I love love love teaching a song of the month. It is something my students SO look forward to at the beginning of the month! As soon as they cross the threshold of my door it is the first thing they’re looking for on the board. I keep the song title there all month long. These are some of my favorite stories from the “results” of teaching a song of the month:
- Parent emails saying that their children are singing in Spanish at the top of their lungs.
- Two students telling me that their parents have banned Spanish music while they are home because it is all their child will listen to ON REPEAT all night long (this one was both hysterical and depressing)
- Students sending me Instagram videos of sleepovers and all of them doing karaoke to our song of the month
- Being on the bus (a 17 hour bus ride with 8th graders… ODM) to North Carolina and a student’s phone provided the music and EVERY OTHER SONG IS FROM SPANISH CLASS, and practically the WHOLE bus is singing along
- During a school dance, I was sneaky and requested “¡Soy YO!” by Bomba Estereo and the instant it came on the kids all screamed and rushed the dance floor. #proudteachermoment…. Then they proceeded to pull me to the center of the dance floor and I led them in my typical baila como maestra dance.
Every teacher incorporates music into their classroom differently. What I do is a matter of preference based on what I know about me, my classroom, my student population, the levels I teach, and the amount of time I get with them each week. The reason I like doing a song of the month, rather than a song of the week, is it really lets me take my time, and it allows the kids to really come to know and love the song. Since I teach Middle School, I only see my kids once a day for 45 minutes. I know that this is a LOT compared to some, but if I commit to a song of the week then I would feel like at least half (if not more) of my classes each week would need to be about the song. Since the CI umbrella is SO big, I know we will want to do a lot more than focus on the song all week. As much as I LOVE the idea, I can’t participate in the Locura de Marzo each year because I feel like it is too many songs too quickly. I don’t think most of my classes have the language to comprehend the songs well enough for it to be worth the precious minutes I have with them. This is another reason why doing a song of the month is just perfect for my students and my classroom. I have the time to pre-teach and integrate the vocabulary of the song into the CI “discussions” we have so that they can enjoy the song more when they listen to it because they UNDERSTAND what they’re hearing.
There are several different things I do throughout the month to really “milk” the song I choose. First I introduce students to the artist. I talk about where they were born, how old they are, we talk about their families, we use Google maps to look up the city they live in and we compare it to the one where they were born. If it is an artist who has received awards for their music we talk about those and if it is an artist like Shakira who is a philanthropist, we talk about what good they do with their money. I create a slideshow as my talking piece for this. The best part is one slideshow can be used in all of my levels, I just vary my vocabulary.
Many times, the artist has an Instagram, Twitter, or website. I will link to these in my presentation. My kids love seeing how many followers the artists have and they have amazing memories and like to compare one artist’s stats to another. Often times, artists’ twitter feeds are really fun to read because they are written in Spanish and higher level classes can work together to understand the meaning of the tweets. Many of my students follow their favorite artists now and they’re the first to tell me about new songs or albums being released.
Next, I introduce the song itself. If it received an impressive amount of awards, I may talk about that, or if there is a very specialized vocabulary then I will introduce that to the students. For example, in “La Gozadera” there are lots of words that are very cultural and not very high frequency, but with a simple picture to establish meaning, it can help with comprehension when we do listen to the song.
Many songs don’t have a specialized vocabulary so much as a very repetitive chorus. I love our song of the month THIS month (“Vivir mi vida” by Marc Anthony) because it uses “voy a _______” so much. (I am going to________) over and over and over again. We started class just talking about what everyone was going to do in various different contexts. In one class, it was a student’s birthday, so we talked about what he was going to do. We all took guesses and then asked the student what he was actually going to do. In another class we talked about the upcoming dance, and in yet another we just talked about our upcoming weekends.
Another activity I’ll do at some point is I will give my whole class word clouds of the song. A word cloud is literally a cloud made of words. The bigger the word, the more times it is repeated in a song. What is brilliant about this is it is literally identifying the high frequency words in the song for you! There are loads of different activities you can do with a word cloud. Here are some of my favorites:
- Listen and highlight: Have students listen to the song and highlight, circle, or underline, words as they hear them in the song. It is really important that you first establish with the students that you understand they will NEVER be able to circle or highlight every word, every time, and that you know they sing very fast. (Anxiety will be very high if you don’t do this.)
- Pair up, fingers up: Pair students up, have them sit across from each other with the word cloud in between them. Have them race to point to words on the word cloud, as they hear them. They should NOT use pencils or pens (I learned that gets way too dangerous way too quickly!)
- Use the word cloud before you listen to the song the first time. Have students identify words they don’t know vs. words they do know and recognize. I have students write definitions to words they know next to the words in pencil for 1-2 minutes (depending on the level of the class) before we go over the meaning of the high frequency vocabulary.
Of course, I sometimes use traditional cloze activities where students fill in the blanks for words they hear as they listen to the song. One of my favorite activities(student’s too) to do closer to the end of the month, after they’ve heard it many times and they’ve become accustomed to the song, is to cut the ENTIRE song up into simple sentence strips and have them construct the song. I learned this from Jenny Wetzig and Mark Mallaney and their presentation at CCFLT, 2017. I usually have a student do the cutting for me for service hours after school because I have to do it 7-8 times so that I have lots of them. I put each “song” in its sentence strip format into an envelope. Then I group students into teams and give them the envelope. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever just “given” them the envelope. Martina Bex, lovingly said that I fairy sprinkle them over my students. Sometimes I just dump them all over their heads. Either way, it is more fun for them and for me. Then, for the entire period, I play the song over and over and over again on repeat as the students construct the song. In my lower levels I may chunk it up and just play the first 30 seconds over and over until everyone has that and then I’ll move on to another section. Either way, by the end of class, the students whether knowingly or not, are all singing the song and jamming out together as they search for the sentences to piece together something that they know and love. It is epic.
If you would like to try this but you’re not sure where to start, I do have some song of the month resources available on my TPT account, and they are all ready made and scripted out with what questions you can ask and how you can present the information to your kids. What I hope more than anything is that you can start integrating more music into your classrooms because it is such a simple, fun, fast way to get students interested in listening to Spanish outside of your classroom without you even asking them to!
The resources in my TPT store now are below and as I make more I’ll post more!
- “La Bicicleta” by Shakira and Carlos Vives
- “El Mismo Sol” by Alvaro Soler
- “Limón y Sal” by Julieta Venegas
- “La Gozadera” by Gente de Zona ft. Marc Anthony
Until next time,
La Maestra Loca