Music in the language classroomThe weekly #LangChat conversation was fast paced as everyone tweeted away about how valuable music is in the language classroom. Highlights of why it is valuable included the ability to really engage students as you introduce culture, teach new vocabulary and grammatical structures, and give kids opportunities to hear native speakers. Thank you to all the participants. (If we all lived in the same time zone, we could more easily accommodate our European colleagues. Thanks to the few who braved the late hours to join in!)

Elvira Deyamport (@Elle_Gifted) and Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (@SECottrell) moderated the chat and Zachary Jones (@ZJonesSpanish) attended as a specially invited guest. Thanks also to Diego Ojeda (@DiegoOjeda66) and Erica Fischer (@CalicoTeach), members of the #LangChat Team.

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Why should you use music in your classroom?

  • Songs really helped me become more confident learning English as my second language. @suarez712002
  • Songs are the best way to help our students understand the TL culture. You must bring music you personally like. The students like songs that say something. When you like a song and share a personal experience with it, students connect better. Several tweets by: @DiegoOjeda66
  • Songs include an element of culture and idiomatic expression you can find in little else as motivating. @SECottrell
  • Music brings life into the classroom. @Elle_Gifted
  • Used music today in class to teach grammar, culture and current events!! It was awesome! @cadamsf1
  • The rhythm and repetition of songs are a great way for students to learn vocab & pronunciation. @melindamlarson
  • Music facilitates language learning and retention. @Elle_Gifted
  • My music label – 29 blog posts on using music: @SECottrell
    Students get the songs stuck in their heads and practice the TL all day long! @CalicoTeach
  • Use music for Grammar, Social Issues, Vocab, FUN! @DiegoOjeda66
  • Poetry and prose are a kind of music. Words can be put together to reflect rhythm and beat. @teachingfriends
  • Sing folksongs and use authentic instruments when singing. @Elle_Gifted, @msfrenchteach
  • Blog post: Why music is more powerful than anything (and how to use it.) @SECottrell
  • Music serves as a basis for discussions. @ZJonesSpanish
  • Music allows you to make connections across the curriculum. See these ideas from @ZJonesSpanish.

Spanish Links

  • @ZJonesSpanish’s website –
    • Zachary provides great music resources and cloze activities that are a must visit resource for language teachers.
    • Sign up for his RSS feeds.
    • Everyday he publishes a new cross-curriculuar worksheet based on music.
    • Here’s a link to a recent video he created of a remake for Rebecca Black’s “Friday” in Spanish (Viernes)
    • You can also do a search of his site to look for resources by artist or genre. @ZJonesSpanish
  • Great resource on regional music in Latin America: @Elle_Gifted
  • For elementary: Check out “Every Elementary Teacher needs these songs – I love them! @SECottrell
  • Check out Sra. Birch’s spreadsheet of songs in Spanish by artist, topic, culture. 429 and counting! @SECottrell
  • Contrast Josh Groban’s song “Solo por ti” with @CamiliaMX’s “Solo para ti” @SECottrell
  • Great pop songs and lyrics in Spanish: & another pop song site: @Elle_Gifted
  • Karaoke: Search for song title along with term “karaoke” on YouTube for background tracks. @CalicoTeach, @DiegoOjeda66
  • See what’s currently popular in Spain at Kids can also hear broadcasters.
  • Operación Triunfo is a show in Spain and Argentina similar to American Idol 3 @suarez712002
  • Tatiana and Adriana from Argentina have kid-friendly music. @Elle_Gifted
  • Miguelito is great for elementary Spanish, but be careful with his videos, not all are appropriate for this age. @Elle_Gifted
  • Juanes is great for intermediate and up. @DiegoOjeda66
  • Lists of songs tagged by genre, level, etc. Wiki. @SECottrell.
  • Follow @SECottrell’s list of all the musicians she’s found on Twitter at

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French Links

Resources for multiple languages:

  • Watch videos with cloze activities. Video pauses until student types correct term in the cloze displayed below video. @isedule
  • The Sing-to-Learn wiki from @markpurves is devoted to listing resources for the use of songs in French and Spanish class. Includes videos, audio files, powerpoint and word docs with lyrics. You’ll also find that Mark Purves offers lots of ideas for creating your own music in the TL. For example: “How about using backing tracks of excellent music to put to the language you want to teach? Often FL songs are too complicated lyrically.” Example of @markpurves
  • Good site for karaoke versions of well know FL songs and English songs. @markpurves
  • If you are using a video with questionable lyrics you can use YouTube Chop to edit and use parts instead of a whole video. @Elle_Gifted

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Advice and Activities for using music in the classroom:

