Every class of Spanish students should be exposed to a healthy blend of actually cool songs in Spanish, classic songs in Spanish, and pretend cool songs in Spanish.
How can I use music in language class?
I use music a lot–sometimes, we do nothing more than listen to a song for fun or watch the music video. Other times, we will do a quick CLOZE activity with the lyrics and maybe work with the chorus. Still other times, I do a full-blown lesson or mini-unit based entirely on the song. Always, the songs that we use in class get added to my class playlist, and they are fair game for listening for the remainder of the year (for the Cantaninja to choose or just for fillers).
Songs to use in Spanish 1
Here are 10 songs that I love for Spanish 1–some new, some old, and some very old.
1. Yo más te adoro – Morat
Yo más te adoro is from 2016, and there are a lot of things that make it great for Spanish 1. First–days of the week. Do you have to cover them as per your district mandated curriculum? BAM! This song is the perfect addition to your “Days of the Week” unit (I can’t believe that is a thing that I used to do…SMH).
The lyrics are easy to sing along with, and there are lots of handy dandy expressions that Novices can pick up on easily. The rhythm is perfect for throwing your arms over each others’ shoulders and swaying to in a group sing-a-long. And truly the story behind the song (a guy who keeps falling more and more in love with a girl who keeps cancelling their plans and ignoring him) is relatable to the (pre)pubescent lovelies that we get to see every day….who just like the girl in the song, te tienen loco.
For this song, I chose to focus on the story behind the lyrics. I wrote a story based on the song and worked in some of its key expressions. And yes–even a post-reading questioning activity that focuses on the days of the week. Once students actually listen to the song, I don’t do that much with it–a few quick listening activities to train their ears and help students to match the sounds they hear to the written word, but that’s it!
2. Cuando te veo – ChocQuibTown
I chose this song because it’s a perfect fit for Unit 2 of my SOMOS 1 curriculum, where students are working with corre, camina, and ve and then learning about the running of the bulls. The “ve” part is the natural fit, obviously–not the running of the bulls ;-). I like this song because ChocQuibTown has a cool vibe and a different sound than many other groups that I work with regularly, and the lead vocalist is a female!
For this song, I chose to focus on the hook, “Cuando te veo”, and created a way to personalize that structure. I made a version of “The Newlywed Game”, where students read a scenario in which they “see” something or someone interesting, controversial or famous (a unicorn, Donald Trump, a character from Fortnite) and then have to guess how a specific remember of their group would react. If the group’s predicted reaction matches the member’s actual reaction, they get a point! Or…to make it really complicated…you could play it à la Señora Chase, and make it a Get Lucky Newlywed game (but don’t call it that HAHA!).
Since I would be using this in the second week of school, I like having students do a really simple during-listening activity, in which they just listen for the target expression cuando te veo and count how many times they hear it. I also wrote up some quick facts about the band, their music, and the members (in Spanish that would be easy for newbies to understand), and voilà! A beautiful Spanish 1 sequence.
3. Simples corazones – Fonseca
OB.SESSED. I am obsessed with this song. So you can imagine how much I FREAKED OUT when I played the music video for the first time and realized that it was a pro-Colombian tourism video featuring Bogotá! Oh my word!! A great, simple song and an amazing cultural video? Be still my simple corazón!!
For this song, I pretty much ignored the lyrics themselves and went full-bore into the music video. I wrote up a slideshow in Spanish that gave students information about the various landmarks highlighted in the music video (including the world’s first crowd-funded skyscraper!). After working through that and then watching the music video itself and making a note of the order in which the the landmarks appeared, I have students do a few quick listening activities and then I summarize the confession, the conflict, and the promises as laid out in the song lyrics for my students, so they can get the gist of what the song is about. And…BOOM! Everyone wants to go to Bogotá!
4. Paloma Blanca – Georgie Dann
Please tell me that you haven’t already forgotten about this top hit from 2017!! And by “from 2017”, I mean the epic Paloma Blanca competition (not the original song). For this song, I went ALL OUT–not as all out as Georgie went on the music video, but all out nonetheless.
- What’s the song about reading? CHECK!
- CLOZE lyrics? CHECK!
- Singer bio? CHECK!
- EPIC MovieTalk with the music video? CHECK!
- Pictolyrics? CHECK!
- Spanish classes from around the country lip recreating the music video? CHECK CHECK CHECK CHECK CHECK!!!
Seriously guys, you need Paloma Blanca in your life.
5. Yo contigo, tú conmigo – Morat ft. Álvaro Soler
We love Gru, we love minions, we love Alvaro, we love Morat….so obvio we love this song!! As with Simples corazones, I chose to focus the majority of this lesson on the music video because students of the Despicable Me connection. I started out talking about the film, Despicable Me 3, and then drew comparisons to the theme of the movie, the collaboration between Soler and Morat, and the song’s message: that anything is possible when two friends work together!
