Venezuela……Metas y Sueños…….and the power of Twitter

I’ve posted a couple of times now about this unit on goals and dreams that my Spanish IV students are doing (we’re almost done).  I have lots of activities to add to what I’ve already posted about, but something is happening that has interrupted and enriched the unit:  Venezuela.  Thanks to the power of Twitter, I have been able to incorporate the explosive situation in Venezuela into a very real, immediate, authentic source for Metas y Sueños.   ven 1If you have followed this blog for a while, you may remember that I have a huge unit that is loosely called Social Awareness through music; I use this unit in Spanish III.  About two thirds of my Spanish IV students were in my Spanish III classes last year, and therefore have some background knowledge of Venezuela.  Last year we followed the death of Hugo Chavez and the subsequent election between Maduro and Capriles.  So, last Friday, February 21, after having seen the Twitter activity with #SOSVenezuela, I had my students pull out their cell phones (Twitter is blocked at school) to begin reading the tweets with #SOSVenezuela.  We also had laptops out, so they could google Venezuela and find out information to answer their questions.  We spent most of the class “discovering” and talking.  What was happening in Venezuela? Why?  What were the goals and dreams of the students?  The goals of Leopoldo Lopez and his supporters?  The goals of Nicolas Maduro?  It was the best of helpful technology, high interest, situational immediacy, and the inquisitive minds that teenagers can exhibit.

After having followed the situation all through the weekend, I knew that I had to incorporate it into my lesson plan for this week, which was going to throw my timing off for the entire unit, and ultimately has made me do away with the last original Essential Question and evaluation for the unit (la banda sonora de tu vida).  We spent Monday viewing videos that had been tweeted about on Twitter, and working through many, many images, memes and posters.  I put all of the images on a SMARTboard presentation so that they could see them in color and very large.  The vocabulary was an amazing tie in with our active vocabulary for this unit (rendirse, darse por vencido, metas, sueños, vale la pena, alcanzar, etc.)

I followed this exploration with a “Free Write”.  I asked them to take the point of view of one of the following:

  • a student in Venezuela
  • Leopoldo Lopez
  • Nicolas Maduro
  • a musical artist that we have studied (Juanes, Carlos Baute, etc.)
  • an average citizen in Venezuela
  • an average citizen in the U.S.

For five minutes, they were to write about what was happening in Venezuela, using as much of our active vocabulary as possible. As with all of our free writes, grammar counts very little, content is most important.  This free write was 15 points content, 5 points grammar.  The results were impressive, as were the different points of view.

Here is a sampling of some of the sources of information that I used (most of them came directly from Twitter):

We also revisited song of the songs that we had used in Spanish III by Carlos Baute, including this one that has a new video using images from the current situation.

NO TE RINDASAs WORLD language teachers, I can not emphasize enough how valuable Twitter is for us.  It continues to be one of the most valuable tools that I have.


Updated music database

Music Artists WordleI began my formal music database (meaning in Excel format), three years ago. I created the formal document when I could no longer keep all the music that I was using in my head!  That first document had about 300 songs, organized by artist, title, grammatical point, vocabulary, culture, country and youtube link.  I’ve updated it regularly over the last three years, usually every month or so.  The latest update brings the total number of songs to over 1,080.  I’ve been contacted by several people who say that they can’t find the database.  Hence the reason for this post.  The latest document is available on this page on my wikispace: Spanish Music Database

Also available on that page are links to the workshop that I did for both MFLA and  NECTFL.  Those links have specific activities for using the songs for vocabulary, grammar and culture.  I’ve been teaching a long time, and I have picked up activities from countless people along the way.  I owe them all…..many times anonymously!

As always, I encourage you to add artists!  I would really like to know who your favorites are….who your students enjoy….and how you use their music!

Spanish Music for enjoyment that leads to……

Yesterday I referenced Prince Royce (real name:  Geoffrey Royce Rojas) in my blog post about Chino y Nacho.  Unlike the activity that I used with Chino y Nacho, I had no activity to use with Prince Royce’s song “Junto a Mí (Stand by me)”.  So why did I choose to use it as my warm up/students entering class song?  Primarily for sheer enjoyment, but also because:  I knew that the students would like it, the song is already familiar to them, there is a good video for it with a very positive message, and I knew the students would think that Prince Royce is really cute and he is only 21 years old (and yes, those are valid reasons!). Lastly, the song got their attention as they were entering class, and they were immediately switched over to “Spanish mode”.

The song is in English and Spanish….. how is that valuable?  Was there an ulterior motive in the selection of this song?  Well, of course there was!  The lyrics, though brief, contain several good teachable points without having to teach:

  • “Y la luna es la luz que brilla ante mí:  luna, luz, brilla all will be “new” vocabulary in an upcoming unit, but here they will be exposed to the words prior to that unit, and hopefully, the words will not be new when we get there!
  • “Y aunque las montañas o el cielo caiga”:  montañas and cielo will also be “new” vocabulary in an upcoming unit, and caiga….well caiga is subjunctive, and I like to teach subjunctive without calling it subjunctive (for a long time), and having it occur naturally
  • “Miedo no, no tendré, oh I won’t no me asustaré AND  no lloraré, no lloraré, oh, I won’t shed a tear: miedo is a word that they should have learned the year before, (Spanish II), but that we are reviewing with “tener idioms”; tendré/asustaré/lloraré, we learn future tense in Spanish III, so this is a good glimpse into it before we get there.  (They will have memorized these lyrics long before we get there.)

