Monday, 14 March 2016

Listening Activity: Lyrics Sort (Où vont les paroles?)

Our focus in class lately is "Pop Culture;" that is we have been talking about and looking at movies, music and culture (dance, art, etc.)  It has been very interesting and engaging for the students!  They have been able to talk about their preferences and opinions in French!  One thing that I noticed we were not doing as often was dedicated, and explicit listening activities.  Music is a great tool with which to do dedicated listening activities!

To continue our look (or listen) to "Soulman" by Ben L'Oncle Soul, I have my students complete 2 listening activities "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.)

To make this activity a little shorter (for time), I gave each group one verse or the bridge or chorus.  Students had to arrange the lyrics, and then tell me which part in the song it was.  The students were pretty good at listening and arranging the lyrics.  Some of the students arranged them, asked to hear the song a second time, and sang along to make sure it was write.  After students had the lyrics in order, they started trying to figure out the meaning of the lyrics they had while they waited for other groups.

It was a fantastic activity.  We have been working on this song for 3 classes now, and we haven't even started the culture part!  I'm looking forward to what they find out about the singer in our next lesson.

How do you use music in your class?  Want some more ideas for using music in FSL?  I have a post on using pop music in FSL right this way.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Using Pop Music to Teach French Culture: Introducing Active Listening

One topic that I notice FSL teachers sometime struggle with is ow to teach culture to their students.  This is one topic that I have challenges with-- because I want to make the subject engaging, but teenagers (I teach intermediates) are rarely interested in a history or culture lesson in French.

One way that I work around that is to teach culture through a format that is understood across all cultures, and that's the idea of music. Music is called the "international" language because all cultures have some form of music.  I especially love teaching FSL student about culture through music because I can look at several different cultures (and countries) that make up the Francophone world, and this opens itself to explorations and discussions about diversity.

In order to use music to teach both FSL Language and Culture, I focus on a set of skills to make sure that my students get the most out of the activities and work we do.  The first skill I teach is that of "Active Listening."  Often when we listen to something or someone, it is a passive activity-- we are doing or concentrating on something else.  For my generation (I was born at the very start of the millennial generation in the 80s), listening as a main activity is not something we have had to do.  We have always had the technology to add visual stimuli to whatever we were listening to.  We have always had TV, movies, computers, video games.  More, we grew up in a fast-paced, high- stressed, over-stimulated environment by having access to the technology.  So for kids who like me had and have an overabundance of stimulus in our world, focusing on one thing is considered "boring," or in actually, very challenging for us.  We need practice and training in this skill-- and using music in FSL is a great way to ensure that students focus on the language of the song-- as well as learn about the culture that the song exists in.

When we start looking at "l'ecoute actif" in class, I often give the students instructions for how to sit and act during a listening activity.  I instruct students to sit in their chairs with both feet flat on the ground in front of them.  I explain that this position is natural and comfortable, and will help them to breathe slowly and fully-- which is essential to making sure you don't fidget and move around-- because then the focus comes off listening and onto moving or someone else moving.

After they are sitting comfortably, I ask them to put their hands on their desk, or in their lap.  Last, I ask them to close their eyes-- We grasp for visuals as young people, and have eyes closed takes away that temptation to look around.

Most importantly, I let the students know that this is a challenging skill to learn.  Our culture here in the "West" does not necessarily value listening in this way, so its something that we have to concentrate on and relearn. During this conversation, on of my students who had gone to school in Beijing, noted that when they had to listen to anything, they were taught to listen in this style-- which was really cool for my students to hear!

Then we listen to the text-- in this case it was "Soulman" by Ben L'Oncle Soul.  They could only listen, no lyrics of video to support their listening this time.  It was interesting to see the challenges some of the students had, and it was interesting to see how well some students could focus their listening.  We listened to the song twice, once "passively" and once "actively" and several students noticed that they could pick out more words than when they were listening to music in the background.

Our next step was to think about what hinders our comprehension of a song in French.  To focus our thinking and conversation.  For this activity I used the "Cadrans de dificultés" from the Curriculum.Org website, which is from the new(ish) document "Listening to Learn."  I linked the short PDF above, because its a really good read with some great ideas!  The handout I made for my students was based on an example from the document.
Students listen to a aural text, and rate the difficulty according to vocal, complexity, pace, accent, point and supports in place.  Then, in the box to the right of the rating, they list strategies to help overcome those challenges.

I love this activity because it has the students listen for understanding, but has them problem solve strategies and potential solutions if the are challenged.  I guided the class as we looked at the first column of the page.  This was a very helpful activity!  It made the students' thinking about strategies explicit, and helped me to see if they knew which strategies to use, and when.

Overall, I think that this was an extremely useful lesson for my students.  Even though they complained about the song at first (as teenagers do), it was the first song they asked to listen to on our musique mercredi.