10 Activities for Music in the Classroom (that aren’t fill-in-the-blank!)

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Bonne rentrée tous et toutes! I simply cannot believe I’m not back in the high school classroom today, greeting all of my new and returning students. I know I’m where I am supposed to be right now but today, I miss those kids, my colleagues, and the energy of high school way more than I thought I would.

Even though for many teachers in the United States today is the very first day of classes, what better way to kick off the year than jumping right into Mercredi musique tomorrow?! The first thing my students wanted to know when I told them I would not be returning this fall was, “Will we still be able to do Mercredi musique?!” While my own Mercredi musique routine is a very simplified version of Laura’s Coros process (listen to the song & watch the music video,  discuss our reactions, learn the chorus & sing all together), music is a great vehicle for language and culture! And most of all – it’s FUN! I’ve seen a ton of posts on social media lately, from teachers asking how to move beyond CLOZE activities when it comes to incorporating music in the classroom (no shade to CLOZE activities – I’ve used plenty of them!). Here are a few of my favorite activities, that are also relatively low-prep.

  1. Music Word Cloud Races: I learned this one from Carrie Toth at a conference a few years ago and it is so much fun! Run the lyrics (or major words from the lyrics) through a word cloud generator like Tagxedo or Tagul and print the word cloud. Give one copy to each pair of students, and have them select a writing implement that is a different color from their partner’s. Play the song, and when they hear a word that’s in the word cloud, they have to be the first to totally color in that word. The partner with the most of his/her color on the sheet at the end is the “winner.” (Activity Hack: For more advanced students, put the words in English).
  2. Arrange the Lyrics: Super easy and can be done individually or in pairs (which I suggest). Print the lyrics and have students cut them up, line by line, then mix up the strips on their desks. Play the song, and the students have to rearrange the lyrics into the right order. (Activity Hack: At the end, give an envelope to each kid and have them stuff the strips back in. Put all the envelopes into a gallon sized Ziploc, and you’ve got your activity already created if you want to use that song again.)
  3. Embedded Reading: If you’re using a song that features a lot of a particular language structure that you want to highlight, create an embedded reading based on the story behind the song or the video that features many repetitions of that structure.
  4. Re-cap with screencaps: Take screenshots of major points in the music video, and have students retell the story using the pictures as a visual aid/support. (Activity Hack: You will probably want to do an embedded reading beforehand, particularly for novice/intermediate low students.)
  5. Recreate the video: Based on their understanding/interpretation of the lyrics, have students develop a storyboard for their own version of a music video and provide a summary/description of each frame in the TL. (Activity Hack: Give the students the lyrics firstbut do NOT show the original music video as you listen; have students compare how their own interpretations related to the “real” version.)
  6. Lip Sync Battle: This is really fun to do any time you have some extra class time but don’t necessarily want to fill it with new material (before a long break, in-between units, at the end of the school year, etc.). Students can work in pairs or groups of three to create choreography and give their best performance of their favorite target language song!
  7. Blackout or Found Poetry: Print the lyrics and give a copy to each student. Blackout poetry is a little more complex, as they are required to keep the words in their original order and “black out” the parts that won’t be used with a marker, thus creating a new “poem.” Alternatively, they could create a found poem – using only the songlyrics, but cutting them up and rearranging them into a new order.
  8. Intruder: Give each student a set of lyrics, but include words and phrases that are NOT actually in the song. As they listen, the students have to identify which words and phrases do not belong. (Activity Hack: Students can “level up” by identifying what the REAL lyrics are.)
  9. The Voice: I used this with my 4/AP students last year during our Beauty & Esthetics unit but it could be adapted to any level, particularly if you want students to be able to talk about music in quantitative terms (describing the rhythm, melody, instrumentation, and so on). Just like the blind audition stage of “The Voice”, the students turn their backs to the SmartBoard (if you have one) while you play a snippet from a lesser-known song by a target culture singer (either known or unknown to the students). If the students like what they hear, they turn around to see who the singer is. If not, they remain with their backs turned to the board. At the end of the snippet, discuss together in the TL what they liked or didn’t like. This activity is extra fun if you have access to swivel chairs! (Activity Hack: Both France and Mexico have their own versions of “The Voice” and many very famous singers like Louane and Kendji Girac started out as contestants on the show! Play their audition videos and see what the judges had to say about them – do you agree or disagree? Why?)
  10. Don’t Forget the Lyrics: A great brain break or filler for those extra five minutes at the end of class, when things went a little faster than expected! Divide the class into two teams. Play a snippet of a song that the class knows, then “randomly” hit pause (I usually did it before the chorus, as that’s what my students knew). If the team can sing the next line of the song, they get the point. Each team gets their own turn, though if they’re wrong the other team can “steal.”

