An Idea About A Song

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18 thoughts on “An Idea About A Song”

  1. I really like this idea of working a song through circling and PQA. I’m very curious about how you do it. Would you only focus on these two phrases or would you try to get 100% comprehension from the text? What level would you use this story with? I love this song. Makes me happy. Also, she does a great cover of the Moldy Peaches song from Juno, found here

    My kids love hearing the president’s wife sing such a familiar, catchy tune.


  2. I have been working with songs much more lately, but I have been using them at the opposite end, as the reading. I think this is a great idea, but I also think it is powerful when the kids can read the lyrics to a song (pop song or otherwise) without help from the teacher.

    If the entire song is not comprehensible (which they haven’t been for the ones I’ve been using lately), at least just the chorus or a stanza, wherever the target structure(s) lie (amidst other comprehensible text preferably, but not necessarily).

    As I keep doing this, I am realizing that songs usually contain enough good high-frequency structures/words, that I can wait until Friday to read the lyrics, and use the week to PQA/storytime/read those structures in other contexts. Now that I think of it, this is basically Anne’s plan, but with song lyrics instead of prose.

    And yes, what a nice song! And I must say, it was very uplifting to be able to pick out words that I had learned in French a couple years back while enjoying the beauty of it all.

  3. Jim that is where it is all going for me. I just don’t know quite how. But what a simple idea. It’s Anne’s plan, only for songs. Today I worked with Le Coeur Au Bonheur from Les Misérables. That is one hell of a song. But I didn’t frontload anything. I just put up the song, we got its meaning, and played it. If I were to do Anne’s plan on this, they could, as you say, just read it when ready, Friday or whenever, and boom they hear it and the magic happens. The level of riveting of interest, the rapt expressions on their faces, the involvement of their hearts, the pin drop silence today as they followed along with the words, transferring their own young lives onto the stage today with Marius and Cosette and Eponine, that level of CI which was light years ahead of even the best stories and PQA, proves to me once again that there is TPRS and then there is TPRS MUSIC.

    The big problem, though, is that we have so much fun with the cards and the word chunking and especially the one word images, and all of that PQA, and there is such a high level of CI command and just plain jocularity in those things, that there is no time for stories or music. Oh well, it’s all going to take shape this year with the music. No more putting it off. Can’t wait until it shows what form it’s gonna take. Here are my top three things in the method now:

    1. PQA (one word images, cards, word chunking, name emphasis)
    2. Music
    3. Stories

    Funny, putting stories #3. But that is how much power lies in the PQA and the music. Duke is coming up from Mexico in a few weeks. He is going to educate me on the specifics of making the music thing come together. But Jim, I just heard another thud as a giant step forward happened for me – music using Anne’s plan. That’s gonna be good. Muy good. Thanks for the idea. Let’s keep this thread going this year.

    (We’re doing it. We’re going from the boredom of the two dimensional past to the three dimensional excitement of now, an excitement based in sound and emotion and not in stuff on paper and visual manipulation of shapes on a page. We are shedding the chains of the past, in spite of all opposition, in spite of those people who think that TPRS is not what it really is. We are sticking to our vision. Each day, we pick up new things. Donna Tatum-Johns is coming to Denver Public on Monday for an all day thing. Diana only brings in the best to train us. Then I will ask Donna to come coach me in my classroom the next day. Little by little, in each seemingly unimportant peer coaching session, in each day of trying, either shredding or succeeding at PQA, falling on our asses or hitting a home run, we move closer to our goal of aligning our instruction with Dr. Krashen’s superfine vision. I’m feeling it. I’m making up for two and a half decades of bullshit teaching. In each comment here, reading the hearts of people like Jody and Skip and these other truly wonderful people, a little of the pain of those twenty five years goes away. O.K. I’m done, but I’ve got my ear to the rails and I like what I hear. There’s a train a’comin.)

  4. Sometimes it’s easy to put down the songs that have been “adapted” specifically for the classroom – especially if the lyrics were written solely to teach a grammar point – and extol the “purity” of an authentic song. (Don’t get me wrong, I think the genuine article from the culture is tops, but . . .) On the other hand, if the song was written to help communicate, these “lesser” songs can provide that easy access to understanding. In my level 2 class we’ve been talking about school subjects: which ones you like, which ones you don’t like, who likes chemistry, etc. Then I played Uwe Kind’s “Was ist denn dein Lieblingsfach?” (So what’s your favorite subject?) First the students listened for certain phrases, then we worked on meaning and explaining in German, then students sang along. Some of my too cool students actually sang – not very loudly, but they sang. Then I gave a homework sheet with a list of “Lieblings-” items: favorite class, favorite singer, favorite music, favorite car, favorite color, etc. There was even room for them to add their own categories. Students wrote in their answers but didn’t share them with anyone. Instead, I explained that they would give them to me and I would read them. Students would try to guess who it was by what they liked. To my utter amazement and delight, absolutely every student did the homework. Today I read them in class, and we had a great time going over them.

    One girl pulled a trick by writing someone else’s name and putting down what she thought he “ought” to like. What was so funny was that everyone in the class was guessing him for this while he was “outraged” (but still loving the attention) over the ridiculous answers someone had written. At first he thought his sister and played the trick on him because he had forgotten the homework and his sister brought it to school. Anyway, it has given me a great idea for next time. I’ll have students do two worksheets: one for themselves and a fantasy one for someone else in the class. We’ll see which one the others think fits the person better.

  5. Sounds great. I love how you focus on the chorus to milk the repeats and keep it simple. Also how you integrate an established practice, like the 3 steps, with something new, like well known popular authentic songs that millions of people already care about. If you wanna challenge some assumptions, try these:

    1. Let the kids choose the songs. You say they don’t know where to start. Have you tried asking them? Hello? Like to check out songs in French on YouTube or DailyMotion or something? I’d definitely try that as step #1. Ask.

