My Music Routine

I really like to start class by playing some Spanish-language music in my classroom. A couple years ago I started doing a bell-ringer, which is a short task for them to complete or a handful of questions for them to answer or a few phrases for them to translate. Below I'll walk you through how I incorporate this little system of daily music into my classes.


I have decided which song I am going to play this week prior to Period 1, but sometimes only 2 minutes prior. I encourage my students to send me songs (with lyrics) they'd like to listen to in class. They know I will not accept songs with school-inappropriate lyrics (um, Despacito???). Most of the time however, nobody sends me anything to consider... so I get to choose!

I play the same song for all my classes, Spanish 1 thru 4. Students know Monday is the day we follow Robert Harrell's excellent soccer program and find out how their teams did while recording simple details about the game.

I attempt to diversify the music as much as I can in terms of gender, genre, epoch, and nationality. Some artists from last year: Jarabe de Palo, Shakira, Celia Cruz, Los Tigres del Norte, Rafo Raez, Mana, Julieta Venegas, Calle 8, Kanatan Aski, Nat King Cole, Indio Solari, Selena, Omara Portuondo, David Bisbal, and others.


The bell-ringer for the second day of the week is usually either a few questions about the song (e.g. Is a man or woman singing? How do you think the singer is feeling? What instrument in this song do you like best? Do you like this song?) or about some things we learned from the previous day's discussions/news (e.g. Who ate sushi this weekend? Did the boys track team win or lose? In which country did an earthquake occur?)

Photo of Nicky Jam on my wall

As soon as we've finished going over the answers to the bell-ringer, I put up a photo on the overhead of the musician(s) at hand and we PictureTalk the photo. Last week we listened to "El Perdón" by Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias. So I found a photo of Nicky Jam with a ball cap, neck tattoo visible, and wearing gold chains. Sometimes we will read a short biography along with the PictureTalk, if I have one handy.

I try my best to differentiate the talk so that there is something new for each level class. That being said, sometimes it happens that a Level 1 class will be introduced to the same new vocab as the Level 4's, which does not concern me. If I were to type up the main points discussed last Tuesday, they might look something like this:

Level 1: Nicky Jam es un hombre. Es de Colombia. Tiene un gorro. El gorro es negro. El gorro dice Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn Nets es un equipo de basquetbol.

Level 2: Nicky Jam es un hombre colombiano que tiene un tatuaje de un pájaro en su cuello... un bujo. Nicky Jam lleva un gorro de un equipo de basquetbol, los Brooklyn Nets. También lleva tres cadenas de oro.

Level 3: Nicky Jam es un hombre colombiano con un tatuaje en el cuello. Es un bujo que está volando. Nicky Jam lleva un gorro de un equipo de basquetbol, los Brooklyn Nets. Es mal equipo, pero no es el peor equipo en la liga. También lleva tres cadenas de oro y quizás un arete.

Level 4: You get the idea.

Indio Solari es calvo

I also facilitated a quick discussion around a pertinent question that spontaneously came to mind while doing this PictureTalk with my first class (and so I tried to replicate the discussion for the rest of my classes - Level 2 and up). The question was "Why would Nicky Jam have a tattoo of an owl on his neck?" So I asked them to give me possible reasons and I wrote them on the board. My favorite: "Owls sleep during the day and hunt at night."

All in all, this PictureTalk about the Nicky Jam photo took about 10 minutes, but usually we are done in less than that. I print out the photo and post it somewhere visible in the classroom, sometimes with a caption of something that's new (e.g. "calvo" with an arrow pointing to Indio Solari's bald head).


We read along with the lyrics while the song is playing. Often this is just me finding the lyrics online, and scrolling down while they watch on the overhead. I also like to use the YouTube videos that just show the words while the song is playing. Sometimes I'll print the lyrics out, and once in a while we do a CLOZE activity. I always translate the chorus for all levels, and depending on the comprehensibility of it, we may read more of the song together. I use Wednesday as an opportunity in the upper levels to go more in-depth on the translation and maybe do a bit of grammar talk.

Afterward, I typically write down a lyric from the chorus on a piece of poster board and hang it up in the room. From last week's song, I chose "Te estaba buscando, por las calles gritando..." (see photo).


I play the song while they complete the bell-ringer for the day.


We watch the video, *IF* it is school-appropriate. If there is only a small part that is bad or questionable, I may just use the nifty "Video Mute" feature on the projector to black it out for a few seconds.

So this is how I bring in popular (but not always so popular) music from the Spanish-speaking world into my classroom. Oh, I almost forgot... some decent speakers are critical, just enlist a daily door closer so you don't annoy your colleagues. ;)

Recent Posts
Search By Tags