Saturday, February 14, 2015

Target Language Tunes: One Way to Effectively Use Music in the World Language Classroom

Update, 7/22/15 :  About a month after I first wrote this post in February, I modified the templates, but did not take the time to update my blog. Well, today was the day to make it happen! Click on the link under "Monday" to access the updated version of both templates.

What were the changes I made?  The entire task is in French now. (I left the earlier version of each template up on the site for educators who do not understand French.) There wasn't any reason to have any of it in English initially, in fact; I guess I did it because I created it on the fly and didn't have a lot of time to go over the directions when we first experienced Music Monday. Looking forward to continuing this musical task at my new school in a few weeks! Who knows. I might modify the template yet again. Please let me know what you would add/change. :)


Music moves.
Music uplifts.
Music inspires.
Music empowers.

Let's just say that I can't imagine my life without beautiful, rockin' tunes and opportunities to dance either at small or large venues in cities across the country. Yet, until recently, I rarely played French language music in the classroom or even used it as an interpretive tool for my learners. So, you might ask, "Why the heck not?!?!"  Well, there are a few reasons for this that include the lack of inspiration for lessons that incorporate music, the logistics of planning such a task, and the constant desire to make sure everything ties into the unit perfectly. I'm not one to spend time making a lesson that can only be used once or become outdated. Therefore, I create tasks that can be tweaked slightly, if need be, and used over and over again.

As we all know, Mondays can be rough as we try to wrap our brains around the pressures of the daily grind.  So, two weeks ago, I finally introduced what we are calling, "Lundi en musique!" which sounds so much better in English (Music Monday!) but what can you do. So, here's how it works:

-Sunday (or before if you're not a procrastinator): Go to a top hits website in the target language and pick a song from the top 40 list. If there aren't any great ones (because the list is dominated by American hits,) pick an artist you've already had in the spotlight and then quickly find a video/song on YouTube that you haven't already presented. French Educators: Check out or  or even Yahoo!'s Musique page .

-Monday: Write the title of the song and the artist's name on the white board. Play the song without the visual as learners are entering the classroom. Place the handout on each desk so that everyone is ready to begin when the tardy bell rings. (Click here to download both the novice and intermediate handouts.)  Once class begins, tell the students what day it is, the name of the song, and the artist. Of course, do all of this in the target language. Next, play the song without the music video. Learners begin completing the first section of the handout. Then, ask them to watch the music video and begin completing the second section of the handout. Let them know that they will have time to finish both sections after the video ends. At that point, let them know that they can move on to the last section if they are ready.  Finally, go over their answers when most of the class has completed the task.

The Handout:  This task allows me to do very little prep since it can be used for any song on any given day. It also only requires 10-15 minutes at the beginning of class on Mondays.  For the novice learners, the sections where they use French are developed for them in the form of a checklist and a fill-in for biographical information so that they can feel success while completing this task in a timely manner.  By guiding them in French like this, I'm hoping that these expressions will begin to sink in. We all know that idioms, such as, "I am ___ years old." in romance languages, for example, are tricky for Anglophones. As for the intermediate learners, they are tasked to write their opinion and some biographical information on their own as this type of communication should be feasible at this proficiency level.

Reflections and Tips:  My learners have experienced Lundi en musique! twice now. After seeing that I needed to tweak the handout after the first week, I made changes to the document the following Sunday. The second go-around was much better received AND I was pleased with the timing, learner interest level, use of the target language, and the feedback I received.

If you decide to try out this task, consider the following:

     -Choose your song wisely. If it's a depressing or super serious song, you might want to replace it with something that will get your learners minds and bodies moving.  The first song I chose was rather sad whereas my choice for the second week was upbeat, a little romantic, and dance-worthy. Needless to say, my learners enjoyed the second selection much more than the first.

     -Encourage even your novice learners to share their opinion of the song/artist along with the biographical information in the target language before switching to English for an interpretive discussion.

     -Inspire your learners to get excited about target language music. When I realized that a group of students were checking out the artist on Instagram last Monday, I knew that this task was going to appear regularly. I had several requests to play some of his other videos, too. Not only was the interest level of my learners high, but they were learning about current top-40 artists. Double win!

    -Explore target language cultures more often than you already do without sacrificing too much of the precious time needed to really dive into a unit. If you teach the AP French or Spanish Language and Culture exam, you already know that music falls under Beauty and Aesthetics, which is the title of one of the major thematic units. This task allows you to throw a little music into the mix, mark it off your list of possible sub-themes to squeeze in, and then concentrate on other topics.  By the end of this semester, in fact, I hope that my learners are going to be able to name more French and Francophone artists/songs then they've ever been able to before.

     -While most all of what we do in the classroom involves preparation for a final assessment on a particular thematic topic, this task doesn't need to be related to the current unit. I have already seen the benefits of exposing learners to current events without worrying whether it ties in. In the level 4/AP course, we begin almost every single day with a viewing of a one to two-minute segment from the one o'clock news on TF1, a major French television network. It is rare that the segment relates to the current unit of study, but learners are exposed to so much more culture than they would be if we respected the boundaries of the unit topic. It does take creativity to transition into the first unit-related task of the day, but it can be done, and it's well worth it!

      -These types of learning experiences are guaranteed to appeal to most of your learners and, ideally, inspire them to continue their world language studies beyond the requirement.

     -Moving forward, I'm going to make a form on which learners can write down their requests for Lundi en musique! We're also going to make a YouTube channel for each class so that we can play the well-received hits in the background while working. Many thanks to Monsieur Fritz (@spkmall), French educator in California, for inspiring me to organize playlists for free and with such ease!

     -I also hope to develop presentational tasks in which learners at all proficiency levels have opportunities to research an artist and prepare their own critique of the song and/or artist. After several Music Mondays, students should feel that they have an equipped toolbox to proceed.

Please take a moment to give me some feedback in the comments. What do you think of this task? Will you try it out? If so, please let me know how it goes. If you already actively use music in your world language classroom, I would love to know what you do.

Happy Listening!

No comments:

Post a Comment