  • Post titled: Music in Foreign Language Instruction, Classroom Activities from the Music and Literacy series by @eliza_peterson
  • Don’t translate lyrics. Do preteach important phrases and concepts and use lots of visuals for any pre-listening activities. @ZJonesSpanish says, “I teach in the target language when using songs providing as much context as possible through videos, discussions, images, and comparisons.”
  • Use music videos as much as possible since they combine music and story/drama.
  • Incorporate TV shows like Viva el Sueño @SECottrell
  • Connect to other parts of the curriculum with songs.
  • Depending on the level of your students use cloze activities read background information, videos, websites, rewrite verses, create new rhymes. For beginners, have students analyze the songs for loud/soft, fast/slow, melodic/not melodic, etc. @pamwesely
  • Students love to write original lyrics in the target language and create music videos. @melindamlarson

Diego Ojeda’s Advice and Activities for Using Songs in the Target Language (@DiegoOjeda66)

Always show the video when you introduce a song (watch it first to make sure it is appropriate for your students.) Allow students to get into groups close to their friends when singing. If you really want students to connect with the songs, you will need to spend a month working on the same song.

  1. Read the song syllable by syllable.
  2. As a class read the song word by word. One student at a time.
  3. Alternate reading between groups.
  4. Sing along with your class.
  5. Be dramatic while singing.
  6. Use the popcorn method to read the song.
  7. Don’t keep the same rhythm all the time. I sing Juanes rap opera, wide variety of styles.
  8. Make competitions to find out who can read the song the fastest without pronunciation errors.
  9. Classes can compete among themselves to see which class can read the song the fastest, one student at a time.
  10. Students dramatize the song and create skits.
  11. Students change the verbs in the song.
  12. Students change the nouns in the song.

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Visit The Language Teacher’s Collaborate Wiki for the #LangChat Archive links as well as great resources from teachers around the world.


Hello everyone and welcome back to #langchat!

This past Thursday’s discussion led us through a challenging topic in language education—listening strategies that improve comprehension of native speakers. Even some of the most fluent speakers can still have trouble with this, so how do we best nurture our students’ comprehension?

Participants shared many awesome ideas that will make listening comprehension in your classroom easy and fun. Thanks to Erica Fischer (@CalicoTeach) for moderating this chat!

Challenges of Understanding Native Speakers

While students may be accustomed to broken-up sentences, clear enunciation, and visual aids, it can be difficult for them to adjust to native speech. Throw in dialects and slang, and your students may begin to feel it’s useless!

Once the students get frustrated, they might want to stop listening and stop learning. Material for teaching comprehension of native speakers needs to be chosen carefully, and it’s important that teachers keep the atmosphere positive and encouraging.

Activities to Improve Listening Comprehension

While all of our participants offered excellent strategies and activities, repetition seemed to be the unifying idea. Many of our educators suggested working on listening comprehension every day with a song, videos, or other audio material. Hearing native speech regularly will help students to better comprehend native sounds and expressions.

You can find a collection of some suggested activities and strategies below.

Using News Clips:

  • @NinaTanti1 suggests using news from the Internet but also points out that using news can be too difficult for beginners. Other participants recommend breaking the news down into just one chunk and replaying it.
  • @maestrachevre suggests playing weather and traffic reports from the radio.
  • @CalicoTeach likes to discuss a popular topic then show news of interest to the students.

Focus on Keywords:

  • @fravan tells their students to just relax! Focus on what you do understand instead of the things you don’t. This participant also says it takes a lot of practice, “like free throws in basketball.”
  • @CalicoTeach encourages students to find “anchor words” and get the gist of the topic.
  • @fravan recommends a fun activity for beginners. In partners, each group of students gets a sheet of paper with words on it, and each student gets a different color marker. Then they circle the words they hear. This can also be a competitive game!

Other Ideas & Listening Strategies:

  • @melindamlarson says her students take time to Skype with native speakers as well as alumni abroad. Speaking with other students at a similar age may inspire them!
  • @paulinobrener suggests looking for parents who are native speakers and asking them to visit. Parents could even talk about a theme students will be interested in such as actors/actresses, school, or current fads in the native country.
  • Several of our educators agreed that having native speakers in class could be discouraging to students, while @pamwesley adds any native-speaking activity should be contextualized properly, so the students can understand and feel accomplished.
  • Others also agreed with @CalicoTeach, who wants the students to be able to understand anyone whether they are native or not.

Online Tools for Listening Comprehension

Several participants mentioned online resources as well for further material. These tools can be especially helpful because they are easily accessible and can also be used by students outside of class.

@usamimi74 shared her preferred free website, ielanguages, where free language lessons and tutorials for 17 languages can be found.

@SECottrell uses UN Radio to practice speaking and listening with scripts and audio files.

@paulinobrener also offered himself as a resource for those teachers with students who have written short stories and would like them read by a Spanish native speaker. Those interested can contact him here.

Final Thoughts

In all classes, students’ comprehension of native speech should be approached with sensitivity and encouragement. While watching a movie or listening to a podcast makes excellent practice, nothing beats holding a face-to-face conversation with a native speaker!


A big thank you to all of our participants in this Thursday’s chat! We shared tons of creative, helpful suggestions and support, and we’re reminded that we all struggle with native speech every now and then.

If you’d like to see the full archive of the chat, feel free to check out our Google Docs page. See you next week!