    If you ask question #1 and it fails, then step #2 would ask the students to choose between a list of 3 or 4 songs or artists. Let the kids own the learning. Why does FVR work? Make your life easier. Give them the keys to unlock their own love for the French.

    2. Target vocab for interaction. Kids don’t really care about what songs or words we teachers like or not. Sorry. They don’t care about language methods or pedagogical infighting. All they really wanna do is talk to each other. Help.

    3. Let there be output. Let learners connect with sound. Without meaning. Like mimicry. Imitation. You repeatedly poo poo early output because you say it’s too much on the brain.

    But if a body can simply focus on sound, not worried about the meaning, it can help somebody C) hear new sounds, get input better, B) have fun with new sounds and A) start interacting with other bodies using new sounds. Could output be more fun?

    Whatever. Songs can be a great way to play and mess around with output because they are so real and heartfelt and expressive. Easy to mimic. Fun to imitate. So let there be humming in the inner dialogs and singing out loud in the shower or wherever. Let the songs help output out.

    We might guess where this is going. We may get twice as much done with half the work. More and more, around the world, kids will be using tweeting, skyping, youtubing and maybe even twexting to teach each other cool new words and how to use them. They’ll be learning useful words to flirt and gossip and have fun. With each other. Not us.

    How can we get out of the way, and just be there to help them do what they wanna do? How can we learn to help students teach each other language?

  6. Duke, I agree for early output! They LOVE trying to talk or better yet SING at any age. How horrible as kids when you’re dying to say something and you’re not allowed to participate with adults (or teachers). It means you’re left out, can’t play. How discouraging…

    Obviously, I would never force a student to speak or sing but songs can succeed where normal speech/conversation doesn’t. I think students should be encouraged to talk and sing. What counts is TRYING and not being afraid of making mistakes. Setting this stage is the role and responsibility of the teacher.

    What about lip syncing contests between students???

  7. I like the way Duke worded #3: LET there be output. – i.e. LET output happen, don’t force it. Either extreme, forcing or forbidding output, is counterproductive. Allowing output to happen and giving opportunity for it to happen gives students the freedom they need. Unfortunately, in the world of public schools there comes a point at which we must assess output. Fortunately – at least in my case – it can be postponed until most students are ready, we just normally don’t know it. What really bothers me is the textbook formula of
    1. Here’s the new vocab
    2. Here’s the new grammar
    3. Start talking/writing using this new material
    all in the same day.

  8. Finally somebody said it clearly. Thanks, Robert. Now all we have to do is to work on formulating what you wrote above into a curricular articulation path over four years. Exactly when, if we “merely allow” output to happen (thanks Duke), do we say that we “teach” the speaking skill? Just in case the grammar police want to take us in for questioning.

  9. I presented a fairly difficult song in my level 2 on Friday. The kids sang. I didn’t ask them to, but they did. Hell, I don’t sing–especially not in front of people. More power to them.

  10. I started my first speaking assessment with my level 2 kids (level 2 TPRS that is) for the first time the last week (we’re half-way done). I used Bryce’s “Language Performance Assessment” where students make up a story or retell a story from the class, using only pictures or proper nouns to recall details. It has been great. Errors, sure. Students were nervous, but they did very well, better than I expected actually. (Many of them I hadn’t heard utter more than a few words in that little over a year time.)

    I’m still not comfortable assessing their speaking abilities that way though… seems way too contrived. I wonder, now that verbal output is measurable to them, will I see a difference in their reluctance to give it a go (to LET it happen naturally), possibly considering themselves failures at it if they do not receive a satisfactory score.

  11. An incredibly talented Russian teacher in my world gave kids a list of compliments to use, and then started oral presentations. Kids spoke, and got not only great compliments but standing ovations. Suddenly, everyone wanted to present!

  12. Fantastic idea that Russian teacher had Michele! I’m going to teach compliments too. I learned from being a music teacher and having 24 kids playing the recorder, to have the ‘listeners’ think positive thoughts and say out loud ‘yes you can do it we’re all behind you’, ‘let me help you’ if they were too afraid and when finished, to applaud the peformer. Their first performance in the class was the scariest but how they beamed with pride aftewards. Oh I need to bring that into my language classroom! Thanks for sharing that. I’d forgotten!!

  13. Output.. here’s an ouput link from somewhere in Steve Kaufmann’s blog replies: .. pretty painful, huh? Haha. Thanks to austinfd =:~)

    Question, again. Is the real problem not with “Output” but rather with the bad feelings experienced when the output sucks? If the problem is really in the feelings, then is it a mistake to blame the correlated action? Could a similar action of attempted output cause and correlate with an opposite feeling? Like FUN?

    Is it possible for learners to experience good feelings while producing (increasingly accurate) output? Sounds like lotsa folks around here are closet output likers. It also that there are good tactics to induce (but not coerce) FUN ouput. Sounds great =)

    pd que si hay profes de Español que quieren investigar skype exchange con canciones y estudiantes aquí en México lindo y querido, favor de avisarme: , gracias

  14. Not Supposed To be Here (Mr. S. you know who I am)

    I have to admit, Thursdays class was amazing!!! I also have to add that, wow, I am very appreciative to your help with my song. tee hee im on your cite! AGAIN! Anyway, your excitement towards the initial writing of it is what realy kicked me off. You say “Go for it” and that’s exactly what I did, I went for it. I wrote that sucker within 20 mins of getting home! Also, thank you for the help with revising, you’re a life saver. Bottom line, I have never seen a teacher so excited about his/her students anywhere close to what you have shown me in just the past 3 months. You rock Mr. Slavic! See you Thursday!!

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