Working with Songs

Nathan asked that I post this to make it searchable. If I get more from Victoria, I’ll add it.

Here are a few of the things that I do with songs, thanks to Susie, Laurie, Victoria, and everyone else. (I’ve never managed to use Nathan’s routine of playing the song as kids are coming in…not organized enough!)

If you do one of Laurie’s listen-and-fill-in the pictures, the kids will listen at least three times and often end up humming it by the time they do that. You may want to TPR or TPRS pre-teach the vocabulary, depending on whether they know it. And you might want to have a kid draw the pictures, if your drawings are like mine. I managed to do that for the first time today in one class with a song they were all sure was too hard. They got it!

The song we did this week is a pretty obvious story, so I asked it. In three classes, we got stories that we then read before going to the song. In the fourth class, I asked it but they were mostly wrong (except for the kid who brought in the song). They don’t like being wrong. In one class, we hit a home run because we told a story about our own “princess” and the singer whom she admired at our Russian competition. Her face was a study when the song turned out to be parallel to the story–”all about me” can truly be wonderful!

Then we went to the song. We didn’t fill in words, because that would take more work on my part (formatting, printing, copying; I’m a bit lazy and as you know don’t have easy access to a printer or copier outside school hours–saves a lot of paper!) but we looked at the word order and some of the grammar. If you do a little of the grammar in popups each day as you prepare to sing, your 4%-er teacher’s heart feels so happy!

Then you can compare the song and the story/stories. Then you can ask what lines the kids like best. They can try to insert lines into the stories. They can re-tell the ending of the story or the song. They can hypothesize about what made the writer pen the song. They can guess about the life of the writer (if you have access to the information). If there’s a movie with the song, sometimes you can find the clip. Seeing someone sing a song, even just a teen with a guitar, does something to our visual learners, but I don’t like to share that the first day. What I love is when kids bounce into class the next day, telling me they’ve found a clip for us to watch. Then of course, they have to do a fast write while I review the clip…music playing in the background…

I think that with the class where we didn’t have our own story, the right thing to do would be to have kids write movie scripts and direct their classmates in acting this thing out. (It’s almost Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene, except that Juliet doesn’t notice Romeo.)

If you do the bit where kids choose their favorite lines, it’s fun to have them go from one end of the class to the other really quickly, saying that favorite line or phrase. Sometimes it’s a repetition over and over of the same line. That trick is from Amy Wright–now in Chicago, all the worse luck for us. But before you do that, everyone must be sitting with their notebooks out, ready to jot down their favorite lines from the projector or the song copies while you play the song again. Just a few more reps, another time to force them to re-read (Jason Fritze’s idea).

Circle the new structures.
You can also do a game. . . “It would have been more interesting if . . . ”

It would have been more interesting if the artist had sold his bones instead of his blood. . . if he had bought sodas instead of roses. . . if she had shouted “I love you” . . . if he had thrown the roses at her. . . if she had flown away on an eagle instead of riding on a train. . .

It would have been more dramatic…
It would have been more romantic. . .
It would have been more (emotion fitting the level of your students) . . . .

At the bottom of this page on NTPRS, find Gail Mackey’s song ideas.


Here’s the comment from Martin about Duke’s twexting site:

On Ben’s blog I discovered Duke’s method of twexting songs. Twext is a twin text format. The translation (in chunks) will be added underneath the original words, in smaller characters. There are hundreds of samples on his website:
Up to now I have made several twexts (French – German ones) and used them during my lessons. We either listen (and understand!) just for fun, or talk about the content of the song. In many songs you can find a whole story to be treated as a reading text or base of a parallel story. As the translation is always there, there is no need to ask for vocabulary or translate ourselves.
If you register on Duke’s site you may even make your own twexts.

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