We all know how much the little ones enjoy a rousing sing-along.
Music is one of the best ways to teach Spanish to your youngest students.
Whether you’re teaching your own child or an entire classroom, singing is seriously the way to go.
Check out these great songs and suggestions for fun lessons built around them.
Why Use Music in Your Spanish Classroom?
Music is one of the world’s oldest memorization techniques, dating back to itinerant poets who kept cultural memories intact before most people were literate. The Anglo-Saxon scops, for example, would travel from village to village in Medieval Europe, singing their long stories of brave heroes for captivated audiences. The tune, rhythm and (in later centuries) rhyme all made these long stories much easier to memorize, which allowed the poets of yore to pass along their knowledge to each new generation of singers and storytellers.
Music is no less powerful for teachers today. It’s a proven mnemonic device, particularly at the word level, which is where most preschoolers are in their second language learning (that is, they’re learning vocabulary words and can name things without necessarily speaking in complete sentences yet). Music also puts kids in a positive frame of mind for learning, and provides a multisensory learning experience and makes learning just plain fun.
If that all weren’t enough, using music in your Spanish classes has the added benefit of allowing you to create authentic connections to the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries. When you use songs that are historically important, have a great message or are popular with kids in Spanish-speaking cultures right now, you give your students a peek at what life is like in those places.
With all those benefits, why wouldn’t you want to add some great songs to your preschool Spanish classes?
What Makes a Great Song for Preschoolers?
If you didn’t grow up speaking Spanish, you might not have a strong repertoire of children’s songs lingering in the back of your mind. No worries! The Internet is an amazing place, and you can find both traditional and modern songs in Spanish that are great to teach your preschoolers.
When you’re thinking about using a song in class, try choosing ones that have these characteristics to make sure that they’re going to be a hit with your students—and that they don’t end up going over their little heads:
- A simple, memorable tune. The best songs for kids will use a relatively small range of notes so they’re easy to sing. Pick a version of the song that’s not too high or too low for kids to sing along.
- Repetitive lyrics. The more times your kids practice those Spanish words, the better!
- Rhyme. This is another mnemonic device that will help burn those Spanish words into your students’ brains. It’s also a great way to point out cultural differences—words that rhyme in Spanish don’t rhyme in English!
- A catchy rhythm. Ideally, your songs will encourage your kids to move around! Add hand gestures or simple dance steps to up the fun factor and help kids remember what they’re singing about.
- Cultural relevance. A traditional Mexican tune will offer another layer of learning and help you bring culture into your classroom in authentic ways.
5 Incredible Spanish Songs for Preschoolers
There are hundreds of great Spanish songs out there, and you could search YouTube or iTunes all day long adding to your collection. To help you get started, try these tried-and-true songs for preschoolers and some fun lesson plans to go with them!
1. “De Colores”
- Why It’s Great: This is, according to singer José-Luis Orozco, one of the oldest known Spanish folk songs. It’s considered by many to be a Mexican folk song, but it’s sung everywhere people speak Spanish. There are many verses; the ones that talk about farm animals and different colors are the best for preschoolers.
- Where to Find It: José-Luis Orozco’s version (shown above) is excellent, though there are many videos on YouTube with Spanish lyrics and images to help kids follow along.
- Ideas for Lessons: For the youngest students, concentrate on the verse about the chickens when you teach farm animals. You can have kids make paper bag puppets to hold up for the gallo (rooster), gallina (hen) and pollitos (chicks) when they come up. You can also use this song as a jumping-off point for teaching other cultural animal sounds in Spanish to show your kids just how different these onomatopoetic words can be.
Likewise, the verse that lists many colors is also popular. Have students hold up pieces of construction paper in the right color as they sing the words. This verse is also very positive about accepting people of many colors, so it’s a great choice to enhance any days or months designated to celebrate diversity, such as January’s Martin Luther King Day.
2. “Hojas, Hojas”
- Why It’s Great: This song lets kids practice their colors while tying them to the seasons. Building cross-thematic connections is a great way to embed the language deeper into your students’ young minds.
