I have used music in my classroom for the entire span of my 30 years teaching. First it was because I liked it, then it was because the students liked it and eventually it became a tool that I used for listening and speaking (mimicking/singing). However, it became a legitimate, almost structured part of my classes more than 15 years ago. Then, nine years ago my world shifted again when I first heard the music of Juanes. When I initially shared the song “La Historia de Juan” (originally to review preterite verbs) with my Spanish III classes in 2003, a revolution gathered strength within my teaching. The response of my students to that one song was unlike anything I had experienced. They liked the song….the melody, the tempo, etc….but more importantly, the message in the lyrics hit home with them or stuck a chord, as is sometimes said. And at that point in time, I didn’t even have access to showing them a music video!
They wanted….wanted…..to know more! About the singer, about Colombia, about the problems in Colombia. And from that one moment, an entirely new unit was born. It wasn’t in a textbook, there weren’t lessons I could find on the internet, I had to go with what they were asking and what I was thinking…and I literally was just a step ahead of them. In 2004, I added “A Dios Le Pido” by Juanes and in 2005, “Quién Dice Que No Duele” by Carlos Baute (Venezuela) to the unit. By that time, I had expanded the unit and referred to it loosely as “my social awareness” unit. The response was the same, they were eager to learn more…about geography, about history, vocabulary that was not listed in any textbook I had seen. It was amazing. It grew again the next year, and I added “Sueño” by Juanes and “Ojalá que Llueva Café” by Juan Luis Guerra. By 2007 I was sharing my ideas and lessons with other teachers locally in Wicomico County, statewide through MFLA and then regionally with NECTFL. This past year, 2011, there were 15 songs in the one unit that now concentrates on Venezuela, Colombia and La República Dominicana. Additionally, without fail, this unit is the number one unit for my classes when I ask for my end of the year feedback. I’ll write more on that unit in a future post. And keep in mind, that while this is one unit, I use music every single day, and I do mean every single day, in my classes. The point of this post is to share one of the results of that development, and that is my music database.
I’m a great one for keeping ideas and lessons in my head. If someone asked me if there was a song using the present perfect, or one that had lots of adjectives, I could tell them from what was rolling around in my head. But eventually, I had too many songs to keep straight in my head. When I started my wiki 4 years ago, I had a page where I listed all the music that I found with a note about why I liked it or what it was used for…but it became too large and very cumbersome. Really, no one else probably had the patience to wade through it. Additionally, while I had presented multiple times in conferences on my “Social Awareness” unit, I was ready to branch out and share lots of other music in a session that I called “Music Lights the Language Fire!” and I had to get organized!!! Therefore, last summer, I spent quite a bit of time developing my database of Spanish music. You can sort by artist, title, grammatical point, vocabulary, culture, or country. Most of the 567 songs have a video url included. It is constantly changing, because I am constantly adding to it. Several have asked me how do I find these songs? The answer to that is not simple. Since I love music, and I absolutely love Spanish music, I seek it in many different areas. Sometimes I’m just lucky and stumble across things in my internet wanderings, sometimes students share something that they’ve heard, sometimes I get song ideas from the incredible Zachary Jones and his wonderful blog, Zambombazo. I always find songs on iTunes Latino, the Top Latino, the Billboard Latino, the NPR Alt Latino blog, and I always check other blogs, such as the blog de Almendra, Canciones en español, and Sara Cottrells’ blog Mismusicuentos among many, many others. In other words, I simply keep exploring, looking and listening. The biggest reward of all my searching is this: at the beginning of each school year, most students are not familiar with any Spanish music other than Shakira, Daddy Yankee and Pitbull and most don’t think they will enjoy Spanish music because they don’t think they will understand it. By the end of the year, just about every student will have downloaded multiple Spanish songs on their ipods and are actively asking me for more. From student to student, their preferences are very different; some love Jesse y Joy, others Rodrigo y Gabriela, or Juanes, Carlos Baute, Juan Luis Guerra, Prince Royce, NOta, El Cuarteto de Nos, Sie7e, Chino y Nacho…..the list just goes on and on and on. BUT…they have discovered a connection, and a love of something that they take OUT of the classroom, and hopefully carry with them for life. Isn’t that what we all want as language teachers?
I hope that the database is something that other teachers will be able to use. I know that there is so much more out there….I’d love to hear about it!