My first summer out of grad school, I went to an AP Spanish Language workshop that was generally uninspiring except in one respect: the leader was the first person who connected pop music and pedagogy for me. Now, I wouldn’t be Musicuentos without the música, so let’s go with a music version of #AuthResAugust!
Las recientes que me han captado la atención
I have to confess, I’ve struggled to find good music in the last couple of years. Is it just me, or does every song on the Latin Billboard have about the same message? When you were mine, it was all about your skin, but now you’re going around with that guy, but tell that loser where to go, because if you’re gone, how will I ever find any worth, but yeah, you’re right, let’s call it quits because until dawn just messes up the tough days for lack of sleep and so now who gets the dog?
I am not a teacher who will play anything the students will like. Sometimes it’s for reasons I think are good like playing positive messages instead of negative ones. Sometimes it’s because I’m terrible about playing music I love and not playing music I hate, unless, as on rare occasions, it has a fantastic language feature showcased (lookin’ at you Belanova) or my students beg enough (lookin’ at you Enrique and your dastardly ping pong).
And then sometimes a song comes along and I know it’s supposed to be good and there’s supposed to be something I can do with it for a didactic purpose, but I just can’t figure it out. “Bicicleta” is the newest example of this for me. I am SUCH a Carlos Vives fan, and maybe I’m dense, but I can’t decide what that song is even talking about (not to mention that awful cookie-cutter reggaetón beat they thought they needed on their great Colombian sound).
Still, there are a few songs that have caught my attention recently that I’m planning to use in class soon (or already have) with some ideas about each.
Sie7e’s Por toda la vida
I cannot get enough of this song. Music is powerful, and we ought to watch what messages it’s sending kids. I don’t think Sie7e could possibly outdo the song that shot him to superstardom, “Tengo tu love,” with its message of “Money and fame don’t mean anything, because your love is worth more than that.” Still, I’ve been binging on one of his new ones, “Por toda la vida,” and it’s got a great message too: listen up before you think a broken heart is no big deal because es tan cuesta arriba to get it back together again, so I want to stay with you por toda la vida.
Some ideas for targets for this song:
Novice: Present tense narration with depth of vocabulary: rompe, apaga, detiene, muere, pido, llora, and of course, lots of repetition of quiero.
Intermediate: PRONOUNS. You’ve got reflexive (se rompe, se apaga, se muere, se borrran, quedarme, marcharte, te olvidas, se vuelve), double objects (te lo pido, no me lo digas), and single objects (decirme, armarlo). Hace tiempo is the only song I’ve ever seen that can compete with this song on reflexive pronouns (which, cough, only rarely have anything to do with daily routine). You could also take a look at por for expressing length of time. (Structure: Quiero [actividad] por [periodo de tiempo].)
Pre-advanced: Several of the pronoun sequences make great fodder for pushing pre-advanced students to more variety and sophistication in their grammar and vocabulary choices (todo lo puede and se vuelve stick out to me). Then there’s the repeated negative command of no me lo digas, as well as the ending sequence with no te vayas and no te alejes. Also, the idiom es tan cuesta arriba is a gem, for any level really. What in your life would you say es tan cuesta arriba – and then add – pero vale la pena (and now we’re playing “No me doy por vencido“…)?
If this kind of positive message plays well for you and your classroom culture, try also Carlos Vives’s “Volví a nacer” (the remix with Maluma!), Obie Bermúdez’s “Sigo con ella,” and Servando y Florentino’s “Una canción que te enamore” (subjunctive! me da igual! quiero! I want to put my last name on your name! Awwww). (Watch the videos before playing in class!)
Fonseca’s Entre mi vida y la tuya
Speaking of positive music, I LOVE Fonseca’s new-ish tune with its ADORABLE video, Entre mi vida y la tuya.
I used this song with very early novices at first to simply highlight the introduction exchange at the beginning. I even wrote David and Isabel on post-it notes and tagged kids with them to role-play the exact exchange they saw. Then, I used the song to highlight tengo, eres, and soy. You can see and freely download the graphic organizer I used to have kids listen for these words and other basic vocabulary here.
Also, every verb in this song is in present tense (with one command). It has great uses of mi/mis and several good uses of a/en todas partes. And, of course, you have the use of la tuya.
Ha-Ash, Lo aprendí de ti
Let’s move away from present tense. I’m teaching only early novices right now, but I’m always on the lookout for a good song contrasting the two past tenses, which I always teach together. Hands down, the best song I’ve ever seen for this is “Qué hiciste” by JLo, but this newer one by bicultural American sister duo Ha-Ash (Hannah and Ashley) is a pretty good one.
I count at least seven sudden past (preterite) and ten unique descriptive past (imperfect) verbs here. Unfortunately, no puppies and rainbows, just a bit of broken record: she loved him, he cheated, she found someone else.
Alex Zurdo, Dónde estás
See, I can grow and step a little away from my comfort zone, ha! I just discovered Christian urbano artist Alex Zurdo. This song isn’t particularly religious until the very end, and if your students are into música urbana, you know how hard it can be to find such a song that doesn’t make at least the occasional nod to Western culture’s endless demand for explicit content. Let me share with you this song from Alex to break that mold:
For one thing, this song is just demanding to be a MovieTalk in a unit about the family. It would make a great addition to any theme touching on family relationships or the global challenge of absentee fathers. (Lest we think the issue is greater south of the border, among North and South America only Colombia has a one-parent-home rate to match that of the U.S.).
Aside from the theme, the song is a great showcase for tú forms, especially the object te and the possessive tu. Another big strong point: the yo forms for narration: miro, veo, sé, me quejo, voy, estaba, tenía, me quedé, estuve, escuché, soy, llamo, busco, and so on. The topic is heavy but worthy; be prepared to talk about whether and why kids need fathers.
Chino y Nacho ft. Daddy Yankee, Andas en mi cabeza
Fabulous proposal videos (I teared up on the Braille proposal, #noshame; un aviso, one is accompanied by a pregnancy announcement), plus Chino y Nacho plus Daddy Yankee.
I’m not sure what to do with it yet, but this song is also full of present tense with some yo forms of past mixed in. And is it just me or has Miguel’s (Nacho) voice totally grown up since “Mi niña bonita”?
Along the lines of new music I don’t quite know what to do with yet, I’m really liking the sound of Monsieur Periné.
Finding more music
Don’t stop with these! Watch this week for a Top-2o list of the most successful songs from my classroom in the last nine years. Also, Elisabeth over at Spanish Mama posted more than 40 songs that she uses in level 1 and categorized them under which unit. And I’d be quite remiss if I didn’t also give you a link to my amiga Sharon Birch’s amazing music database.
How do you find good new music? Here are three ways I stay actualizada with good Spanish-language music:
- Check the Latin Billboard charts. They don’t change drastically that often, so a reminder to yourself about once a month or so ought to help you stay on top of what’s popular.
- Check the latest nominees and winners of the Latin Grammy awards, which will also help you stay on top of what’s good.
- Finally, YouTube features playlists of popular debuts from a year. Play it in the background while you dust furniture!
What are your favorite newer songs to use in the Spanish classroom?