Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!
~Oliver Wendell Holmes




As you know, a major part of my curriculum is learning songs. My hope is that this will teach vocabulary, pronunciation, the skill of translating AND be enjoyable for the students.


Just as a reminder, we start by listening to the song once. Then I break them into groups and assign each group a verse to translate into Spanish, using a dictionary. Once finished, each group presents their verse's translation to the rest of the class. That way, everyone understands the whole song. Finally, we practice reciting the words (for pronunciation practice) and then sing along with the CD.


I spent a lot of time over the summer, trying to come up with a dozen or so songs for us to learn. It was perhaps a bit of a Rorschach test for me, as I was selecting from songs that I am familiar with - but I tried to put aside personal preferences and pick songs that met the following criteria:
(a) contained a story line,

(b) contained a good selection of concrete & useful vocabulary,
(c) were not too difficult to sing,
(d) represented a variety of music styles,
(e) nothing inappropriate for a church setting and
(e) some Christmas songs for our classes around that holiday.


Here is my final list:


  • What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
  • King of the Road - Roger Miller
  • If I had a Hammer - Peter, Paul & Mary
  • Blowing in the Wind - Bob Dylan
  • Put a Little Love in Your Heart - Jackie DeShannon
  • You've Got A Friend - James Taylor
  • Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin
  • Forever Young - Rod Steward
  • Turn, Turn, Turn - The Byrds
  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus - Joseph Scriven
  • In The Garden - Charles Austin Miles
  • What Child is This? - William Chatterton Dix
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • Santa Claus is Coming To Town

I picked the first song that we would learn - What A Wonderful World. After that, I decided to let the students pick which songs they would like to learn next.


While this wasn't exactly a Rorschach test for me, I think it certainly has been one for them! So far, we've done "In the Garden" and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".


I'm afraid that Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart are getting short shrift from this group! ;)


Informal querying has shown that they are very likely to recognize the English words in a song weeks after we learn it - and that's without (so far as I know) deliberate studying on their part. And they certainly seem to enjoy both the challenge of translating the songs and the singing itself.


In fact, speaking of the challenge of translating, they are quite willing to get side tracked with passionate debates over relatively minor issues and it is a challenge for ME to keep them on track!


For example, in our first song, there is the phrase "I see skies of blue..." and they argued enthusiastically over whether that should be translated to the singular (cielo) or plural (cielos). The majority of the class felt that there is actually only one sky, and so wanted to make the translation singular. It took all my considerable force of will to get them to agree to stick with the song writer's words, however deluded he might be... ;)


The battle I lost was from "In the Garden", which begins "I come to the garden alone." They refused to budge from the translation "Voy..." which actually means "I go..." The closest they would come to a compromise was to agree to write down in their notebooks that "venir" means "to come" and "ir" means "to go". ;)


Anyways, this activity is working out well. My main issue right now is that I have 3 women who have been friends for years, and who are slightly ahead of the rest of my students in their knowledge of English. They always want to be in the same group. And then their group always gets much more translated than any other group. I'd like to ask them to split up and help the others, but I'm not sure if I should or not... They do have a lot of fun together... Any thoughts?


Photo credit: shankar, shiv

4 comments:

Rose said...

Perhaps you can shuffle all the groups for a day or so, without singling out the three most talented women. That could be presented as a learning experience.

Julia said...

What a brilliant way to teach a language! Mix them up occasionally, telling the ladies that you NEED them to help the others.

marysews said...

I think that music enhances learning on multiple levels.

I also think you should find a way to shuffle the group randomly. After all, part of "being here" is learning to work with different people.

Kelley said...

Perhaps you could take them aside and solicit their "assistance" with the others, asking each to help in three different groups. An individual who's knowledgable and/or a native of that culture can advise you regarding the dilemma.

I, too, like Rose's suggestion: a shuffle.