Additionally, although Prince Royce is from New York City, his parents both came from the Dominican Republic.  The Dominican Republic is part of a large music/social awareness unit later in the year (topic of a future post).  This becomes another link in the puzzle.  Also, I will be using the song “Corazón sin Cara” by Prince Royce when we get to the clothing/review of adjectives unit.  With prior favorable exposure to Prince Royce, students tend to view this song, which is not familiar to them, with more open eyes (or ears!).  This was just the case, too, when we got to “Corazón sin Cara”, which became a favorite of several students.

Once the students have seen the video a few times, over the span of several weeks, I eventually switch to a video that has just the lyrics, and they will pay just as much attention to that video as they did the actual official video.  Why?  Because now they are internalizing the lyrics.

My student last year liked this song so much that they requested to use it in our Spanish Honor Society induction (La Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica).  Two new inductees sang the song, and the members sang with the chorus.

There are quite a few artists who mix English and Spanish in their songs.  Nota, from Puerto Rico, is another group that my students really liked last year.  In December 2009, Nota won the top prize on The Sing-Off, a hit show on NBC that features a competition between a cappella groups and in late 2010 they released their first album.  One of the songs on that album is called “Te Amo (My Girl)”, another song that is instantly familiar to many. Additionally, it repeated many vocabulary words that we had been studying. It was also an introduction to a cappella music for many of them; it took some convincing that all of the sounds they heard were actually being made by the six men in the video!

However, though they like “Te Amo (My Girl)”, their favorite really is the Nota version of a Camila song “Todo Cambió“.  The song is useful for Spanish students because it is slow, easily understood and contains a lot of preterite verbs.  I used both the Nota version as well as the Camila original several times during the course of the year.

This past month, I discovered, through NPR’s Alt Latino Blog,  another artist using English/Spanish in her songs. Gina Chavez is new to me, but I will be using her song, Miles de Millas (2000 Miles)  with my students this year to see what they think.


A favorite song….and what to do with it

In late May 2010 I came across a song titled “Mi Niña Bonita” by a duo whom I had not heard of previously, Chino y Nacho.  I played it in school as my opening song (the way I start every class), and the response was overwhelmingly positive.  They requested the song for days afterwards.  So, it wasn’t surprising that it would go into my beginning year rotation in September 2010.  As I wrote in a previous post, I always start the school year with music that I believe will be received positively and enthusiastically; it is key in the beginning stages of building a relationship with my students so that they will be open to different genres of music later in the school year.  Looking back at my notes from last year, I see that I played it on Tuesday, September 7 for the first time, following the Copa Mundial songs the previous week.  And, as I expected, the majority of my students really liked it.  The video that I used is no longer available, but here is one available version (I’ll include another at the end of this post):

So, what to do with this song?  First, as they entered class (we have 5 minutes to change classes), they listened for sheer enjoyment .  When the bell rang, I asked them what they thought the name of the song was…..duh!  I asked if they heard any other words in the song that they knew, and some could identify amor or corazón, but overall, they didn’t distinguish much from that first listening, and certainly the section toward the middle that is very fast, left them without any word that they understood:

Le agradezco al tiempo
Que me ha demostrado que las cosas buenas llegan
En cualquier momento
Yo no imaginaba que conocería
Algún día este sentimiento

Un amor de fantasía, lleno de romance y alegría
De bello detalle cada día
Nena, quién lo diría
Que algún día yo me enamoraría
Y que sin tu amor
No viviría

BUT.….they liked it!  They liked the melody, they liked the beat, they liked the video. Next, we looked at the lyrics:  we looked for words they knew, words they could figure out, words that were repeated.  We listened again, but to only a portion of the song.  They could hear more words.  That was enough for the first day.  All total, this took perhaps the first 5 minutes of class, and we moved on to something else.  The next day, Wednesday, Sept. 8, the music playing as they came to class was not “Mi Niña Bonita” but Prince Royce with “Junto a mí (Stand by me)”, which they also immediately liked. After the bell rang, I spent one minute on Prince Royce (where he is from, words they heard, etc.), but quickly moved back into “Mi Niña Bonita”, asking in Spanish, the name of the song, who sings it, and where are they from (Venezuela).  I played perhaps 30 seconds of the video and then we looked at the lyrics again.  Using a powerpoint song game idea that came from the EFL Classroom 2.0 and that I changed to fit the Spanish song, we looked at this slide:

I chose those particular words for these reasons:

  • high frequency words in music
  • object pronouns that we were going to review
  • vocabulary that would be new this year (dulce, nubes, besar)

I gave them 30 seconds to choose one word or phrase and to write it on the whiteboard that was at their desk.  I created 3 teams, based on the way they were seated in class and I explained that we were going to listen to the song again and when they heard their word, they were to stand up; when they heard it again, they were to sit down etc., etc..  (To my amazement, there was someone in each group who had selected each of the words available.) Supposedly the winner is the last person standing, but we never made it that far.  They had way too much fun listening for the word and standing up and sitting down. (We did not use the video or the lyrics during this part!) Next, we listened again to the song, this time with the lyrics projected, and the selected words in red:

Finally we sang with the song with the lyrics projected.  I asked, without lyrics available, what words they now understood AND heard in the song, and the response was far different from the first day.  That was the extent of the “work” that we did with the song.  Literally for weeks afterwards, whenever we were working on something “quiet”, they requested that I play that song (among several others), and I usually did.  It was one of the first songs that many downloaded to their iPods.

Here is the powerpoint that I changed from the original EFL Classroom 2.0 version; you will have to insert the audio again.

LastOneStanding Mi Niña Bonita

Another version of “Mi Niña Bonita”