07 January 2015

Coro Roulette: Bellringer Modifications for Intermediate Level

The daily chorus bellringer is hands down the most popular activity I have ever done. It's the ideal way to get Spanish language stuck in kids' heads and build skills.

It's also a little lame.

Novices need to learn to follow along with something they read. They need to get a catchy chorus stuck in their head to build confidence and fluency. They need to say something fun over and over--with a beat--to wrap their minds and mouths around new sounds.

Intermediates, not so much.

My Spanish II kids this semester have all had a semester's worth of coros, and while I think it'll be healthy to ease them back in with the familiar structure for the first few weeks, even at the Novice Mid level, they're ready to tackle more challenging tasks--and still rock out, of course.

Some things stay the same
Now I still want these suckers stuck in their head, so the singalong is a must. I can, however, cut out the vocab building and cut back the rote repetition to maybe just one of the three days.

The performance is still key, but needs a little extra oomph to begin moving my novice babies from "parrot" mode to "survivor" mode. I want to stick to just the chorus to keep the catchy factor, but maybe longer choruses. They need to be interpreting broader swaths of text, i.e. sentences and strings of sentences rather than cherry picking words here and there.

Adding interpersonal
So I'm taking a page from Amy Lenord and her post on Teaching Music FOR Communication, which I've been mulling over since last year.

Amy has some great ideas about how to get kids talking about music, comparing and contrasting songs and expressing their opinions. Some ideas she had on what novices could do got me thinking:
NOVICE LOW / MIDS could...
  • listen to the music and describe it*
  • discuss whether or not they like the music and why*
  • state their opinions about it*
  • discuss which song(s) they prefer and why*
  • discuss what they think or thought about the song / video*
  • argue which song / artist is the best and why*
Originally I was thinking they might engage in these lofty discourses at the week's end, but then I got to thinking: what if the communication actually let them choose the direction of the class? What if their opinions counted for something?

And thus the idea of Coro Roulette was born.

Day 1: Options
Goodness knows I have a preponderance of possibilities collected on Pinterest (especially if I keep poking around Spotify and following Sra. Birch), and on top of the semester's worth of coro sheets I have posted on TeachersPayTeachers, I have a dozens of sheets created for songs that I've never even used! So why not let them choose the week's song?

STEP 1: I'll pick 3 song choruses to play, maybe with a common structure, theme, country, or genre, or maybe with a variety. We'll see.

STEP 2: Students will take turns asking me questions (in the TL) about the 3 songs to help decide which song they want to vote for and build their case as to why. They could ask about the artist, genre, country of origin, or even vocabulary.

I really like Amy's idea here, too, of providing them with comparative phrases and song descriptors (I will probably be ripping off the activity sheet on the aforementioned post here).

STEP 3: Students partner up and express which song they like and why, expressing their agreement or disagreement and stating their cases. Hint: they must come to an agreement, because each pair gets one vote!

STEP 4: Vote. Each pair voices a vote for one song, but their vote only gets counted if they give a reason--potentially a unique reason, as I will be writing the reasons on the board.

STEP 5: Suspense. I mean, it's sort of a democratic process, but I'm really more of a benevolent dictator. Plus I'd really like to keep both classes on the same page. ("Less," remember?)

Day 2: The Reveal
It could be any of the songs playing when they walk in, but when class officially starts, that's when the week's song is revealed!

I'll play it one time, have them repeat after me two times, and repeat it to each other a few times, then we'll discuss and summarize together.

Day 3: Show Time
Instead of just getting in front of the class (or the whole cafeteria, or a freshman science class, as some were wont to do last year) to sing or speak, students will have to put their presentational skills (of course they still have to sing) together with their interpretive skills. I'd like to give them some choices on how they can do that, maybe after I've forced them to try each once.

  • Mini music video - they could use Adobe Voice and add an image to represent each line and/or key words, maybe even go all out with the Green Screen app or simply a paper slide video
  • Storyboard - they could illustrate each line of the song, by hand or possibly with cited images
  • Dance moves - they could make up moves that express key words and main ideas
It might even be fun to post a highlight reel to a class YouTube channel--or the school Facebook page!--each week.


  1. Have you seen Sharon's "eres el juez" activity? It would be perfect to help them structure what they like and do not like: http://elmundodebirch.wikispaces.com/NECTFL+Workshop+2012