How do I teach a song? (elementary)

** This blog post was co-written with my AMAZING sister, Dr. Gaile Stephens, who is a Music Education Professor at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas. (I went to a trained professional.)

Songs are fun, authentic and great for any foreign language classroom. As a new teacher I would hear a song and think, “I WANT TO TEACH THAT!!” So, I would put it in my plans. Then I went in to teach the song. That was one of the first lessons I learned about teaching.

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS.

How do I teach a song?

So I thought about it, and after WAY TOO LONG I realized DUH! I have a music education professional in the family. My sister is trained in teaching music. So I gave her a call. And here is the advice she gave me that I still use today.

NUMBER 1- Start at the very beginning…(a very good place to start.)

What song do you want to teach?

Here is my criteria for a song:

  • I have to like it. (GASP! – selfish party of one?) Not really. If I don’t at least like it, then my job at selling this to my students just got infinitely harder. It doesn’t have to be my ABSOLUTE favorite, but liking the song makes my job easier and more fun.
  • It needs at least ONE PART that is worth teaching. It can be SUPER catchy, repetitive lyrics are always helpful, maybe it uses high-frequency words or tells a story that you can make comprehensible.
  • It needs to be appropriate for school.- This one is pretty obvious, but I say it because while we all know we can’t teach “Despacito,” sometimes we differ on our opinions. “DOUBT means NO.” If it is a borderline for you, then I say “Don’t use it.” Your life is stressful enough without putting your neck out for a song. There are lots of good songs out there that won’t make your blood pressure rise when you open an email from a parent. You see another teacher using it? Great, but that doesn’t mean you are OK teaching it. It also doesn’t necessarily make them wrong for teaching it. Different strokes for different folks.
  • Find a good version with quality- This may be a personal preference but I like to have a good quality recording. (If you are going to use it in class, pay for it. Yes, you could just play it off youtube, but that artist worked hard. It is .99 cents to $2.00. It is less than what you tip a waitress.) My music education sister would say if it is an earlier elementary song, then choose a version that has actual children singing and not yelling. A man’s voice is fine, but watch out that it is not too low for younger kids. Younger kids have smaller vocal cords so their voices are higher and have less range.

NUMBER 2- YOU learn the song FIRST.

You need to know the song… DUH! right?

I don’t mean “know SOME of the words,” or “I listened to it…ONCE or TWICE”

If I am teaching a new song, I like to put it on repeat and listen to it while I work or in the car. How many times? I lose count. If there are a lot of words, then maybe you don’t memorize it but you will have the words posted on the board or a PowerPoint to reference. (I suggest not on a piece of paper because if it is posted your kids can see it, and it keeps your head up and not eyes on a paper.)

I have found that the more eye contact I can make with the students and NOT on the lyrics the better it goes for me.

NUMBER 3 – What are you going to teach?

It was mind-blowing when I realized “I don’t have to teach the WHOLE song.” and I definitely don’t have to teach the WHOLE song at one time.

Consider just teaching the chorus especially with authentic songs from the radio.

Break up a song if you are teaching the whole thing. Teach the chorus first then maybe next class time you teach the verse.

NUMBER 4 – Introduce it to your students

This is honestly the hardest part for me. I knew there were lots of activities to do with a song once they knew it, but how do I introduce it to them? Do I just play it over and over? Do I teach the motions after they know the words or before? Just how do they get the song in their head?

Again I went to the expert…

SPEAK (don’t sing) the lyrics in rhythm to the song while doing the motions in a call & response style.

  • The students respond by repeating the words AND motions after you. If they can’t repeat it, then you may be trying to say too many words at a time.
  • As you go EXPLAIN the translation of the song. They need to know what the song means. Students will repeat gibberish. You want your students to ACQUIRE the language not just repeat sounds.
  • Go line by line, verse by verse taking your time. You can break the song up into multiple little sessions. You don’t have to learn the WHOLE song in one sitting.
  • Each time you add a line or 2, then go back and add it to the previous verses of the verse/chunk of lyrics you are working on.