Enjoy!

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Music resources for French teachers!

I got a tweet from the fabulous Laura today asking about resources for French music, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite links!

I do Mercredi Musique in all levels of French (only for the past two years, but it feels way longer). It’s arguably my students’ favorite part of French class, and I like to keep it pretty routine and therefore, low-prep (like, seriously low prep) so we do the following things every Wednesday.

  1. I intro the name of the song, the artist and the genre. Sometimes, we predict what the song might be about (based on the title) but that doesn’t happen very often (mostly because I’m lazy and/or I forget).
  2. We watch the music video. I try to pick songs with school-appropriate videos; if there is a moment or two that is potentially questionable (I’m not about that parent e-mail life) then we have “technical difficulties” during those parts (aka I mute the SmartBoard).
  3. We express our opinions of the song and its video; I provide some helpful nouns and adjectives to that end, so I don’t have to listen to everyone say “c’est intéressant” all the time.
  4. I teach them the chorus; this involves repeating after me line-by-line and then making meaning of the words to get an idea of what the song is about. A bonus to only teaching the chorus is that the selection of songs you can use in class gets way bigger, because any stray swear words are typically in the verses and unless the kids have enough gumption to look up the lyrics and each word’s translation, they won’t know the difference.
  5. They practice the chorus with a partner.
  6. We listen to the song again, and sing the chorus each time it comes up.

My Mercredi Musique slides for the past two years are here and here. To find ideas for songs, I peruse http://www.mcm.fr/top-50 (though a lot are in English), Spotify France, Topito, and Paroles de clip by TV5Monde. Because I want to get my students hooked on French music (and thus, my class) I try to only pick songs that are, in their words, “lit” which as far as I can glean means cool/catchy. There is the rare exception (everyone needs some Edith Piaf from time to time) but I really try to use songs that are mostly upbeat and fun; know your audience, though – sometimes the chill indie songs have been successful, but I try to play to a wide audience.

Enjoy!

*Petite side note: As the school year winds down and throughout the summer as time allows, I will be uploading some of my units and other teaching resources on TpT (frankly, grad school doesn’t pay much and a girl can only eat so much Top Ramen). Just keep an eye out if that’s of interest to you!

La Manie Musicale de Mars 2017

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It’s that time again: March Madness! For the college basketball fan, March is a huge deal of non-stop games that culminate in the college basketball championship at the end of the month. For the world language teacher, it’s a great opportunity to work more authentic music into any and all levels!

This will be my 3rd round of Musical March Madness, and it is my students’ favorite time of year – and that is no exaggeration. We listen to music pretty regularly regardless, but this is a special occasion that everyone looks forward to during the school year. And, to be completely honest? It also gives me a little bit of a break on having to craft 4 different levels of 50-minute lesson plans during one of the hardest months of the year (for me, anyway). I can take the same activities and use them in every level!

Typically I do a 16-song bracket, but as we have testing in March this year, and I will be absent a couple of days this month for various personal-life things, I’ve reduced it to 12 songs. I picked based on titles and artists that my students have enjoyed listening to over the years – however, the majority are not songs that they’ve heard before.

Please bear in mind that I also teach mostly levels 3, 4 and AP and therefore I feel comfortable choosing songs that have more mature themes. Know your clientele and make the choices that are right for you (and them!).

La Manie Musicale de Mars 2017

Soprano – Barman vs Willy William feat Keen’V – On s’endort

Vianney – Je m’en vais vs Fréro Délavega – Mon petit pays

LEJ – Seine Saint Denis Style vs Coeur de Pirate – Ensemble

Louane – Jeune vs Margaux Avril – Lunatique

Christophe Maé – La Parisienne vs Claudio Capeo – Un homme debout

Black M – Je suis chez moi vs Maitre Gims – Ma beauté

I’m excited to see who the winner is!