05 June 2013

More Music! More ways to seek culture outside of class

My students had two requests for the weekly "opciones" assignment for next year: more music and more food. We'll get to the food later, but I have a few ideas for how we can work some more Spanish music into students lives outside Spanish class.

Since I stole Sra. Cottrell's idea two years ago, I've worked my way up to over 30 possibilities for students to seek out the target language and target culture in the world around them. If they really want to, they only ever have to do five different activities, for though they have to choose a different activity from the list each week, their slates are wiped clean each six weeks. Still, they want more choices, and really, I can see how some of the choices may not be as invigorating for those in my required-but-not-technically-required Spanish classes as they are for me. And, really, music is one of the most accessible yet most engaging possibilities (I was actually asked to remove a book choice because they find it easy yet boring) for connecting with the language and culture outside of class.

At present, I have but four different musical activities to offer (3 of which I ripped off from Sra. C.): LyricsTraining, radio listening, iTunes browsing, and Spotify Top Lists.


  • Lyrics TrainingAwesome website that exposes students to authentic target culture music videos while making them break down lyrics cloze style at a difficulty level of their choosing. This choice is so popular, I let them use different levels as separate activities.
  • Listen to the radioOf course exploring a local station is ideal, but who would deny the power of a Pandora or LastFM station to help students find stuff they actually like--rather than what my husband lovingly refers to as "Mexican hat band music." The trick is getting them to actually do it for an HOUR, rather than just jot down some names while passing songs. Still, the chance of getting them hooked is much greater if they're accessing the music at all.
  • iTunes browsingThis one seems less hip as there is more and more free music online, but it's another way to find more artists you like once you've found one (they basically start with Shakira, which is not all bad).
  • Spotify Top ListsMe, I like my free music from Spotify, because I can choose the song I want to hear--for the most part. There's a button to the side called "Top Lists" that takes you to the most popular songs and albums, and you can switch the lists to Spain. Of course they'll have English music, too, but it's a little insight into the culture to see how some things carry across languages. Plus the task is to make a playlist of songs they like from those Top Lists (I hope they like Melendi and Pablo Alboran, by the way). The playlist thing is one I fully intend to exploit in the new choices, too.

I've long had students wanting a "translate my favorite song to Spanish" option, but you know and I know that they know that's just a job for Google, or maybe WordReference. Plus where's the culture in that? The discovery? Even the "translate my favorite Spanish song to English" option is still pretty...shallow.

So I'm looking for something that has exposure to authentic texts from the target culture. And fulfilling some standards wouldn't hurt either. Do you know what my kids have been needing more examples of for their impending state-mandated portfolio evaluations? Speaking and listening.

One Novice Low standard from North Carolina Essential Standards for World Languages that students really haven't been able to check after a semester with me has been "Use the language to recite memorized poetry and songs from the target culture," or "Use the language to recite and act out simple poetry and songs from the target culture" at the Novice Mid level.

Record yourself:

  • Record yourself (audio or video) singing a popular kids' song in Spanish from a Spanish-speaking country.
  • Record yourself (audio or video) singing a song in Spanish by a popular artist or group from a Spanish-speaking country.
  • Find a Spanish language sing from a popular dance genre (e.g. bachata, cumbia, reggaeton, duranguense) from a Spanish-speaking country and record yourself (video) dancing in the style associated with that genre. (It doesn't really demonstrate any sort of comprehension or memorizing, I know, but they are listening and engaging with the culture, one might say they're even "acting out simple poetry," and it appeals to different strengths/interests.)
Create a playlist:

  • Create a playlist of at least 10 songs in Spanish on Spotify or YouTube that center around the same theme (e.g. breakups, inspirational, community, justice). Be sure to title your playlist with the theme you aim to express. You may choose to download from Amazon or iTunes as well,  if you want to own the songs.
  • Create a playlist of at least 10 songs in Spanish by 10 different artists on Spotify or YouTube that represent one country or region (e.g. Caribbean,  Central America, South America). Be sure to title your playlist with the name of the country or region you're representing. You may choose to download from Amazon or iTunes as well,  if you want to own the songs.
  • Create a playlist of at least 10 songs in Spanish on Spotify or YouTube to serve as a soundtrack for key scenes from a popular movie. Be sure to title your playlist with the name of the movie and put the songs in the order of the scenes you want them to align with.
If enough students do these activities, and I think many will, I could even have a page where I collect playlists and maybe some exceptional recordings, and reviewing each other could even become a 38th option!

1 comment:

  1. Great ideas! Looking forward to modifying this for my own class. Thanks for sharing. Another option you could offer for the techies is to have students take a song in Spanish & illustrate it with CC images or their own drawing & then create a slide show/YouTube video and have the song playing in the background.

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