Jody on Songs

Jody wrote in 2009:
I also teach songs. Duh– (especially with my little ones), but NOT because I actually believe it increases language acquisition very much. That is pretty easy to prove. Stuff from songs very rarely shows up in spontaneous speech–my litmus test.
Why do I teach songs (and I do in all of my classes):
I do it because I like it. I’m a singer and musician. It is my passion.
I do it because I believe it gives kids a window into culture.
I do it because it creates a classroom community (we’re all doing something together).
I do it because it is a rest and respite from the intensity of stories.
I cannot not defend it as a great language acquisition strategy, however. The evidence isn’t there for me. Yes, they enjoy it (most of them) which could mean they will relate more positively to the language itself (no proof here either).
I know how long it actually takes to acquire language; I look at the paltry number of hours actually alloted to the task in our schools; I look at the exceedingly high and unrealistic expectations for acquisition levels after that paltry number of hours; and I know my own propensity for wasting time. I want to use that time to its best advantage. Personalized Comprehensible Narrative works better in my opinion.
I will still teach songs, but with little illusion for great language acquisition and much illusion for the supreme enjoyment of the beautiful sound of music and language together. Can’t wait for the evidence proving me wrong because, of course, songs are more fun.



13 thoughts on “Jody on Songs”

  1. Jody, my first reaction is to disagree with the statement, “Stuff from songs very rarely shows up in spontaneous speech.” I go down the line of a Mana or Jarabe de Palo album, and all of the titles, which are usually the chorus as well, are pretty high-frequency language.
    I feel that songs are a powerful acquisition tool, especially because of their ability to be listened to repeatedly with enjoyment. Though I agree with you that “Personalized Comprehensible Narrative” works best in the classroom.

    1. Jim,
      Interesting that you brought up Mana and Jarabe de Palo. Just today (level 4) we were reading a story we created from the Mana song “Ana.” Sad song, really, about a 15 year old girl who gets pregnant. But it connected really well to a symposium on girls and women that kids just went to, and it’s just a relevant issue, so…. Anyway a couple weeks ago we had listened to/discussed “Grita” by Jarabe de Palo, a totally awesome tune about friendship. Last night when I was writing up the Ana story, embellishing what we had created in class (we wanted to make a happy ending) I found myself “mashing” the lyrics of the two songs together. In “Ana” the girl is all alone with nobody to talk to (se siente sola y desesperada) and in Grita the person has been observing a friend who’s hiding something inside (Hace dias que te observo… / …no se que guardas ahi dentro…). Anyway it was so perfect to combine the two songs because a lot of these expressions are how friends talk to each other!!! And it fit naturally with the Ana story, making it have a different possibility than “se ira para siempre” (she’ll go away forever). It made me think of coming back to “Grita” frequently as a way to get reps on those time expressions with “hace” and also with the thematic repetition of talking to a friend–or someone–about stuff you’re keeping inside. (I know, not necessarily CI, but I like to have life lessons in there…as in, talk to someone ” aqui estamos para eso”/ that’s what we’re here for).
      I’m totally not doing justice to either of these songs, but I love both of these groups. Inspiring and yes, rep-friendly due to “…their ability to be listened to repeatedly with enjoyment.”
      Shooting in the dark here with a level 4 previously non-CI class. Since Mana songs often tell stories, I thought of using a song and then doing class story based on the song. It seems kind of cool because the lyrics are poetic and the kids have to retell the basic story. I guess it’s sort of backwards from embedded reading, because the song is more difficult, but the kids were totally engaged, adding details and other possibilities. This was my first try at this. Like I said, shooting in the dark. 🙂

  2. i could use some recommendations for easy Spanish songs (level 1) if anyone has some. my kids love señor wooly, but i’m wanting more authentic songs…
    also, do you all use Spotify? if not, go to and sign up. it’s free and you can type in the names of most artists/songs and listen to them from your computer.
    i just did this with “grita”!

  3. I’m guessing is like, and if so it is quite useful. I really like Agua, simple with lots of reps of “want to be”, but I will be honest that I’ve never actually used it with a level one class. Honestly, I don’t do much with authentic songs in level one at the point, maybe I should, but I don’t. We start getting into songs in Level 2. I’m going to reconsider that approach. Jarabe de Palo rocks! I enjoyed reading your experiences with the songs Jen.

  4. I want to do more songs, but good CI in the form of listening and reading trumps them, because songs require more pre-teaching of vocabulary, esp. at level one. That is why I agree with Jody (we are both level one teachers). I feel intuitively that songs are just better, like poetry, for the upper levels because of their complexity. As far as the frequency of vocabulary point, I get my biggest return, again, from stories and readings. And I only have so much time per week.

    1. Same here, I don’t use songs for teaching purposes until level 2. In this case, I use them as warm-ups à la Kristy Placido. However, I play German songs every day for my level 1 kids as they enter the classroom. I pick a different song every day and very often the kids will ask for the title and singer so they can download it from iTunes. I feel that this gives me quite a bit of mileage as they are listening to the songs, hearing the sounds of the language, in their free time.

  5. Easy, authentic Spanish 1 Songs that teens like (aside from the amazing Señor Wooly’s wonderful songs):
    Ven Conmigo – Christina Aguilera
    Colores, colores – Bacilos
    Espacio sideral – Jesse y Joy
    Me gustas tú – Manu chao — Use the “clean” version
    ¿Cómo es? — Tom Blodgett
    Alguien soy yo – Enrique Iglesias
    Bonito – Jarabe del Palo
    Eres para mi – Julieta Venegas
    Mi novio es un zombo – Alaska y Dinarama
    Maquillaje – Mecano
    Un mundo ideal (from Aladdin, lyrics by Ricardo Montaner)
    Las Divinas (From novela Atréveta a Soñar, find it in Youtube)
    No Queremos, No — Atrévete a Soñar

    1. A VERY OT comment:
      This past semester has been brutal… Though it may not be true, I have felt many times since August that I just might have taken on too much and that I wasn`t going to be able to “do it” all…
      As a result, for the first time in years, I have not been following the blog as consistently nor as faithfully. This week I have been very sedate due to knee surgery and have time to get back to the blog. I have had many reminders (Ben’s list above for example) of how incredibly valuable this PLC is and how much I have been missing.
      I want to thank everyone for all you share and for all of the support you give!
      Best Wishes for a great 2nd semester and a wonderful 2014!

  6. I have just been looking on you tube for Spanish songs and found a group called Kevin Karla and la banda. They do remakes in Spanish. Does anyone know about this band? What do you think?

    1. very popular with my students… The ONLY caution is that students are very familiar with the songs in English and often assume that the lyrics are the same… Sometimes I wonder if this is a reason NOT to use them….
      The other consideration is that with so little time it might be better to do authentic music and not music by Beiber, One direction etc….?
      I LOVE how the music videos for the songs are the lyrics…. very cool…
      mis dos centavos….
      PS I have also come to the conclusion that I am only going to make the chorus comprehensible… I have found that making the entire song comprehensible takes too long…

  7. Normally we just focus on the chorus as well because of time issues. I normally will choose a song for the chorus. I love the lyrics on screen as well. What I have found is we learn the chorus first year and with my second year classes we rewatch some throughout the year and they can pick up more. I prefer authentic music as well but some of these songs have some great verbs in the chorus. I might try one this month.

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