NUMBER 5 – What’s next? What about the music?

Now it is time for your students to hear the actual song.

You sing it without the music OR with the music doing the motions. Your students can try to sing along, OR they can do just the motions.

If you are learning the song over multiple days, then you could do this at the end of every mini-learning session.

** Side note- I don’t mind singing without the music. I like to review the chunk with just me singing because I can slow the song down as needed to help students learn, BUT you could play the music if you wanted.

NUMBER 6 – Practice, practice, practice

Now you can practice the song by singing it or playing the music while you sing and do motions.

Your students can…

  • just sing or lip-sync
  • just do the motions
  • sing/lip-sync and do the motions

They CANNOT just sit and listen.

NUMBER 7 – Now what?

You have lots of options for what to do with the song now. For example…

  • Make a video of your kids doing the song and send it home.
  • Have them illustrate parts of the song
  • Have a lip-sync contest
  • Students read lyrics and put them together
  • Tell a story with the song as the context
  • Listen and JUST do the motions
  • Sing it fast, slow, dramatic, goofy etc.

Here are SOME of my favorite songs for elementary:

ME GUSTA unit – Where are my students?

If you haven’t checked it out yet, my first unit ME GUSTA is available on Teachers Pay Teachers. I have been amazed by the interest, and I hope that all of you who have started the year with ME GUSTA, your year has started smoothly.

I started my new Kindergarteners in this unit and used it as a review for my 1st graders. I wanted to check in to let you know where I am in the unit. (NOTE- We started school AUGUST 3rd.)

KINDERGARTEN

It is funny how every year I forget how slow Kindergarten goes because of the NEWNESS of everything. So where am I with Kindergarten?

  • I finished LA CAJA MAGICA – name game the first day. (AWESOME!)
  • We finished the Comprehension Draw on Class 2 & sent it home with the first parent letter.
  • I changed ¿Qué hay en la bolsa? from Class 3 to further in the unit because I wanted it closer to the actual story. We just did that last week, and will look at the resulting bar graph this week.
  • We are still working through their drawings of what they like and don’t like. I do about 2-4 drawings a class time based on their attention span.
  • We looked at “I’m lovin’ it” commercials in English and Spanish. (Ba da ba da daaa ¡Me encanta!)
  • We have done both Simple Spanish videos. (BIG HIT!)

What did I change?

  • Considering I have had Kindergarten for 11 classes based on my unit you would think I was done. Nope! Why? delays like class field trips, fire drills, taking my time and reading the engagement of the room, class earned Spanish fun day, and this week as I write, I am out of school due to hurricane Irma. Do I wish we were further? NOPE because I paced it to them. They are still engaged and are learning. I am spending the time in class on compelling Comprehensible Input so NO REGRETS!

What is next?

  • Speaking of delays, besides the two days off for hurricane Irma, I am in charge of assembly this Friday. (an hour at the end of school on Fridays that the whole school gets together and watches a special presentation, celebrates weekly birthdays and reflects on the week) My Kindergarteners are doing the interactive dance. (Note- They are not memorizing the song. We are doing the motions and will have the words on the screen for everyone to see. Plus it is a song they know in English.)
  • This week I plan to look over the Starburst bar chart, finish the last name card drawings and practice the song below for assembly.
  • Then next week (after assembly- Whew!) we will start the story which I have made some changes. (see below in 1st grade) which is Class 6 (HA HA- I gotta figure out a different format so I don’t give the impression that these classes are true to the time I spend doing these activities- IDEAS? ANYONE?)

1ST GRADE

This unit was a review for 1st grade. I did simular activities and stories with them at the beginning of the year but I wanted to do this specific story. They know ¡Qué asco!, Me gusta, Me encanta, tengo hambre, and other words. So where am I with 1st grade?

**My Kindergarteners have lunch RIGHT after Spanish so one of the first phrases they learn is “Tengo hambre.” I usually teach it the first time a Kindergartener says that he/she is hungry (about the first 5 minutes of the first Spanish class.). We all stop, grab our stomachs and say “Tengo hambre.”

