Teaching language through songs: Reacting to the music

Current practice for teaching language using songs seems to be word clouds and cloze activities. A word cloud is a jumble of words and the student circles the words that are heard in the song. This is a solid listening activity as are cloze activities, where the students fill in the missing words in the song lyrics. I have used both strategies to help give my students something to support them as they listen to songs that otherwise might be overwhelming. I also see teachers use a song to give students examples of grammar to then have an indirect lesson on grammar. I am also a fan of this approach where you guide students to examples of the grammar structure, have them deduce the rules then ask them to do a writing assignment that has students using the grammar without implicitly asking for it, perhaps in the form of an Exit ticket.

For me yet a new way of teaching using songs is emerging. As I’ve mentioned on these pages before, TV5 Monde’s Paroles des clips is an excellent source for activities to use with songs in the classroom. Two of my favorite examples are On écrit sur les murs by Kids United and Cette Anée là by M. Pokora. As these are activities that are pushing into new territory, let’s see what we can gather from them. In Cette Année Là, students are asked to react to the song by giving their opinion, which is spot on for the proficiency-based classroom. I decided to adopt this kind of activity and use it for other songs, like Frérot and Le Plus Fort du Monde both by Black M.. I wrote the linked handouts with the help of my colleague Heather Pineault. We still use cloze activities as well and another new-to-us idea is to have students comment on what they see, like you will see in the activity I made for the song Papa by Bigflo et Oli. And a final technique we incorporate to use songs to further communication is to have students understand a structure in a song and then make it their own by doing a short writing assignment about something personal to them using the structure. You see an example of that in the activity for Le Plus Fort du Monde where students then write about their own family members.

Activities that ask students to identify words, while a good way to have them focus their listening, don’t give a chance for the same level of communication as activities that ask students to react to the song, give one’s opinion, talk about what they see and write about oneself.

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