13 January 2016

Pop Song Practice: Daily listening and speaking

I originally set up daily chorus bellringers based on a strategy designed to improve reading fluency. I had assumed that listening and speaking skills would naturally follow, too, and results from last year's final IPAs suggested I may have been right...on everything but listening.

Enter Gianfranco Conti and The Language Gym.

Since those IPA results--and the 100% positive reviews for musical starters--belonged to the group starting Spanish II this semester, I decided to adapt coros to include several of the strategies Dr. Conti recommended in his posts on listening:


The interpersonal touch and regular conversational practice with coro roulettes seemed to help last year's group a lot too, so the chat aspect stays. However, having used almost all my good stuff in previous year's coro sets, I'm having to scrounge up a lot of new stuff already. In other words, I don't think I can dig up three songs a week--much less three super-duper-catchy songs a week.

Also, the micro-listening strategies are going to take significantly more prep ahead of time, and I don't feel like tripling that.

So here's the 2016 playlist I have so far, with lyric videos included for the "transcripts." (These should be plenty since I skip weeks with IPAs too.)

I took all of these songs and made a master list of chorus lyrics, including the artist name, the song title, and the country of origin--2 Mexico, 2 Spain (plus an Islas Canarias), 3 Colombia, 1 DR, 1 Argentina, 2 Venezuela, and 1 Puerto Rico. (I also color coded for gender, and I'm afraid I didn't find much in the way of catchy female-driven songs this time. But I may keep adding.)


Now Mondays are pretty much all portfolio days, and we got seat time waivers to do "flex Fridays" early college style (read: no class), so I'm still looking at a three-day format (though I will, of course, be playing the playlist on repeat during those portfolio Mondays).

Every day, students will get to
  • hear the song while they see the lyrics
  • analyze/interpret
  • and discuss their reactions to the song
The way the lyrics will be presented will change each day, however. They'll get the benefit of a regular old lyric video the first time, but after that, they'll have to do some micro-listening to "see" them! The analysis, too, will progress, starting at a vocabulary level, moving up to line-by-line interpretation. Similarly, the reaction chats will progress from superficial first impressions to meaningful connections. I'm hoping that the chats will help make forming complex sentences spontaneously a habit.

We'll set up a separate interactive notebook page with a quick reference of musical descriptors like we had for coro roulettes, but we'll move away from sentence starters to focus on the spontaneity of it all.

Day 1 - Introduction

  1. Listen with transcript (lyric videos)I dug up a lyric video for almost all of the songs selected (how about that emoti video for the Alkilados song??). The interesting thing is these are also a form of authentic texts. When I teach English, the emphasis is on Scholarly, Reliable Resources, but aren't lyrics videos a fascinating artifact of target cultures? And a great point for cultural comparison, I must stay. And of course they're perfect for singalongs.
  2. Match vocabulary with pictures
    I went ahead and bolded 3-5 words that would be useful to understand from each of the choruses in the master list. I've started my image stash to go with each (sin and aunque will be tricky).
  3. Fill in blanks
    We called it "cloze reading" in my English methods class, and Dr. Conti calls it "gap-fill," but whatever the name, it's another excuse to review the lyrics while looking at them--without just reciting over and over. I quick copied the lyrics master list, plugged in some blanks where the bolded words were, and voila!
  4. REACTION  CHAT - OpinionIt doesn't take much to say what you like and why (me gusta, es, tiene), so for this chat, students will focus on finding out their partner's first impression, their opinion of the song: style (rhythm, melody, etc.) and sentiment.

Day 2 - Interpretation

  1. Break the flow
    One of Dr. Conti's micro-listening strategies, this is another excuse to start off with reviewing the written lyrics in combination with the song while using some of the principles from Making It Stick to, well, get the lyrics to stick better than with simple rote. And this time, they'll get to see the Official Video!
  2. Spot the verb
    Dr. Conti advises getting students to process "key grammatical / discourse features" of words, which helps students file their understanding to make it accessible. Focusing on verbs seems a good way to emphasize essential verbs, to draw attention to conjugation without conjugating, and to build up mortar for forming more varied sentences. I might also vary it a little to address particular patterns of grammar problems I see, like adjective agreement or the eternal el/la/los/las struggle.
  3. REACTION CHAT - Analysis
    At this point, the students should be forming a basic understanding of the song and the video itself, so they can go beyond surface reactions. This time, their goal is to find out their partner's thoughts on the message and melody of the song and how they fit with the video's images.

Day 3 - Connection

  1. Broken words
    Another micro-listening strategy that involves a little more microscopic? listening. Vowels are some of the trickiest parts of hearing and spelling--for native speakers, too. Also the key to many useful linguistic patterns. So this time when they listen, all of the vowels are removed, and students must write them in.
  2. Order translated linesStudents didn't seem to be retaining the meaning of coros in previous years, but this is a pretty simple way to sneak in some English without making it just a translation. I made another copy of my master list, translated the lines, and then move them around, and students can just number the lines as they listen!
  3. REACTION CHAT: ConnectionThe English teacher in me wants students to make meaningful connections with what they hear and read, so they will ask their partners about how the chorus relates to their personal experiences, the world around them (ie history and news), as well as other texts they've read/heard in whatever language (songs, stories, shows, movies).

Final IPA listening results have already improved with the adjustment of listening texts used, but it is a skill I hope students will be able to grow still more comfortable with and more proficient in by tying it more closely to music in daily practice. And 

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