  • We didn’t do La Caja Mágica activity because I was using it to learn names. I already know all their names so the purpose behind it was lost on me. HOWEVER looking back I could have done it with them because 1st graders would have loved the game too.
  • I wasn’t planning to do ¿Qué hay en la bolsa? with Starbursts but the kids saw the Starburst wrapper chart and wanted to do it again. So I did ¿Qué hay en la bolsa? with Starbursts with them and added it to the chart for Kindergarten.
  • We did the story and IT WAS AWESOME!! I changed it a little as we got into it.
  • After completing the story, they videoed it with partners. I will upload the videos as unlisted to Youtube and send parents a link.
  • NOW I am working with them to tell the story in assembly tomorrow.
  • Here is the story in 1st grade in slideshow format.

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So where am I headed now?

  • Kindergarten will finish ME GUSTA then onto my next unit to write up which includes the activities from the blog post I wrote on “Soy una pizza.”
  • 1st grade will move on to TIENE MIEDO which is about what scares us and describing and creating different monsters (non-scary of course). The plan is to write this unit up also but that will be down the road.

 

 

 

Back to school “SOY YO”

If you took a vacation under a rock then maybe you have not heard of Bomba Estéreo’s AWESOME song “SOY YO”

In fact I know I am late to the game creating plans for this song

Sometimes I start the year with the same lesson plans for 6th-8th grade with little modifications between classes. It is unifying for them across classes, and makes an easier beginning of the year for me. This year I choose to start the year with the song “SOY YO.”

So what did I do?

First few days:

I projected Niki Tottingham story of the music video. 

  • I went through each slide. If I had a new student with NO SPANISH experience then at the end of each slide we translated the whole slide into English. Otherwise I would spot check a few words here and there. I focused on the phrases:
    • soy yo
    • no se preocupa

I didn’t get through the whole story in one lesson because I had administrative beginning of the year stuff to do with them. Also I didn’t want to rush it. They started to lose interested after 5 slides so I would stop and move to something else.

  • At the end of each story reading session, I would show the video (and to avoid mutiny.)
  • When I finished the whole story we watched the video again.
  • I passed out the lyrics to the chorus. One side had the lyrics in Spanish and the other side was blank. As a class we translated the chorus into ENGLISH and wrote it in the blank box. I started the translating with what they knew. Then I translated the rest for them.
  • We listened to the video again. Students had to sing along during the chorus OR follow along with their finger on their sheet as they listened. (I sang…loudly…with dance moves)

Soy Yo CHORUS

PDF version of image above HERE

  • Lastly I had students discuss in groups how they would translate the phrase “SOY YO” into English not literally but in the message the artists wanted to communicate. We discussed these translations and wrote them on cards for my bulletin board later.

 

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NEXT…

  • I had students draw their name on a half sheet of card stock. They had to incorporate 2-3 things that described them. It could be a hobby, interest, or a favorite food/book/movie. It could be ANYTHING they wanted their classmates and I to know about them. (Learned this from Ben Slavic And Tina Hargaden- CARD TALKS)
  • I showed them my example first. (I quickly explained what I choose to incorporate but I didn’t do a long presentation in Spanish. That is for later.)

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  • Then the class got to work on their own drawings while we listened to music. I walked around asking questions and commenting on their work. Students could use technology to look up how to draw different things if they wanted.
  • ON THE BACK- they had to translate (using a online dictionary- after a quick lesson of how to use dictionary for good and not evil) their 2-3 things. They could write it in complete sentences -I like sushi.- OR just the important part –videojuegos = video games- (This made my job easier when we discussed the cards later.)

 

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What now?

