Saturday, March 9, 2013

Songs in the classroom

Since it's the weekend, I thought I'd take a break and talk about songs.  I've used songs in the classroom for many years, and my students and I both love it.  Students have come up to me years down the line and said that they still have one of the songs we learned in class on their I-pod and still love to sing along.

Originally, I did songs for two basic reasons:  one, they have to listen in order to understand well enough to do the CLOZE activity that is our song quiz every week.  Two, they learn to pronounce properly by having to sing or speak the song.  At first, I introduced a new song every week and we spent one whole period going over it and then 10 minutes a day listening to it.  My colleagues questioned the time involved, so I took their advice and now only take one verse a week.  At one point, I was trying to make everything fit and thought about giving up the songs, but my colleague Joe told me that they still remember the vocab that they learned from the songs when they come to him the following year.  In fact, one assignment that third year had was to write a love letter, and one student was able to write the letter using primarily phrases that he'd learned from my class.

There is a lot of good vocab to be learned from songs, but time doesn't permit for me, so I do something very UNtprs.  I have the students highlight certain words from the songs and then it's up to them to learn it either by singing or by actually memorizing.  I then give a test in two parts.  The first part, the CLOZE activity, is worth 2 points each.  Then I give them 5 sentences that they are to fill in with the proper vocabulary word (Johnny tiene un ______ Pug.)  There is always a vocabulary bank.  Even if the students get every single vocabulary question wrong, they can still get an A on the test.  I'm really much more interested in the listening and speaking than I am in them picking up a few vocabulary words.

Having said that, I've always thought that if I were in a different school, I very well might have tried teaching using songs as my vocabulary base.  There's a lot of great vocabulary that you can teach, and you also can learn about different countries and their culture by highlighting the countries of origin of the singers.

I pick the songs in a variety of ways.  I always start the year with "Te perdí" or "Vamos a la playa" because they're both very popular and easily remembered.  At New Year's, I teach "Waka Waka", because New Years is when you set goals for yourself, and the song has a lot of motivational sayings.  During Lent (Catholic school here), I teach "Lento", a song that reminds the students that if they want to get to know someone better, they should slow down.  The same applies to Christ.  I also do "Buenos amigos" by Selena during this time--the theme is one of a man sacrificing his romantic interest in his friend because he knows she doesn't feel the same.  The girl also sacrifices what would be an easy entrance into a bad romance by realizing that it's better to have a good friendship than a bad love.

Every once in a while, I change it up.  Some things I do instead of CLOZE is to put the lines in different order, to insert a different word in the song and make the student decide which word is wrong and change it, and explain the meaning (not literal translation) in English.

How do you do songs?  Any input is welcome!


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  2. I love using songs in my room! I do an activity called Profe of the Day where a student has to begin the class. When they are done, they either get a choice of 2 points to be used on a test or quiz OR they can choose to be the Singing Ninja (both ideas borrowed from other teachers!) The Singing Ninja can choose any song from, grammar songs from youtube, or authentic songs in Spanish.

    I'm constantly working on evolving the songs in my room. Currently, the Singing Ninja is the favorite activity of everyone but I'm not sure it's really teaching them anything. I think the next evolution will incorporate a CLOZE activity and maybe focus on 2 or 3 songs per unit. Songs that deal with the grammar being taught. Otherwise, like what just happened last semester, every single Singing Ninja picked Waka Waka. =)

    (I"m sorry if this is on here multiple times. My computer is giving me fits this morning)

    1. That sounds like fun! I do recommend the CLOZE idea. Songs in a unit are really easy, once you realize what you're looking for--although I don't know about following grammar. I like to follow themes more than grammar. But either way, they're getting something that they like to do and that they're normally pretty good at. Good luck!!


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