- Where to Find It: The YouTube video above is perfect because it shows each color in big, bold circles so students can connect color vocabulary words with their meanings.
- Ideas for Lessons: As you teach students their colors, use a large cut out of a bare, brown tree on a magnet board or felt board. Have students practice their fall colors by placing their hojas (leaves) on the árbol (tree) as they name the colors. You can also add lessons about otoño (fall) and the types of weather during that season. Cap your seasonal lesson by teaching your students the song with the video.
3. “Un Elefante Se Balanceaba”
- Why It’s Great: The image of an elephant balancing on a spider web will have kids laughing, and this traditional folk song and children’s rhyme is a great way to get kids to practice counting in a totally fun way.
- Where to Find It: As with any traditional song, there are lots of versions available online. Be aware that many are lightning-fast and may be too hard to understand for your young Spanish learners. The slower version with cute graphics on YouTube that’s shown above will get you started.
- Ideas for Lessons: It’s easy to incorporate this song into a unit on animals because it allows you to introduce elefante (elephant) and araña (spider). It’s also a great way to practice counting—you can sing it as high as your kids can count, as those elephants will always want to call another friend over!
A fun way to drive the song home is to have students color and cut out a small picture of an elephant. Tape a spider web made of yarn to your whiteboard or bulletin board and have students add their artwork as they sing the song, counting up the number of elephants with each verse.
4. “La Calabaza Escondida”
- Why It’s Great: This song is perfect for Halloween as it talks about pumpkins feeling different emotions—think jack-o’-lanterns! It’s also incredibly catchy, making it a perennial favorite for learning how to answer Cómo estás? beyond bien, así-así and other basics.
- Where to Find It: This song is available on the 2014 album “Es Otoño, Caen las Hojas, Vol. 3.” You can get the individual song, but the whole album is worthwhile if you’re planning autumn or animal themes lessons.
- Ideas for Lessons: You can get a lot of mileage out of calabazas (pumpkins) in the fall if you use them to teach about size and colors using photos of all the different varieties.
You can also have students make jack-o’-lantern artwork and tell how their pumpkins are feeling using emotion vocabulary. To prep them for the song, show them jack-o’-lanterns that are triste (sad), enojado (angry) and cansado (tired). When you learn the song, have students act out each emotion with the music.
5. “Los Días de la Semana”
- Why It’s Great: Learning the days of the week in order is a skill for lifelong use, and it’s completely age-appropriate for preschoolers in their native and second languages. It also reinforces numbers one through seven.
- Where to Find It: This song is available on José-Luis Orozco’s album “Lirica Infantil: Letras, Números Y Colores – Vol. 5.”
- Ideas for Lessons: This song is short enough to sing every day at the beginning of class as part of an opening routine. Once your students memorize it, add a look at the calendar to your daily routine to reinforce the lesson.
As you ask questions like ¿Qué día es hoy? (What day is it today?) and ¿Qué día sera mañana? (What day is tomorrow?), encourage kids to point to the days and sing the song to jog their memories. Over time, they’ll internalize the language and will no longer need the song—though they’ll probably still enjoy it!
These songs are the kind that get embedded in a young mind for a whole lifetime.
If you’re ready to give these powerful, musical ideas a try, what are you waiting for?
Head off to class and start singing!
Oh, and One More Thing…
If you already love the idea of teaching with songs, another option is to use FluentU. We feature tons of songs that are perfect for students of any age.
How can video and audio clips aid Spanish teachers in class? FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, cartoons, documentaries and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons for you and your students.
We’ve got a tremendous collection of authentic Spanish videos that people in the Spanish-speaking world actually watch on the regular. There are tons of great choices here when you’re looking for 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.
Elizabeth Trach teaches Spanish in a public elementary school in Brookline, Massachusetts, where she co-authored of the district’s original K-5 Spanish curriculum. In her spare time, she sings in a band and grows her own food. You can read about all her adventures at Port Potager.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach Spanish with real-world videos.