  • Then we discussed the cards one by one. (I started with my own to give them an example.) I chose one student at a time and asked them questions about what they drew. I had 2 student jobs during these interviews
    • Summarizer- This student wrote down the information that we discussed in class in English, Spanish OR a mix of the two.
    • Quiz Maker- I had a student write True/False statements with the answer at the end of the statement. I had the student write 10-12 person knowing I wouldn’t use all the statements.
  • The day after we finished an interview I either…
    • had the students read independently or in partners the information typed up in Spanish by me beforehand.
    • OR I had groups write in English or Spanish what they remembered about that person’s interview then I wrote/typed up the information in Spanish to then give them to put in their folder.
  • I am trying something new this year. Not sure yet if I will like it. I have groups pick 3-5 vocabulary words/phrases from the information to add to their dictionary in their folder. It has to be IMPORTANT words/phrases to the student interview reading AND words/phrases that we don’t know well or are brand new. I use Martina Bex’s dictionary page on TPT HOWEVER I use it differently than her plans.
    • The students write the word/phrase in SPANISH and ENGLISH
    • In the first box they write a sentence from the student reading that uses the word/phrase.
    • The second box is an illustration of that sentence.

** See Martina’s blog post with FAQs for more information on her approach)

  • I gave them a TRUE/FALSE quiz after every 2-3 student interviews.

Finally – OPTIONAL Bulletin BOARD

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  • I make color copies of the students name drawings and staple to the bulletin board along with the cards the students used to describe their group’s translation of the phrase “SOY YO.”
  • Here are the large SOY YO letters from my bulletin board which I printed on card stock, cut out and laminated.

** These interviews were inspired by Bryce Hedstrom’s “La Persona Especial”

 

Name Game Gold: Kindergarten Edition

So every year I get a new batch of 5 year olds. The most pressing issue for me on Day One is learning names. This summer I created a game for the beginning of the year.

This game is the main activity for Class ONE of my unit Me gusta which is an introductory unit for the year targeting Pre-K through 2nd grade. 

Here is Class One Lesson Plans as it is written in my unit. Below that is my reflection on Class One for me.

UNIT 1- Me gusta PLANS Class ONEUNIT 1- Me gusta PLANS Class ONE (2)

My GOALS

* Use the phrase “se llama” – his/her name is (he/she calls himself/herself)

* Learn everyone’s name

* Use action words like – salta (jumps), baila (dances), camina (walks), mira (looks at) etc.

  • So I started by telling my students in Spanish / English “Tengo un secreto” (I had them lean in to hear. – a trick I learned at Tina and Ben’s workshop) I told them that I have a magic box, and the magic box knows their names. “It may look like a plain cardboard box but it is isn’t. Don’t be fooled” I told them.
  • Then I had my most wiggly student come up and pull his name “NO MIRES” (Don’t look!) otherwise the box will know, and it won’t work.
  • He walks up to the box, and chooses a card. It is a girl name. I announce to the class “Se llama Ella Kate.” The class erupts into giggles and disagreement. After making sure that this is not his name, I wonder out loud why it didn’t work “no funciona”. I ask who has that name. I give her the card and the class says “Hola, Ella Kate”
  • I had other students try, and it continued to fail. I started to get pretend frustrated and I pretended to cry. “¿Por qué no funciona?” “Why won’t it work?” (I translate things for them since they are absolute beginners.)
  • Then I took suggestions of how to make the box work. A students suggested shaking the box. So I had the whole class stand up and shake with me. “La clase sacude.” Then we tried again. It didn’t work. I took suggestions from other students and turned them into mini TPR sessions (shake high, shake low, shake fast, shake slow) We jumped, danced, turned in circles, and talked to the box sweetly.
  • Then a brilliant student suggested we LOOK in the box. I walk over to him. “¿Mira?” He looks in the box and finds his name. He raises it as if he has found gold. The class cheers. I am so happy because “La caja mágica funciona.”
  • I let every student with a name still in the box find their name by LOOKING (“mira”) in the box. Each one celebrating their name.
  • It is time to go back.

45 minutes. 1 plain cardboard box. 21 pieces of paper with their names on it.

What did that make? GOLD!!

“CI without stress” Elementary Adaptations

I attended Ben Slavic and Tina Hargaden “Ci without Stress” workshop a few weeks ago in Atlanta. I had seen many of you who have attended their workshop this summer, and I was excited to see it for myself.

