First, let's take a look at popular ways teachers incorporate music into their classes now:
- Gap-Fills - students listen and fill in the missing lyrics
- Lyric Scramble - students organize lyrics (on paper strips) based on what they hear
- Translating Lyrics
- Playing target culture music in the background
- Using music videos as attention grabbers, culture, etc.
- Teaching vocabulary
So often we use music as an interpretive activity, but I found a way to turn it into an interpersonal activity, especially for novice level students!
Our adopted textbook series in my district is Realidades and I was flipping through the Teachers' Resource Guide putting together a group of listening practices to do in preparation for our semester exams when I discovered a cute little activity based on the music cd included in our ancillaries. The activity was simple. It involved four traditional songs from different countries and gave a very brief description of the style of music and its origin. That's pretty much it.
It got me to thinking, so...
First, I made a list of the possible interpersonal tasks students could do based on the context of listening to the music the workbook mentioned as well as a few other ideas.
NOVICE LOW / MIDS could...
- listen to the music and describe it*
- discuss whether or not they like the music and why*
- state their opinions about it*
- discuss which song(s) they prefer and why*
- compare the songs they hear to music they listen to or any American music*
NOVICE HIGHS / INTERMEDIATES could...
- discuss the main idea of the song
- discuss what they think or thought about the song / video*
- explain what they thought about the song/video using past tense
- argue which song / artist is the best and why*
- compare and contrast the music to another type of music*
- discuss the theme of the song and/or how it connects to the unit theme
- analyze some of the lyrics
- nominate a song / artist for an award and give supporting reasons for their nomination
Second, I kept in mind that I am teaching level one students this year who are mostly Novice-Mids right now, so I focused on the tasks above that I starred while my focus was their being able to describe people, places and objects and stating how they feel about things. Most of their description so far has been about people and their physical characteristics and personalities, so I wanted to infuse some new descriptive vocabulary into the lesson using comprehensible input. I concentrated on words that could describe music (fast, slow, happy, sad, passionate, etc.) or that are related to music like rhythm, song, melody, and style.
Next, I designed a check list survey using the descriptive vocabulary so that as the students listen to the songs they could check the boxes next to the words that best represent their opinion of the songs. The checklist serves both as a listening focus as well as conversational prompt once my students have listened to each of the songs.
I will introduce each song, its origin, the artist and any relevant background information, but I will not describe the music or give my own opinion of it. All the students have to do is listen and check the words that apply to its description.
After playing each song students can use the TL to share their observations and thoughts about each song using the vocabulary they thought applied. They can state whether they liked or disliked the song and maybe why.
After all the songs have been played and the students have had the opportunity to check off their descriptions on the checklist, facilitate a student led conversation about the songs.
- Prepare some comparative phrases for them to use (similar, similar to, like, better than, etc.)
- Prepare some questions to ask about each song or the songs in comparison to each other
- Ask students to wait to discuss the songs until after they have all been played. Give them a minute or two after each song to jot down how they feel about each song, but reserve their speaking until all the songs are played.
- Break the students up into small groups for richer conversations.
- Create sets of cards with the prepared questions on them to give to the small groups to use in order to keep the conversation moving and fresh.
The Activity Sheet