Spanish lessons getting all stale and crusty?
Using songs in your classes could be the change of pace you’ve been looking for.
By having Spanish songs as part of your instructional repertoire, you’ll find many great benefits for you and your students.
Your Guide to Spanish Class Songs and Activities That Students Love
The Benefits of Using Songs in Spanish Class
- Increased Student Engagement. Songs bring a welcome change of pace and pique student interest. Using a song can create the “hook” in your lesson that will make your students invested in the daily lesson.
- Repetition. By using a song several times with different activities, you’re creating the opportunity for students to hear meaningful, comprehensible input over and over again.
- Opportunity to hear different accents. Students need to hear different accents and ways of speaking Spanish. Using songs allows students to hear Spanish from different parts of the world.
- Cultural lessons. The lyrics of songs can be a starting point for discussions about culture.
- Opportunities for differentiation. Students can use songs as learning tools in many different ways. As a teacher, you can create many different learning activities based on the same song and make those activities cater to the needs of your students.
- Good for transitioning from one activity to another. Using a song at the beginning of class is a great way to get students focused.
The key to using songs effectively is to create meaningful activities to go along with them. Asking students to simply translate a song isn’t going to be a motivating activity. Here are some ideas for learning activities you can use with songs.
7 Spanish Learning Activities to Use With Songs
1. Opening Activity
Use a song as a way to get students to focus at the beginning of class. Using the lyrics to the song, you could ask students to complete a cloze activity while the song plays. This gives you a chance to take attendance, check homework and get set up for the day’s lesson.
2. Making Predictions
This activity works well for songs that have accompanying videos. After analyzing the song for a while, students can make predictions about how the video will portray the song. After making their predictions, students view the video and discuss (in Spanish) whether or not the video was what they thought it would be like.
3. Grab the Next Word
Using cards with words from the song written on them, students listen to the song until the music stops. At that point, they grab the next word that they would have heard in the song. This activity works especially well if you’re willing to sing the lyrics yourself. Sometimes, you can even get students to sing for you!
4. Lyrics Puzzles
Using cards with song lyrics written on them, students try to put the lyrics to a song in the correct order. You can modify the difficulty of this activity by putting phrases on some cards and single words on others. This is a good way to differentiate instruction.
5. Creating Stories
Give each student a line from the song you’re studying, and have them create a story based on those lyrics. This is a fun activity to do when beginning to learn a song, because the results will be diverse. After students have studied the song for a while, it can be interesting to go back and see the stories students created.
Students can sing the song as a class, or they can have a sing-a-long competition. This is a great activity for days when your students have a lot of energy.
7. Dramatic Interpretations
Have students take on the roles of different characters in a song. They can act out what’s happening in real-time, create a skit or even make a music video to share with the class.
How to Find Songs and Artists That Students Love
One of the big challenges with using songs in the classroom is finding songs that are age-appropriate. Middle school students love to learn about the latest pop songs in Spanish, but they often contain inappropriate lyrics. Adult learners don’t always appreciate learning songs that were created for preschoolers.
In order to be effective, the songs we use need to include the following elements:
- Age-appropriate lyrics and music
- Lyrics that reinforce what you’re teaching in class
- No foul language. Most adult students might be okay with foul language, but some won’t be. It’s best to find a song that everyone will feel comfortable with.
Finding a song that works for your student can take some legwork on your part. Here are some resources to help you find songs and lyrics that will work for your classes.
Songs for Elementary Students
- Basho & Friends creates songs in Spanish. They describe themselves as a cross between Dora the Explorer and the Beastie Boys. Their music is available on their website, iTunes and YouTube. Some classroom favorites are their songs about days of the week and animal names.
- Sing, Laugh, Dance & Eat Tacos. There are three CDs full of great songs to use in your beginning Spanish class. These CDs are tailor-made for elementary school students. “La Familia Grande” and “El Alfabeto” are great songs for students who are just beginning to learn Spanish.
Songs for Middle Schoolers and Beyond
For starters, FluentU has an amazing collection of videos and songs to use in almost every level of Spanish class, from beginner to advanced.
Aside from musical videos and live performances, you’ll find musical numbers from popular movies, animated features (like “Frozen”), cartoons, catchy commercials and children’s sing-a-longs.
There are tons of great choices here when you’re looking for musical material for in-class activities or homework. Plus, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students.
Each video has interactive subtitles. If a student comes across a word they’re unfamiliar with, they can hover their cursor over the subtitled word. That word’s definition, pronunciation and in-context usage examples will all pop up on-screen instantly. This is what your students will get after they click “watch” on a video. Clicking “learn” opens up a whole new learning experience for them.
In learn mode, all the vocabulary and grammar from the video is taught and reinforced through varied repetition (practicing the same concepts in different forms and contexts). They’ll play with flashcards, games, word matches and exercises like “fill in the blank.”
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that they’re learning, and it recommends examples and videos based on what they’ve already learned. Every student has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Here are some specific recommendations for songs, artists and musical resources you can use in class:
- Julieta Venegas. Her songs are easy to understand, and have a nice melody. Some favorites are “Limón y Sal” and “Me Voy.”
- Jesse y Joy. This duo creates songs with teenagers in mind, but older students will enjoy their material as well. Their song “Ser o Estar” is a great tool to use when learning about the difference between ser and estar. “Electricidad,” “¿Con Quién Se Queda El Perro?” and “Chocolate” are also class favorites.
- Señor Wooly. It’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t love Senor Wooly’s music and videos. His songs were created to compliment a traditional middle school or high school curriculum. Almost all of his songs have accompanying videos, cloze activities and even online games. His site, senorwooly.com, is truly a treasure for teachers and students alike. The videos for “¿Puedo Ir Al Baño?,” “Sé Chévere” and “No Voy a Levantarme” are especially amusing and fun to watch again and again. All of his videos are available through his website, and songs can be individually purchased on iTunes.
Songs for Advanced Students
- Zambombazo by Zachary Jones has hundreds of songs in Spanish with accompanying cloze activities. There’s a search function on the site, so if you’re looking for a song to use when you’re teaching a specific topic, it’ll be easy to find.
- Pop Music. As you hear new songs in Spanish, it’s fairly easy to find their lyrics by searching online. You use those lyrics to make cloze activities, games and other learning materials for your students.
- Traditional Music. Some traditional songs like “Las Mañanitas,” “Bésame Mucho,” and “Guantanamera” are great for promoting cultural discussion.
As a teacher, I have loved using music and songs in my classes. It improved student engagement and motivation, provided a welcome change of pace and gave my students a chance to hear different people speaking Spanish.
Although it can be a challenge to find songs that will work for your students, the benefits of using songs in your class make it well worth the effort.
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