Thursday, 16 January 2014

Making music for French Class

Students reading my song lyrics to understand the format
I love using music in French class.  The kids love it, and I do too.  Its the one thing that can really get me moving.  My grade 5 classes had completed a short unit on Popular French music.  Some of the songs we discovered are some of the kids' favorites!

Lately, I have been writing my own French songs for the kids to listen to in class.  I wrote one song for our project on Movember; we had some male staff in our school participate this year.  The song was part of a webquest that some students completed.  They loved that song!  For the whole week, they walked around singing "je n'aime pas les moustaches."  They even requested it in their class party!

I thought that I would try again by creating a song for our unit "Je me presente!"  I wanted the song to be simple so that the students would understand it, and so that we could turn it into a writing activity.  Here's what I came up with:

And here is the track sans vocals:

 We started listening to it this week, and we read the lyrics. (Click here to download a PDF of the lyrics.)  The students understood the song very quickly (using their strategies!).  They thought it was funny.  Then I told them that they were going to write their own songs, and they were very anxious.  There were a lot of "I can't"s and "too hards" floating around the place.  The students were adamant that they couldn't.  It was quite frustrating, so we moved onto the next activity.  But I knew that we would revisit the song later.

Today, we listened to the song again, and focused on the structure of the lyrics.  The students noticed that there were many repetitions in the song.  We broke down the song into sections: the chorus, and the verses.  The students were asked to write one verse about themselves.  To help them in their writing, they used their notebooks with all their work from the unit "Je me presente."  Each student had written a lot about themselves already.  They just needed to put it in the right format!

Some student lyrics
 Once they got over their initial fear, they started to write some great lyrics!  They were allowed to used my chorus, and format.  That way it would work when they sang it to the instrumental version of my song.  To get them started, I suggested that they write out the chorus, because its less intimidating than a blank page-- that's what I do.  Many of the students said this helped. And they were writing!  They were talking to each other about song ideas, and trying to find rhyming words for their verses!
It was really exciting for me to see them trying to create their songs.  They were very intimidated about the idea, but as they started, they were adding more ideas.  What we will do is finish our verses, and record our song about our class. 

If you were interested in making your own songs, I will tell you how I made mine.  I use the ipad app Garage Band to make and record songs for class.  Its easy to use, and I can hook up my guitar to it, or use the sounds in the program.  The best way to start is to play around with the app, and find a sound you like.  If you have a friend or child that plays music, they can help too!  I make my husband sing on some of the songs if I need a deep voice.  The resulting song is not bad in quality, or sound.  Its great for class, and you can export the song to other platforms if needed.  For my mustache song, I exported it to Moviemaker, to create a video.
More student's lyrics

If you are not the type to write a song, there are other cool ways to incorporate music and writing into your classroom.  This teacher had his students write the lyrics of the popular song "What does the fox say?" in French.  I had a friend who was in a French children's music group, and they had a contest:  Schools submitted their translations of songs, and then the group recorded it and a video starting the students!  I like to use French Pop music in the activity "Milling to the music" or as we call in in French class, "Marchez a la musique."  Universal France has a great You Tube channel for discovering upbeat modern French music.    
Want to take the plunge and try GarageBand?  This is a great tutorial site if you are interested in trying out the app.  If you make up a song, let me know!  I love finding new french music.  And, as always, you are welcome to use my song in class.  It will fulfill my dream of being a pop star ;-) 

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