Songs as a culture hook!

Everyone who knows me knows that I love using music in my classes. The teachers next door and upstairs from me DEFINITELY know it. If the bass is pumping it must be Placido’s class. Music is SO powerful. How many adults do you know who can still sing an entire album by heart that they listened to over and over during their teen years. (Today’s kids really miss out on the experience of listening to entire albums the way the artist intended, but I digress…) Music attaches itself deeply to our hearts and becomes the soundtrack of the most important times of our lives. Music also attaches itself to our brains. I know as a second language learner, I have acquired so many words and language structures and so much syntax and pronunciation from listening to Spanish music. Is music comprehensible? Sometimes. Does music have to be completely comprehensible to have an impact? No.

While there are many ways I use music in my classes, one of my favorite things to do is to exploit song lyrics or a music video for cultural details. We can discuss the culture that we see or I can provide a comprehensible reading that expands upon the culture in the lyrics or the video. The song itself is the ‘hook’ that gets the students invested in wanting to know more about the people who create/enjoy/inspire the song!

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 8.33.42 PMOne of my students’ favorite song units last year was Yo voy ganao by Sistema Solar. This song depicts fishers in Colombia working and enjoying their catch. Well, many of MY students also love fishing, being that we live in the Great Lakes State! So I decided to research the fishers depicted in the music video. I learned all about the people of Taganga (which, let’s face it, it super fun to say), and thanks to YouTube, I even learned how they fish with their giant nets. I movie-talked a video of fishermen working, and then together we read a comprehensible reading I created about the net fishers of Taganga and additionally read a comprehensible fictional account of the day in the life of a typical fisherman from Taganga. My students were very engaged and I think I really owe it all to the fact that the music is fun and upbeat and the people in the video were real people. Combine that with the fact that they connected with the love of fishing and we had a home run. The next time we watched the video AFTER we had completed our cultural lessons, they were noticing new things about the music video, and many of them (myself included!) decided they’d like to travel to Colombia one day!

Some of my other favorite songs that are a great hook for culture include: Robarte un beso (What is a vallenato?), La bicicleta (How do we play Bola ‘e trapo?), Jueves (the terrorist attack of March 11, 2004 in Madrid…we compare to the bombing of Guernica). Not every song has a cultural hook, but there are many that do! Keep your ears open, and be ready to comprehensify the culture of a song!

Strike a chord!

If you are looking for great ideas, inspiration, and the work done for you, here are some great places to look for resources that turn authentic songs into comprehensible input!

Martina Bex’ store is The Comprehensible Classroom. Be sure to also like her on facebook and follow her amazing blog! Martina is “striking a chord” with the song Simples corazones by Fonseca. Her resource introduces students to the city of Bogotá through the landmarks shown in the music video.

Carrie Toth’s store is Somewhere to Share. Stop by and see her on facebook as well! Carrie is featuring the song Sirena by Cali y el Dandee. In this unit, Carrie goes beyond the cloze, providing acquisition through narrative with Movie Talk, and a class story. Students make connections to real-world issues AND enjoy this amazing song! Carrie blogs at Somewhere to Share. Carrie also shares resources through her facebook page!

Nelly Hughes shares resources at Comprendes Méndez SpanishShop as well as on Facebook. Nelly is proud to share the song Cuando nadie me ve by Morat. In this resource, she shares not only the song but also how she teaches Ollantay’s Peruvian love story as well as information about Ollantaytambo, Perú. Her resource features Picture Talk and a couple of CI games. Students form lasting connections between content and music!

Kristy Placido, of Placido Language Resources, shares her ideas on exploiting the culture in a song as a “hook” in this blog post. She demonstrates the power of connecting students’ own interests via music and culture in a music video through the Song of the Week resource Yo voy ganao by Sistema Solar. Kristy also shares ideas and resources through her facebook page!

Arianne Dowd shares her resources at her store CCC Spanish Store and is also an active blogger at Discovering CI. One of her favorite ways to connect students to music is through stories. She created this resource for the song Robarte un beso by Carlos Vives and Sebastián Yatra which features an embedded reading to help make the story comprehensible for students at all levels!

Kara Jacobs’ store is Comprehensifying and Extending Authentic Resources and she also blogs actively at CEAuthres. Her featured song is La cintura by Álvaro Soler. Kara’s specialty is creating great class stories leading up to a main story that is based on the song or music video.

Would you like to enter to WIN one of NINE TPT gift cards?

THREE steps to enter!

1) LIKE on Facebook or RETWEET a Strike a Chord post (at least one; or like/retweet them all!)!

2) FOLLOW these stores on TpT: Comprendes Méndez SpanishShop, Placido Language Resources, Somewhere to Share, Comprehensifying and Extending Authentic Resources, CCC Spanish Store, and The Comprehensible Classroom

3) COMMENT one way that you use music as a source for Comprehensible Input on a Facebook post of at least one of those stores.


Complete the form to be entered in the giveaway!  

2-$50 TpT gift cards

2-$25 TpT gift cards

5-$10 TpT gift cards

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