songs for teaching spanish

Make Peace: 10 Spanish Songs to Bring Relevant World Issues into Your Teaching

Do you remember the last time there was no war in the world?

The last time in which there was no country invading another?

Or the last time there was no one was running away from their country to find a peaceful place to live?

The chances are, you answered no. Every time.

War and peace are constant issues all over the world. Nobody is immune to them; they affect us all–no matter where we live or which language we speak.

As teachers, we can always use this in our classroom. There’s nothing like giving our students a very deep and meaningful class based on real events that our students can relate to.

Peace can easily be taught at different depths, which is why it is a perfect theme for a wide range of learning levels and ages.

By pairing this important topic with music, you’ve got yourself a winning lesson that will benefit any student—child or adult, beginner or advanced.

And that’s exactly why I’ve put together 10 great Spanish songs for all ages and language levels which talk about peace—complete with teaching ideas and suggested activities.
 


 

10 Deep and Meaningful Spanish Songs for Teaching About Peace

Beginner

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1. “Paz, paz, paz” by Juanes

Lyrics: “Paz, paz, paz”

This song is great for children and early teens because it is repetitive and has a good rhythm to keep their attention. It is also great for beginners because it has simple vocabulary and grammar.

You can focus on vocabulary and just adapt the activity to the age of your students. First, teach the new words of the song to your students and together decide on a gesture for some of them. This way, students will perform the gesture when they hear the corresponding word in the song. For example, they might put their open hands together into a giant seed shape when they hear the word semilla (seed). You also have futuro (future), vida (life), esperanza (hope) and soñar (to dream) to choose from.

Then, listen to the song again but with a fill-in-the-blanks type of activity. If your students are children that don’t read or write too quickly yet, you can print out the missing words so that students can cut and paste them in the blanks instead of writing them down.

With children or teens, you could also ask them to make a drawing of the song using the new words within context. You’ll be amazed at the results. If you are able to use a wall of your classroom, you can even exhibit your students’ drawings and the lyrics of the song. It will be a great way to reinforce the knowledge!

2. “Carta a Rigoberta Menchú” by Celtas Cortos

Lyrics: “Carta a Rigoberta Menchú”

This song is grammatically simple, which makes it a good choice for beginners. It has a lot of vocabulary—including a great variety of nouns and verbs—so that can easily be a focus of your lesson.

Some of the infinitives include ver (to see), despertar (to wake up), caminar (to walk), odiar (to hate), resistir (to resist), cultivar (to cultivate), cantar (to sing) and soñar (to dream).

And these are some of the nouns: tierra (land), sueños (dreams), magia (magic), luz (light), jardín (garden) and mundo (world).

To become familiar with the new words, you might divide your class in groups of three or four and give each group a set of words. In groups, they will look up the meaning of their words, and then each group will present their words to the class.

Before giving your students the lyrics, make sure they know who Rigoberta Menchú is. (If your students are intermediate, you can have a discussion at the end about why the song is titled as it is).

After listening to the song, a great discussion topic is “What else do you want?” Your students could even write another verse of the song—individually or in their groups—incorporating what they’ve discussed.

3. “Cámbialo” by Paula Dalli

Lyrics: “Cámbialo” — Unfortunately, there are no lyrics of this song without spelling mistakes. You will need to review it before handing it to your students. (A few words are missing accents.)

This song is great for children and teenagers because of its repetitive rhythm and the fact that it is full of rhymes.

Such rhymes include hablar – cambiar – dar (to speak, to change, to give), cámbialo – sálvalo (change it, save it), amor – mejor (love, better), reacción – ilusión (reaction, illusion), sentirás – moverás (you will feel, you will move), etc.

If you want your lesson to be focused on grammar, you can use the song to review the imperative. There are quite a few here, such as ayuda (help), unamos (let’s join), empieza (start), toma (take), cámbialo and sálvalo.

You can also teach the expression poner en marcha (set in motion), which appears in the song.

Before or after listening to the song, discuss as a group what your students can do to change the world. This could be a great closing activity because your students will be full of ideas, so the motivation to express and explain themselves in Spanish will already be there.

Intermediate

4. “Papeles mojados” by Chambao

Lyrics: “Papeles mojados”

This song is better for intermediate or advanced students, and can go in many directions depending on where you want to focus the lesson.

If you want to show varieties of pronunciation, you’ll find plenty of examples of how they pronounce some words in certain parts of Spain. For example, cargaos for cargados (in context: full of…), cansaos for cansados (tired), mojaos for mojados (wet), ‘ta for hasta (till) and bocaná for bocanada (breath).

Since the song is not so easy to understand by just listening, I recommend that you give your students the lyrics from the beginning. They can read the song and you can review together the words that are not clear.

Once all the vocabulary is understood, ask your students what they think the title of the song means. To spark this discussion, you might ask questions like, ¿De quién son las sombras que trae la marea? (Whose shadows do the tide bring?), ¿Por qué se quedan las ilusiones en la orilla? (Why do the illusions stay in the shore?), ¿Qué significa que los papeles no tienen dueño? (What does “the papers have no owner” mean?)

