How to write your own songs for language learners

I remember back when I was getting my masters in FL education. One of my first assignments in my elementary methods course was to write a song. Sitting in the classroom I remember thinking ... "You want me to do WHAT???" I mean, song writing is for professionals whose forte is music. I don't have a musical bone in my body. I did the assignment. As far as I recall I didn't get a bad grade. But it sure wasn't the best song I've ever written.

Now I LOVE writing songs for use in the classroom. A song is an awesome cue for what is to come next in your lesson. I like to start the class with a hello song, and then, as I change focus in my lesson, I use a new song. Kids pick up on new vocabulary or review previously learned vocabulary through the songs. They are very age appropriate at the elementary level, and if you choose the right tune (lean away from babyish tunes), they can also work great with upper levels.

These are my steps for song writing for the language learning classroom.

1. I start by brainstorming what type of vocabulary I want to include in my song. For example, if I wanted to write a Halloween song, my list might look like this: 
Spanish version: brujas, fantasmas, murciélagos, gatos negros, calabazas...
French version: des sorcières, un chat noir, des araignées, une chauve-souris, des fantômes.

2. Next I choose a tune. This step was super easy for me when my kids were toddlers. I got lots of song tune ideas from listening to Barney episodes or any of the children's CDs we had. I remember one CD with a Broadway focus especially gave me a lot of ideas. I love to use traditional tunes from the culture of the language I'm teaching. I also often go to Google and YouTube for tune ideas. Here is one site I like.
Today I googled Halloween songs and I've chosen the theme to the movie Ghostbusters.

3. Now comes the part where you need to put steps 1 and 2 together. Sometimes it helps to start with the chorus and get that part down. You don't have to use the entire song - if it works better with your lyrics to just repeat the chorus 2-3 times, then go with that. 
I've decided to use the beginning part of the Ghostbusters theme ... the part that goes "If there's something strange, in your neighborhood. Who are 'ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!
For my chorus I'm using:
Spanish version                                 French version
Es Halloween.                                   C'est Halloween (C'est l'Halloween ~ Canada)
Es Halloween.                                   C'est Halloween (C'est l'Halloween ~ Canada)
¿Qué vamos a ver?                            Qu'est qu'il y a ?

Now I'll use vocabulary from my list I brainstormed in part 1. I'll need to choose words with the correct number of syllables to match the syllables in the word "Ghostbusters" from the song - and I may need to add a definite or indefinite article or some other word to increase the number of syllables.
"Fantasmas" and "une chauve-souris" both work perfectly, but I might say "una bruja" or "muchas brujas" to increase the number of syllables.

I keep my songs short and sweet. I'll stop here and just repeat the chorus, adding more vocabulary words & letting the students shout out the vocabulary words like they shout out "Ghostbusters" in the original song. 

You can also find many songs available for sale. Here are some of my (and my students') favorites:

Have you written a song your students love? Do you prefer to buy music for language learning? Share your favorite songs (either written by you or purchased) in the comments below!

Freebie!! ~ Hispanic Heritage or Famous French Speaker ~ Who Am I? Game

I had so much fun with this! I'm sharing a freebie (find the freebie towards the bottom of this post) and an activity for your French and Spanish classes. This activity is perfect for Hispanic Heritage month, or for anytime you are working on learning about well-known French or Spanish-speakers.

Play Who am I?

You can play this game in a paired activity in sets of 2, or as a class. Or, start out playing as a class and as the kids get comfortable with playing/asking questions, switch to playing in pairs. I'm going to give directions for playing as a class.

1. Choose a student to be "it." Have the student draw a famous name badge out of a basket. (Use my printable found here).

2. Show the class the famous person badge without letting "it" see. Hang the famous person badge around "it's" neck on their back, so "it" can't see the badge.

3. Now "it" will ask yes/no questions in the target language to try and discover who is the famous person.

Question rules:

  • "It" must ask at least 3 questions before guessing the name of the famous person.
  • Question 1 must ask about where the person is from. "Am I from ___?"
  • Question 2 must ask about a physical description - "Am I a woman? Am I blonde?..."
  • Question 3 must ask about the profession. "Am I a designer?"
Once the 3 questions have been asked, "it" can choose to either keep asking questions - with no rules - he/she can ask whatever he/she wants in the target language.

Or "it" can try to guess who the famous person is. If "it" is correct, "it" gets to choose who will be the next student to be "it."

To give "it" a bit of visual help, I like to hang up mini posters. I'm giving you my posters! Click on the images for the freebies!

Depending on the language ability of your students, you may also need to provide some visual help for asking the questions. I like to brainstorm a variety of questions to ask and post them so "it" can glance at them when needed.

Looking for readers on various famous French/Spanish speakers? I can help with that!
Click on the images below to view the readers.

Are you looking for a reader on a famous French/Spanish speaker that I don't have available? Let me know in the comments below and I'll add it to my to do list!