Monday, 20 April 2015

Using Pop Music in FSL Class

Image by Phil Fung from

I love Pop Music.  It's not the only type of music I love, but it is a pretty great way of learning a language, about a culture and about a generation.  I owe some of my French speaking skills, and my Spanish speaking skills to Pop Music.  Getting a song or lyric in my head is a great way of learning about pronunciation, and sentences, and um.. rhyming.

So, it can't be surprising that I use a healthy amount of Pop Music in my FSL teaching.  I'm specifying Pop Music here as popular music from around la Francophonie-- stuff that French people would listen to on the radio; or buy the CDs of.  I do believe there is a place for FSL music created for children learning FSL, but I really love the authentic learning about language and culture that happens when listening to and studying a piece of Pop Music from a different country.  So, for the most part, I use Pop Music and not FSL created music in class.

There are a few exceptions: I love Mike Ford's Canadiana Folky Pop Music that is targeted for FSL learners and full of Canadian history that he's researched.  But I still consider that Canadian Pop/ Folk music with a cultural focus.  Besides, he was in Moxy Fruvous, so he is practically a pop star.  (And if you haven't heard his albums Canada Needs You, Vols. 1 & 2, and Seaway you're missing out.) The other exception I make is the stuff I wrote for my students, because that was directly related to their own writing, and more of a product of learning than a tool for learning.

So in order to organize the songs that I have used, and will probably use again in my classes, I created a Google Sheet that lists the songs I've used with their links and notes.  It is available here:

As always, please preview any videos before using in your class.  One video on my list, Paradis ou Enfer would be inappropriate to watch in its entirety in class.  He swears at the end, and flashes the middle finger after 1:23 in the video.  Why did I include it?  I cropped the video to 1:20 using TubeChop to avoid the inappropriate sections, so our class could have a discussion on Sierra Leone.  It has some great visuals about the disparity between the rich and poor in that country. So it was worthwhile to use that video for me.  But, you know the rules and culture of your school.  

So, how would I use all these songs in class?  I use music in a few ways, and I thought I could share a few of those strategies with you!  

1. Where was it filmed?/ Où est-ce que l'artiste?

This is a critical thinking activity that I use in class with a music video.  It usually takes a full class to complete, as students will need to watch the video more than one time to answer the questions.  I have used the video A coup de reves by Ben l'Oncle Soul, and the first 1:20 of Paradis ou Enfer by Kaaris.  
  1. First we read the questions we will have to answer.  they are usually: 1. Où est-ce que la location du clip?  Pourquoi est-ce que tu penses ça?  2. Quelle est la signification du titre ____?  
  2. I have the students watch the video.  
  3. Then we make a word bank of what we saw in the video.
  4. I give students a few minutes to gather their thought about the questions.  Most will ask to watch the video again.
  5. Re-watch the video. Students will point out les indices to help answer the questions.
  6. Then we discuss the questions.  We consult maps or other resources to help us find the answer.
My students love figuring this stuff out.  Because the whole discussion happens in French, it is an authentic way of getting them to communicate with each other in French, and to build a curious community which is necessary for any inquiry-type activities.

2. Gimmie!/ Donnez-moi!

This strategy can be used with any song, and a video is not necessary.  Preparation includes making cards with key words from the song on them, cut out.  You need enough sets of cards for the number of groups you have.  For younger grades, focus on less words, and older grades use more words.
  1. Hand out the cards to each group of students.
  2. Students set the cards out face up between them on a desk or table.
  3. Play the song.  While students listen, the try to grab the words they hear before the other members in their group do.
  4. Player who got the most words wins.
This is a great activity for introducing new vocabulary, and new words of a song.  Sometime, I have the people act out the words they collected to consolidate comprehension.  Its a fun activity.

3. Rhymes/ Les rîmes

To activate students prior learning, especially around vocabulary, this is a great warm-up.  This can be created in a work sheet, or on a chart paper for students to copy or do orally.
  1. Write out the lyrics on a page for each student, or on a chart paper, but omit the words at the end of phrases, or in other places.  The word that is omitted must rhyme with a word in the previous or next line.
  2. Before students listen tot he song, have them predict what words will be in the lyrics, by reading the lyrics, and have students fill in the blanks with the words they think are missing.
  3. Play the songs.  In a different color have the students write in the real words. 
  4. Reflect: How many did they get right? Why did they choose the words they did?
4. Correct this/ Corrigez!

You will need the lyrics posted or copied out for all the students to refer to.  When you write them, replace several of the words in the lyrics with fakes.  This can be as obvious or sneaky as you would like it to be.
  1. With the students, read the lyrics (with the errors your put in) together.  Tell the students that there are some errors in the lyrics.  Have them predict which words don't belong.
  2. Listen to the song.  Have the students write down the correct words for discussion after the song is over.
  3. Discuss which words were wrong.  Did the students know they were wrong? How?
5. How does it go?/ Comment va la chanson?

To prepare this activity, you will need to print out the lyrics of the song and cut each line into a strip, and mix them up.  You will need strips with lyrics for each group or student.
  1. Give the students the strips, and have them read them in groups.  Before playing the song, have them predict how the song will go by placing the strips in certain order.  (I take a picture of the order for comparison later in the activity.)
  2. Play the song.  Have the student rearrange the strips as the song plays.
  3. Compare their prediction to their ordering after they heard the song.  How did it change? (Sometimes I ask the students to try and sing their version of the song.  It gets pretty funny.)
6. Find the picture for the lyrics/ Trouvez l'image des paroles

This activity takes a fair amount of prep.  You will either need to find pictures that go with a song, print out or save stills from a video or movie, or draw simple pictures that reflect lines in the song you are using.  I usually create a sketchnote for the lines, and use those.  You will also need a print out of the lyrics for the students completing the activity.

  1. Review the lyrics with the students to ensure comprehension.
  2. Have the students review the images available for matching.
  3. Listen to the song, and have the student match the images to lines or verses of the song.
  4. After they have matched them, reflect: why did they choose that image for that line?
I have a few more ideas, but I haven't tried them yet.  As I do, I will update this post.  What are some ways you use Pop Music in your FSL class?  

1 comment:

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