beat that they rock ;-)

More than 30 ways to use music in Spanish class that are adaptable for any language!

As with everything that we do often in our classes, we need a long list of “twists” that we can use when introducing and listening to songs. My go-to strategy for the first listen-through is to give students a CLOZE lyrics sheet, but that gets really old, really fast. So then I combine it with other things—CLOZE lyrics AND comprehension questions! An introductory reading AND CLOZE lyrics! CLOZE lyrics AND fun gestures! …not exactly novel, Bexster.

When deciding “how to teach a song”, it’s important to determine your purpose. WHY are you looking for new ways to teach the song? Do you want your students to understand the whole song? Are you hoping to give your students new cultural understanding or understand a new perspective? Or are you just hoping that they are listening attentively to authentic language? Once you've decided your purpose for using the song in class (and it could be different on different days even with the same song!), you can choose your activity. Here are some things other than CLOZE lyrics that you can do with a song--some of them overlap with ideas that Leslie Davison shared on her blog last year, but she has a lot of different ones, as well! So pop over there and check out her ideas after you’re done reading here:

Activities to do to prepare students to listen to a song

  • Read a biography of the singer or cultural background about the content of the song—in the target language, of course!
  • Read a three+ level embedded reading of the song lyrics (ex: Gazpacho / La Ogra)
  • Divide students into groups and assign each one a portion of the song to learn, rehearse, and perform for the class. Later, that group must stand and perform their portion every time the song is played in class!
  • Ask a parallel story à la TPRS® (ex: El chico del apartamento 512 / Selena)
  • Guess the missing words based on context (with the help of a word bank….or not!)
  • Watch the music video for the song without sound and guess what the song is about
  • Do a [focused] free write about the song using a word cloud of the lyrics.
  • MovieTalk the music video (ex: Espacio sideral / Jesse & Joy)
  • Predict main idea, plot, mood, and style of music based on a word cloud of the lyrics

Activities to use while listening to the song

  • CLOZE lyrics (duh!). Blank out words and give students a word bank to choose from or let them come up with the word on their own. Choose target structures that you want to use in a forthcoming input activity (storyasking, MovieTalk, etc.), or choose words that are easy to hear because they are pronounced clearly.
  • Give students a list of lines from the song with a few imposters, and have them mark off lines as they hear them. The end goal is to identify lines that DON’T appear in the song.
  • Give students a lyrics sheet with mistakes in it, and have students correct the errors as they listen.
  • In songs with multiple singers, have students mark which lines and stanzas are sung by which singers or combinations of singers. This could be a manipulative activity in which students have pictures of the singers and have to sort lines/stanzas beneath each image. Be sure to read singer bios before or after listening! (ex: Pon tus sueños a jugar / various)
  • Skim & scan the lyrics (term from Terry Waltz in her book Chinese with TPRS Characteristics, which you need to buy and read...seriously!). Give students a brief list of words (preferably target structures) that may or may not be in the song, and have them skim the lyrics to see how quickly they can identify which ones appear and which ones do not.
  • Play BINGO (or Strip BINGO) with words or lines from the song. Have students create their board or strip with a word cloud or otherwise scrambled lyrics…and consider putting an imposter or two in there, as well!
  • Draw a mural while you listen--draw any concept that you hear and can illustrate!
  • Physically arrange cut-up lines from the song on desks to put them in the correct order (ex: Te amo / Nota)
  • Cross off images (scenes, objects, ideas) from the song as you hear them.
  • Respond physically when they hear a target structure: either raising their hand, slamming a fist on the table, touching their nose, doing a gesture that matches the structure…anything.
  • Pictoral CLOZE. Instead of a blank space for the missing word, leave a little box in which students can illustrate the missing word. Make sure that the eliminated words are easy to draw. (I learned this idea from Laurie Clarcq when she came to AFLA a few years ago.) (ex: Wavin' flag / David Bisbal & K'Naan)
  • Cross off words in a word cloud as they hear them sung in the song
  • Gesture along with lyrics (using gestures and dance moves that students have learned and practiced together)
  • Follow along with song lyrics and sing. Students could follow the lyrics with their finger to “prove” that they’re following along. They could also move around the room (walking) while they read and sing to reduce anxiety and give them a chance to MOVE!
  • Pause the song every once in awhile and show students two lines from the song. Students have to tell you which one they just listened to! (The most recent lyric.) If the song is already very familiar, they could tell you which line comes next (à la “Singing Bee” TV show).
  • Play musical chairs. Lay out a line from the song on each chair, and anyone that sits on a lyric that has already been played is OUT (so several students are eliminated on each turn).

Activities that demonstrate comprehension

Activities to extend the song

You can see some of these activities in action with my favorite songs for Spanish 1 HERE.

Now...what activities would YOU add to this list?

Many different ways to use music in language classes

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