6. No tengo dinero – Los Kumbia Kings
Mostly I like this song because it is my life anthem. Ha! This is one of my shorter song activities, and it is one of the songs that I started using very early on in my teaching career. My students have always loved it. It’s easy to sing along with and it’s an authentic anthem for most of my kiddos. Plus…there’s something about young kids acting like grownups in music videos that students just really seem to love.
For this song, I picked out a few new-to-my-students words from the lyrics and had students guess the meaning of those words based on context, choosing the closest synonym (in Spanish) from a list. They read a quick biography of the group, and that’s it! A fun, quick addition to our playlist. (Click here to grab my song activities)
7.Robarte un beso – Carlos Vives + Sebastián Yatra
Is there a human on the planet that doesn’t love Robarte un beso? It just won Sr. Ashby’s Locura de Marzo, and I can’t say that I am surprised. The song is catchy, Sebastián is dreamy, and the music video is as feel-good as feel-good can be. A lot of different teachers have created and shared a lot of different materials for working with this song in class, so no matter how you want to use it–you’ll be able to find a ready-made option.
Although you will probably want to use this YESTERDAY because you love the song so much, if you are following my curriculum and can force yourself to wait until the Three Pigs unit, Robarte un beso will pair super nicely with the target structure “Déjame entrar” (because of the lyrics from the chorus, “Déjame robarte un beso”).
Definitely take time to work with the music video for this song, because students are really drawn into it! I have students approach the story–or rather, the stories–from the music video in several different ways. They read different versions (simple and expanded) of each of the four featured stories, and they complete a variety of activities: illustrations, sequencing, comprehension questions, etc. And when it’s all said and done, you’ll get complaints from around the school from teachers reporting that Spanish students are daydreaming and aimlessly doodling “Déjame robarte un beso” surrounded by hearts and kissy lips all over their binders. Because how can you not!
8. Échame la culpa – Luis Fonsi + Demi Lovato
Five months in, I think I am finally getting to the point that I can continue life functions when this song comes on my Pandora station. It’s so upbeat, so catchy, so fun, so…perfect! The music video might be too sexy for some classroom situations (I would not have used it when I was teaching in a Christian school, but I would have at my public middle school), but the song itself is super clean and–again–has a great hook that students can relate to: talking about casting blame!
Before listening to the song, I describe a bunch of different predicaments in Spanish, and students have to say whether that sounds like something that they should or shouldn’t be blamed for. Little brother using naughty words? Don’t blame me! Missing chocolate bar…well..guilty as charged! After having some fun with those situations, students do a quick series of more traditional listening activities.
Students obsessed with Échame la culpa after this activity sequence? Blame me!
(Side note–does anyone else totally hate the English cover of this song that Fonsi + Lovato did? Not a fan.)
9. Pantalón blue jean – Flaco Jiménez
I friggin love this song, and my students loved to hate it. No–it’s not cutting edge and cool, but it is classic, comprehensible, and perfect for bopping up and down to. I used to number my students one-two-one-two-one-two around the room and then the 1’s and the 2’s would bop up and down on alternate beats. Seriously, friends, you can make anything cool in your classes if you fake it hard enough!
Pantalón Blue Jean is awesome because HELLO Flaco Jiménez and DOUBLE HELLO acordión! It is also a great song to use because of its historical/sociacultural context, about chicanos trying to fit in with mainstream culture by wearing blue jeans. It offers an amazing opportunity for meaningful conversation about what we intentionally do to fit in–and also what we do to fit in without even knowing that we are doing it! (I always think of the scene from Devil Wears Prada where the editor tells Anne Hathaway that the only reason she likes the color blue that she is wearing is because such-and-such designer used it on the runway X number of years ago, and then this designer picked it up, and then that one, and eventually it appeared in Target or wherever Anne was buying her clothes.) Here is an excellent documentary clip that you can show to your students when you listen to the song (my favorite part is the 5 de mayo cap that one guy is wearing! Ha!). It was filmed in San Antonio and not only can you see Flaco en vivo with his acordión, but you can catch glimpses of the Alamo!
Want more Flaco? Bring back the Paloma blanca with Eres un encanto! It’s great for body parts and bopping up and down 🙂
10. La Bamba – Ritchie Valens
No Spanish 1 class is complete without La Bamba. La Bamba is one of the very first songs that I introduce to my students, even though it doesn’t have a direct connection with any of my early curriculum units. I always taught my students simple gestures to do along with the song (putting a hand to the forehead like “a captain”, wagging a figure to say “no” as we sang “yo no soy marinero”, etc.), and even later on in the year when we had learned much more current songs, students continued to choose to listen to La Bamba regularly.
This version of the song circulated around Facebook a few weeks ago, and just as the video description promises–te va a encantar!
Do you want ALL THE THINGS?
Be sure to grab this bundle featuring six of the songs from this list!
And if you are looking for more ideas about how to incorporate music into your language classes, be sure to follow my Music board on Pinterest: