High school students can be many things. Sometimes we may see them as only preoccupied with their circle of friends and activities, and as language teachers, we try to open their eyes to a world that remains mostly hidden from their teen age perspective of the world. For several years now, I have done a music unit that I loosely call my “social awareness” unit. Technically it begins early in the school year when my students first hear “La Camisa Negra” and “A Dios Le Pido“, both by Juanes. The first song I use merely as a second look at Juanes (after using “Fotografía”), the second song I use when beginning the present subjunctive. I also use “Ojalá que llueva café” by Juan Luis Guerra when beginning the subjunctive. All three songs have always been well received by my students, and while they have some questions about what the videos mean, they largely just enjoy the music. We will study all of the songs in depth when, about two thirds of the way through the school year, we officially launch into the social awareness unit, which encompasses the music of Juan Luis Guerra, Juanes, and Carlos Baute, as well as a few songs from other artists (Yerson y Stuard, Choquibtown, and Gustavo Dudamel with the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra). Through the music we study the geography and some limited history of the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Venezuela. I will write a lengthy post later on this unit, but you can see some ideas and activities on my wiki. What I want to address today is the song “Minas Piedras”.
“Minas Piedras” is one of the few songs that I begin only using the lyrics. The first thing that we do is look at the lyrics in a wordle that I created.
We look at the words, examining the largest of the words (which are the words that appear most frequently in the song) as well as the smaller words. I have the students discuss what the song may be about and make some predictions. If it seems strange that Spanish III students would know some of this vocabulary, by the time we get to this song, we are about two thirds of the way through the unit and we have completed quite a bit of work with this file Vocabulario para las canciones de Juanes.
Students next listen (no video) to the song, and after sharing what they hear, look at the actual lyrics. At this point in time, very, very few students are aware of landmines and I tell them that the next class will be a very serious class. We begin the next day by reviewing what we know about Colombia and to balance what we are about to learn, I share an additional video that emphasizes the beauty of Colombia. After reviewing the lyrics to “Minas Piedras”, in a SMARTboard notebook, I share small parts of information from The Red Cross: The Landmine Epidemic. The mood in the classroom turns very somber. We continue with a brief video from UNICEF about landmines in Colombia, and then another video called If There Were Landmines Here, Would You Stand For Them Anywhere? It is a very short, very powerful video and there must be time for sharing reactions afterwards as well as discussing whether the U.S. has signed the treaty to ban landmines. We are now ready to watch a video for “Minas Piedras”. There are many to choose from, including Juanes in concert as well as videos that others have made. I also have student made presentations from several years for this song. Here is a video with the lyrics:
The next day in class we also listen to the version that Juanes did in Italian, noting the similarities between the Italian and the Spanish: We usually then backtrack and look at an earlier Juanes in Fíjate Bien, noting that the video images do not match the lyrics. We also watch “No más minas” by Yerson y Stuard and discuss the similarities to the Michael Jackson song “They Don’t Really Care About Us”.
What I know after including this song for several years is this:
- Students love this song, it touches their heart
- The impact of the song is enormous
- They have learned about something well beyond their borders, and they care
- It leads to an appreciation of music that is far different from that to which they normally listen.
- The song leads to a real connection outside of the classroom
This year, through this video that I shared with my classes, I became aware of The United Nations International Landmine Awareness Day. We participated.