Monday, August 9, 2010

Good songs for elementary Spanish classes


Señor Cosby: Los Grandes Éxitos

A few years ago, at the MiWLA Annual Conference, I watched a presentation by a very wise elementary Spanish teacher.  Among the things she said was that she started every class with a song.  Ever since then, I've taken that advice to heart--I began every class with a song.  Because nobody likes to sing the same things over and over, I tried to rotate songs every month or six weeks.  That worked out to singing a song about 12 times, plus various re-runs throughout the year.  I teach it to students using call-and-response,  with the goal of having them sing it on their own by the end of the run.

I primarily used one of three recordings to get ideas for songs: Teach me more Spanish, Teach me even more Spanish, and De colores by José Luís Orozco.  (See how long it takes you to spot the outlier.)

And so, without further ado, my favorite songs to sing to students:

"De colores."  I like this one more than the students do.  It's kind of hard to sing in call-and-response, but it's a fun little song with a long history.  For a variety of reasons, it's a personal favorite.

"Guantanamera."  This song went over surprisingly well with all of my classes.  It just goes to show you that José Martí speaks to people of all ages.  Or maybe it's Pete Seeger.

"Day-O (Banana boat song)."  I remember Harry Belafonte's version of this fun song from  The Muppet Show and Beetlejuice.  On one of the Teach me Spanish CD's (I forget which one) they have a really good translation.  In many of my songs I try to add movements that illustrate the meaning of the words, and it works GREAT with this song.  The students' favorite part is that I teach them a little dance step for the "viene la mañana y me quiero ir" line.  I'm a bad dancer at the best of times, and I ham it up, so they all get to laugh at me and then have a little fun with no pressure.

"En la pulga de San José."  This one's a lot of fun, and it's a childrens' song in the traditional sense.  It has a lot of repeated language, so they can pick up on it quickly.  The version I learned (and then taught) had the narrator buying instruments at the fair--una trompeta, un clarinete, una marimba, and one other I'm not remembering.  The students had lots of fun with playing the air instruments, and after they got the gist, we would extemporize other verses with other instruments.  If musical instruments aren't high on your list of vocabulary sets (and, really, why would they be?) you can switch out any sets of nouns--food would would work ("yo compré un jitomate, una banana," etc.), clothes, toys maybe.  It's a pretty forgiving rhythm, if your objective isn't necessarily good music.

"A la nanita nana."  I sometimes pull this up into my higher-level (middle- and high- school) classes.  It's a lullaby, and I honestly have no idea if it's traditional in any kind of way.  The Cheetah Girls did a version of this song in their second movie, when they were doing it up in Barcelona.  (Don't look at me like that.  One of my students told me all about it.)

"El barco chiquito."  Great fun, and they get to practice moving their mouths really fast with words they already know: "Pasaron una, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis siete semanas."

"Bate, bate chocolate."  Everybody loves this one!  Especially when we get to the "chocolate as fast as you can" contest.

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