Why Music Needs a Place in Your Curriculum
A world language classroom without music from the target culture is like a city park with no trees. We can use music to entertain, motivate, and even tell stories. The ultimate compliment is when a student tells me that they re-listened to the song from class or found other songs from the same artist on Spotify on their own time. Catching them singing the song with their friends in the hall is a close second! I use two specific approaches on “míercoles de música”: working with lyrics and Movie Talk with screenshots from the music video.
Working with Lyrics
Even in my intermediate classes, I almost never work with the entire lyrics. First, songs often contain loads of low frequency vocabulary and colloquialisms that are specific to one country. Second, artists often change the pronunciation, word order, and the natural stress on the words to make them fit the song. I pick several lines that I can use PQA (personalized questions and answers) with. I ask my students what kind of song it is and why. Going narrow and deep with the lyrics rather than trying to tackle the entire song gives you a better return on your time.
Describing the Music Video with Screenshots
Using stills from the official music video to talk about the story it contains prior to playing it was a game changer for my Wednesday classes. The idea is to build up suspense to where the students can’t wait to watch it while at the same time keeping them guessing about what will happen. One caveat: as this activity is essentially a series of Picture Talks, there is so much going on that you can talk about. Don’t spend so much time on it that your students are slumped back in their seats by the time you actually play the video!
Jesse y Joy – Dueles (2015)
Jesse y Joy make my short list of favorite artists in any language for many reasons – their songwriting, the range of Joy’s voice, and so on. Making sacrifices is a common theme in many of their songs. An obvious discussion point for this video would be whether the boyfriend did the right thing by robbing the mafia owners of the restaurant where he worked. That can lead into a debate of whether the ends justifies the means. Creo que… and Pienso que… followed by one’s reasoning is higher-level thinking and great preparation for AP for those going that route.
Enrique Iglesias – Quizás (2002)
Not only is this a great music video, but the song is slow enough that most students who are novice-high or above are able to pick up on a good deal of the lyrics just by listening to it. Quizás is both a high frequency word and a rejoinder that should be getting lots of repetitions in our classrooms. Kids also love saying it!
We talked about the irony that many people who live in large cities with millions of people often feel so lonely. This is a good video to use to talk about the relationships between mothers and daughters and fathers and their sons. My students were all sure that the father and his son had gone to the diner to find the girl whose mom was ignoring her.
Chino y Nacho with Daddy Yankee – Andas en mi cabeza (2016)
Sadly, Chino and Nacho went their separate ways in early 2017. This song is a collaboration between Chino y Nacho and Daddy Yankee. If your kids are anything like mine, they probably ask you to play Daddy Yankee anytime you’re talking about music. This is one of the few songs that he has worked on that has lyrics that I would feel comfortable with using in class.
The video features several marriage proposals. I took the screenshots just at the moment before it becomes apparent what is going on. Throughout the Movie Talk, I explain to the students that none of the scenes have anything to do with one another. This keeps them guessing as to where the woman from the first scene is going while she follows the string. Remember, you want to build up their interest through your questioning (without giving away the ending) to where they can’t wait to watch the movie to see what actually happens.
Nicky Jam with Silvestre Dangond – Cásate conmigo (2017)
The music video starts with some dialogue that you will probably need to walk your students through to set up what the two are planning to do. The lyrics are quite catchy – your students will be asking one another to marry them for weeks to come after doing this song! Ask the class why they thought Nicky and Silvestre didn’t propose to their girlfriends in the end scene. I ask my students variations of “Would you…if…?” and add crazy conditions whenever I can in instances like this.
Juan Magán with Gente de Zona – He llorado (como un niño) (2015)
Gente de Zona takes other artists’ songs from good to great (think of “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias for example). While I don’t seek out resources with specific grammar structures, the reality is that many teachers who want to go full-on-CI are tied to a grammar syllabus. That being said, this song is loaded up with the present perfect. Many music videos have flashbacks that would only make sense to talk about in the past tense. “He llorado” has several – the scene with the old fishing boat, the kids playing soccer, and the boy and girl chasing each other through the maze of houses.
Gente de Zona with Marc Anthony – Traidora (2016)
Gente de Zona is one of my favorite Latin groups. They bring so much energy to their music, plus you know any music video with Marc Anthony is going to be a high production value cinematic masterpiece. There is a segment between 2:52 and 2:59 with the woman in the lighthouse that you may want to screen depending on your school. Like “He llorado” by Juan Magán, there are several opportunities (the kids riding bikes and finding the picture on the church door) to talk about the past using the imperfect tense.