Working with a song

I’m going to go back to at least occasionally recording what I did in class.

I was satisfied with work with a song today. Tom Garza, at U Texas, prepared an awesome site for Russian students and teachers, called “Rocking Russian.” It has recordings, song lyrics as subtitles or not, and exercises.

I created a cloze for the song with only about 15 words missing, since I’ve realized it’s hard and frustrating to be still writing down one missing word when the next blank comes up, even if we do listen to a song several times. Because the song I picked has a lot of unfamiliar words for the lower level kids, I put the English translation in a separate column. I put blanks for the same missing words.

We listened to the song twice to begin with: first, just to hear it. The second time, I asked kids to randomly write down any words they heard clearly, without trying to go for volume.

Then I handed out the cloze exercise. Before the kids listened to the song, I wanted them to find direct translations of words from one column to the next, so I asked them to circle one word in each Russian line and the corresponding word or phrase in the English line. That was just to get them to work through the meaning of the entire song and see how much they already understood.

Then we listened to the song again and filled in the missing words in Russian. With partners, they filled in the translations of those words on the English side.

Next, we watched the song with Russian subtitles, so that they could see whether they were right. I was pleased that there was really only one word that caused trouble.

Someone asked about an infinitive, playing into my hand. The grammar point I have in my head right now (because some of the most advanced kids haven’t acquired it, while others have) is infinitives after modals, in subjunctive phrases, and after other verbs. I explained the first infinitive, and asked kids to find and explain all the other ones. It was five grammar minutes for the AP level kids. It was aimed at meaning, more than at grammar, but gave us an excuse to read through the song again.

After that, we talked about the song in the more advanced group. Some kids really didn’t like it, because they couldn’t understand it, so the more advanced speakers got to try to start explaining the song. Every time I find ways to motivate re-reading of a text, I am impressed anew by the power re-reading gives students. The less-advanced kids understood the conversation, but the more advanced ones finally had a chance to talk about the text, and because it was in front of everyone, with translation, the conversation felt real. It probably didn’t hurt that I didn’t understand the song at all, and so the questions I asked were genuine. Why is she singing? Is it a happy song? What makes you think that? Why is she burning ships? How can she do that if her matches are all soaked? More to come!

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