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by Erica Fischer on Mar 2, 2017

The Magic of Music in the World Language Classroom

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Last Thursday, #langchat participants considered the benefits of music integration in the world language classroom. Through a discussion on song selection, supporting activities to engage students while increasing proficiency, and exploring cultural practices and perspectives, it can be said that music has a lot to offer in the language learning process.

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Song Selection

#Langchat teachers have discovered a variety of resources for finding great music to share with their students. @Elisabeth13 “checks the top billboard charts in France”, @SrtaPrendergast often chooses songs from “Spotify’s Discover Weekly mix”, and @SraDentlinger said, “Pandora helps [her] find new artists that are like artists [she] already likes!” When deciding on which songs are most useful in the classroom, @MmeBlouwolff said she “looks for a thematic hook to open a unit with comprehensible lyrics and some key vocabulary.” @ADiazMora “[tries] to tie in the songs to the unit theme; sometimes for meaning of song, and sometimes just to jam out.” Repetitive, slow-paced, and culturally embedded songs seem to be strong choices for #langchat teachers. “[I] also love songs that reinforce cultural issues. French rap is FABULOUS for this” (@MlleSulewski). “@SraBurbano said, “Vivir la Vida and Lupita are favorites. I play a lot of Mana and try to tie in the theme.” Finally, @SECottrell shared the “Top 20 @Musicuentos class songs of ‘all’ time.”

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Activities to Anticipate, Engage, and Reflect on Songs

There are many grammar, pronunciation and comprehension-centered activities that can be integrated into world language lessons through music. @CadenaSensei said, “My typical Level 1 activity is for [students] to listen to (part of) a song [and] mark off adjectives that describe what they think. Then discuss.” @nathanlutz “often [has] props for #earlylang students to use to act out the songs.” “We do ‘slap words’ with song vocab, put lyrics in order, word clouds, and [use] cloze text” (@RhulsHuls). For higher proficiency language levels, many #langchat teachers ask students to make predictions. @CatherineKU72 said, “we tried to imagine [the] video just based on lyrics.” @ ICanSpanish shared, “When it has a good clean video with a story, I like to do a ‘story-go-round’ [where] students take turns finishing the story in circles”. @SrtaPrendergast said, “After focusing on the chorus all week we do a grammar/language activity. ex: brainstorm words that rhyme with something in the [chorus].”

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Differentiating Activities Across Levels with the Same Song

There is potential for one song to be used among multiple levels through different activities. @Srta_Sieber said, “lower levels mostly look for grammar structures/vocab; upper levels analyze culture and meaning of a song.” @SraDentlinger suggested, “perhaps tier activities? [Spanish] 1 does [Spanish]–> [English] [definition], [Spanish] 2 matches word to Spanish definition instead.” #Langchat participants often incorporate more challenging activities for higher proficiency language levels. @SenoraJansen said, “upper levels will take 5 new vocab words, and create a skit with 10 minutes to prepare. They’re usually crazy but so funny.” @sr_connolly encouraged teachers to “Grade the task, not the ‘text’. [The] same song can be used for vocab practice [and] cultural/historical context.”

Progressing Towards Proficiency Goals

#Langchat teachers shared their thoughts on how music aids in progressing students toward higher language proficiency goals.

  • @SraWienhold said,

    Music not only works well for listening practice, but also gives students something to TALK about.

  • @SECottrell shared, “IDIOMS. Nothing like it for promoting more natural language sets. In this post you’ll find a long list of Spanish songs with high-frequency idiomatic expressions.”
  • @welangley said, “If the song is on a cultural topic we can have real-world discussions.”
  • @GrowingFrench mentioned, “Students often dislike listening. Music makes that pill a little easier to swallow.”

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Exploring Cultural Practices and Perspectives

Music opens a world of culture. “Music is culture! It shows what is important enough to a culture to make it go mainstream. Plus, videos are great for this!” (@rahanagan). @SrtaJustiniano suggested that #langchat teachers “talk about the artists and their cultures or talk about historical significance.” @MlleSulewski shared the unique perspective that love songs can have, “how does ___ culture express love? what problems do people sing about?” In conclusion (@doriecp):

it is easy to discuss products and practices, but music is an accessible way to delve into the perspectives of a culture.

Thank You

Thank you to the lead guest moderator, Allison (@ SraWienhold) and support moderators Elizabeth (@SraDentlinger) and Megan (@MlleSulewski) for leading the chat on music in the world language classroom. Thank you to all the wonderful #langchat participants for sharing your input and suggestions! Have a topic you’d like to discuss? Check out the #langchat wiki and suggest a topic!

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Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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