For those of you who have not read their book A Natural Approach to Stories I highly recommend it.  Whether you are adding tools to your teaching toolbox or adopting the whole program, I think all CI teachers can benefit from their book. It is a refresher in why we teach the way we do, and great CI activities.

Tina and Ben teach/taught middle school and high school language learners. So their methods are naturally targeted at those audiences.

On the second day, I was with some of my Chattanooga CI group and some elementary teachers are the workshop for lunch. We discussed how we could use the same methods we had learned in our own elementary classroom.

***If you live near Chattanooga and would like to join our PLC then email me. We would LOVE to have you!

Here are some of the things we discussed we would want to adapt for our elementary students.

Ben & Tina’s Classroom Rules

In the book and in the workshop Ben and Tina used 6 rules. I plan on using these rules in my room this year. They communicate exactly what I want students to understand about my expectations.  But as a group we felt that they needed a little “elementary make-over” to word the rules in a way our little language learners could understand. Here is what we came up with:

 

 

 

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Again you can get more information about this rules and the meaning behind them in Tina and Ben’s new book A Natural Approach to Stories.

Here is the PDF of the images above.

Questions to build imaginary characters

If you have seen Tina Hargaden’s posts and videos on her YouTube channel. Then you are familiar with the invisibles.

The invisibles start with a number of questions that choose between two opposite characteristic traits. Here is the traits they highlight below.

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Tina and Ben chose these traits because they build characters with depth and purpose which make for compelling stories.

As a group of elementary teachers including the WONDERFULLY talented retired elementary teacher Jennifer Raulston, we discussed that these character traits are PERFECT for the middle and high school student, but elementary students might need some adaptations.

Our thought in changing some of the traits where in response to the emotional and mental development of our students. So we took the purpose of the traits along with some of the other things we learned from Tina and Ben and came up with a slightly different list. You will notice that the descriptions ABOVE the line DO NOT change, but the character traits BELOW the line are different.

BIG or SMALL

What color?

HAPPY or SAD

__________________

Biggest Fear?

Favorite thing (to eat, to do, or object)

Secret

Likes/Dislikes

Student Jobs

Student jobs are an AWESOME way to give students responsibility in the classroom, reduce teacher workload, and give students ownership to a character and/or story. Ben and Tina have a list of important jobs for students during a story with detailed descriptions on what the student does and how to set up your room to use these jobs to their full potential. (read their book for more info)

When a student is doing their job then they are required to do at least 2 things at the same time: process the comprehensible input of the story or character AND complete their job responsibilities.

When we discussed student jobs as elementary teachers we felt that student jobs were difficult to pull off in the elementary setting especially the younger the student. We fear that students don’t have the mental ability to multitask in this way.

So what do you do? …

THE ARTIST- One idea that Elijah Barrera suggested was while creating an invisible character the teacher is the artist instead of a student.

  • You could turn the easel away from the students and as you are drawing you repeat the descriptions (maybe even getting it wrong sometimes so students can “correct” you.)
  • You could put on a beret and/or take on a different personality as “THE ARTIST”

This saves the REVEAL as a compelling activity. Students are invested and still excited.

VIDEOGRAPHER- I wonder if you could turn this into a PHOTOGRAPHER. Then as you retell the story. You pause and call on the photographer to take a picture. (Doesn’t every kid know how to use a camera on a phone or iPad?) This would solve three problems:

  • ONE – They don’t have to decide how to film a story.
  • TWO- You are pausing a story to let them do their job so they can pay attention because their job essentially stops when you are telling the story.
  • THREE- You still have visuals to use when retelling and reviewing the story

JOBS THAT MIGHT STILL WORK:

Professor #2 (Annabelle Allen had some interesting insights to what she does in her room with this job. She doesn’t use a Profesor #2 or second teacher as she calls it. See her post HERE.

Actors

Story Driver

_________________________________________________

So what are your thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions?

Do you plan to adapt Tina and Ben’s ideas for your classroom? In what way and why?