This song provides the opportunity to talk about migration. Ask your students where they stand and what they think countries should do about it. You can ask them what Chambao’s posture is, and let them support their answer. If your class is divided towards how to deal with migration and they seem interested in the subject, you could even organize a debate for the following class.

5. “Los niños queremos la paz” by 3 + 2

Lyrics: “Los niños queremos la paz”

This song is great for children that have an intermediate level of Spanish. There are a lot of rhymes in the song, such as estación – canción – rincón – corazón (station, song, corner, heart); hablar – olvidar – contar – ganar (to talk, to forget, to count, to win).

This song will allow you to talk about peace from a child’s perspective. Ask your students how they think war affects children around the world.

After listening and resolving any vocab doubts, you can divide your class in groups of 4 or 5 and ask them to imagine what the video for the song might be like. Students can even act it out at the end of the class.

As a follow-up, you could have your students research children around their age that have somehow contributed to peace. This can be a homework that they would then present the next class.

6. “Niño soldado” by Ska-P

Lyrics: “Niño soldado” — In this page there are few accents missing, but in the video you have them all.

This song will also allow you to talk about the role of children in wars, but this song is more suitable for young students or adults—not so much for children. The song is written from the perspective of a child, but it requires more maturity to understand it.

To make the discussion more interesting, you could combine the song with some real news that involves children. Make sure your students have some vocabulary in advance (war vocabulary), so they are prepared to give their opinions. For example: miseria (misery), secuestro (kidnap), tortura (torture), disparar (to shoot), asesinar (to murder), mutilar (to mutilate), indiferencia (indifference), infierno (hell), pistola (gun), etc.

You could also bring some pictures cut out from newspapers or magazines with war children and ask your students questions about the pictures. The questions will depend on the level of your students, but would relate the pictures to the song. For example, in which ways does the child from the song relate to the children in this picture?

7. “Mal bicho” by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

Lyrics: “Mal bicho”

This song is a favorite of younger students because of how dynamic it is, plus you can take so many directions with it. For a start, it allows you to exemplify the use of vos instead of  (you) in Argentinian Spanish. You can ask your students to identify when it is used and to change it to .

Since this song has plenty of vocabulary, you might want to introduce new vocab a week before listening to the song. Students could even look up meanings on their own at home to spend less class time explaining vocabulary.

Here are some key words and concepts you can use: privilegios (privileges), ambiciones de poder (power ambitions), discriminar (discriminate), falsas condenas (false sentences), conciencia (conscience), imponiendo posturas (imposing postures), violencia (violence), injusticia (injustice), codicia (greed), etc.

After reading the lyrics together, here are some questions you might ask: What do you think the song is about?, How is the mal bicho? (literally, bad bug), Which real political character could be the mal bicho?, What does the phrase imponiendo posturas, siempre con mano dura mean?, etc.

Finally, equality is a fantastic discussion topic to pair with this song, in whichever way is best for your students.

Advanced

8. “Sólo le pido a Dios” by Mercedes Sosa

Lyrics: “Sólo le pido a Dios”

If you teach advanced students who have already learned the subjunctive, this is a great song to show when the subjunctive is used. Every time the singer asks god for something, the subjunctive is used. For example, que el dolor no me sea indiferente (that pain is not indifferent to me) and que la reseca muerte no me encuentre (that the dry death won’t find me).

A fitting discussion topic is indifference, which you might start with the question, “How can people be indifferent to pain, to the war, to the unfair?”

In pairs, students could also answer the question “What else would you ask for?” Using their answers, students can write another verse (or paragraph) to the song and then share it with the class.

The phrase la guerra es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte (war is a big monster that steps on hard) is an important metaphor in the song. A nice closing activity (or homework) would be to ask your students to write an essay explaining what that phrase means.

9. “Rosa de la paz” by Amaral

Lyrics: “Rosa de la paz”

This song can also be used to discuss peace and war, more than focusing on grammar.

After reading the lyrics and going over any troublesome vocab, ask your students if they think the song is optimistic or pessimistic. Let them support their answers using verses of the song. Then, ask why Amaral is using a rose as a metaphor for peace.

After listening to the song, divide your class into small groups. Ask groups to find a new metaphor to describe peace, which they will then present to the class.

You can also ask students to answer this question, which appears in the middle of the song: ¿Qué diría de este mundo un viajero del futuro? (What would a traveler from the future would say about this world?) Responses could be shared verbally or in writing, depending on which skill you’d like your students to practice.

10. “No dudaría” by Rosario Flores

Lyrics: “No dudaría”

For advanced students who have already learned the conditional, this song will be a great review or practice. Students can create their own “Si yo pudiera… no dudaría” (If I could… I wouldn’t doubt) sentences to propose how to stop violence.

This can be done as a class discussion or in small groups, and it can be a question you ask students to debate even before reading the song lyrics.

Then you can listen to the song and talk about the singer’s perspective on the topic. Groups or students can share their opinions—with supported reasoning—at the end of the class.

 

So, do you think you are ready to prepare a very attractive class which is fun and meaningful at the same time? I know you are!

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