Thursday, April 24, 2014

Music Tips for the Language Classroom

Hola! I’m Caroline Marion, a retired teacher who enjoyed using music in my Spanish, French and
ESL classes. I have a few tips I’d like to share with you to help you jazz up your classes. Face the music, the repetition required to learn a foreign language can get downright boring.

Why use music to teach a foreign language?  Music makes learning more fun and memorable. Through songs we can work on pronunciation, phrasing, and informal speech.  Use familiar songs, folk songs, or short melodies to help memorize information.  Choose a melody that is easy to remember.  Below are examples of tunes I’ve used.

Sing Spanish days of the week to the tune of Fray Felipe.
Lunes, martes, lunes, martes
Miércoles, miércoles
Jueves, viernes, jueves, viernes
Sábado, domingo

The phrase “Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta, no llores” (from Cielito Lindo) helped my Spanish students remember that the affirmative “tú” command drops the “s” but the negative command retains the “s” and changes the ending from “–as” to“-es” on “–ar ending verbs”. I had my students memorize this phrase.  When test  time came around, they could hum the melody to remember the rule.

La Bamba can help drill the use of por/para. I used El Condor Pasa (sung by Claudia de Colombia) to drill the future tense.

My favorite song for ESL students is Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp)  - (Allan Sherman) My students liked this funny song and asked me to play it more than once.  Use it at the end of the school year.  Talk about summer camps and ask about your students’ summer plans.

For French holidays like Bastille Day, July 14th, sing the French national anthem, La Marseillaise and on Jan. 6th, Three Kings’ Day, sing La Marche Des Rois.

I was never surprised by the number of musically talented students that signed up for French.  No doubt they were drawn to the language that is music to one’s ears. Why not involve your musically talented students and ask them to make up raps to help learn information (vocabulary, grammar rules and verb conjugations)? Make your own kind of music!

You can also use songs for listening comprehension.  Make a copy of the song and delete some of the words for a fill in the blank activity.  Focus on vocabulary, verbs or grammar concepts you wish to drill.  As students listen to the song, they fill in as many blanks as they can. Go over the song and help them with any responses they missed.  Then, sing the song.

To drill parts of speech, have students circle any part of speech you wish to target that appears several times in the chosen song:  verbs (command forms, past tense, future tense, present perfect), nouns, and adjectives. If you want to target more than one part of speech, have students underline, circle and put at X through target words.

ESL teachers might be interested in my freebie, Songs My ESL Teacher Taught Me.

Hope these tips strike the right note with you. Now go for it and have more fun teaching with music!

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