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Using Songs in the Foreign Language Classroom Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-SPN0200
Submitted by: Stacey Tipton
Email: mlinguist@aol.com
School/University/Affiliation: The Musical Linguist, Miami Beach, FL

July 25, 2001

Grade Level: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


  • Foreign Language/Spanish
  • Arts/Music

Duration: 20 minutes

Description: This lesson provides ideas for using songs in the foreign language classroom. In this activity, La Bamba is used to introduce/review targeted Spanish vocabulary.


  • To increase students’ fluency in Spanish.
  • To build enthusiasm for using music to teach vocabulary, grammar patterns, and culture.
  • Objectives:

  • Students will be able to identify target words/phrases in the lyrics of La Bamba.
  • Students will be able to work on a target pattern for the song: a grammar element, vocabulary, pronunciation, or other.
  • Materials:

    • stereo
    • cassette or CD with song, La Bamba
    • teacher-created handouts (see Procedure for more details)


    Setting the Stage: Before Playing Song
    (It is a good idea to do a little groundwork before presenting the song. Students tend to react best when they can identify some familiar elements right from the start. It is better not to have students look at the lyrics during this phase, allowing them to listen more carefully.)

    Review the song you are going to present (example: La Bamba), and create a list of target words for the lesson. It is wise to choose a focus, such as one or more of the following: pronunciation, vocabulary and idioms, grammar concepts, and culturally rich lyrics. Students can listen more actively if they are listening for specific examples. Read the list of target words/phrases that you want them to listen for. A vocabulary example for La Bamba could include:

    • marinero
    • arriba
    • gracia
    • una poca
    • cosita

    These words can later be used to create associations and word clusters. Another idea is to list several words in English and ask students to listen for the equivalents in Spanish. An example for La Bamba could include:

    • sailor
    • grace
    • a little
    • I
    • another

    The whole idea is to help students attach meaning to what they hear and to encourage mental associations as they listen to the song for the first time. You may also want to talk about what students think the song will be about based on the title, or whether they have heard the song before.

    Ready! Playing the Song
    Play the song, at least 2 times from beginning to end. Ask students to talk about what they heard:

  • What images did they get from the song?
  • Did any of the words sound familiar or similar to other Spanish words that they know?
  • Based on the rhythm and tone, what emotional state best describes the song? (you can add to this list!)
    • excited
    • jovial
    • melancholic
    • demanding
    • sad
    • dreamy
    • wishful
    • in love
    • hopeful
    • desperate
  • Which phrases stand out in the song?
  • What is their favorite phrase or melody?
  • Which sections are the fastest/slowest?
  • [Ideas for teacher-created handouts: Now is a good time to present handouts that can consist of the following: lyrics with certain target words MISSING, multiple choice sheets (mix in words NOT heard in song), and sheets showing the complete lyrics. *Please note: the handouts need to be created by the teacher.] Ask students to fill in the blank words, or select the words that were really in the song. Introduce the targeted pattern whether it be pronunciation, vocabulary, or a grammatical element. Ask students to identify all examples of this pattern in the song. At this point you might like to play the song again, asking students to circle or underline phrases or patterns. Present the grammar lesson, always referring back to the lyrics when possible for examples. In La Bamba there are several good concepts to introduce:

    • pronunciation
    • masculine/feminine
    • present tense verbs
    • 1st person future tense

    Ask students how elements in the song remind them of things they’ve learned in class. The Fun Part: Getting Creative with the Song!
    Now is a chance to do fun activities related to the song. Use your imagination! Here are some ideas:

    • Have a sing along.
    • Split the class into 2 or more groups and have a COMPETING sing along, each group singing alternate phrases.
    • Create skits based on the theme or words from the song.
    • Have students talk about what picture they would draw to illustrate different phrases and concepts from the song. Have students draw them! (computerized kids can look for clip art….).
    • Have students write NEW lyrics to the music. It might be best to stick with only changing verbs and nouns, keeping the basic grammatical concepts the same. This will encourage them to remember these patterns. Example: para cantar la bamba, para lavar la bamba, etc.
    • Write your own grammar chapter! Have students create a lesson plan based on a song, to be presented in a small group.
    • Split the class into groups and create a dance like La Macarena — have a contest and vote for the winning dance.
    • Have students create a music video for the song. This could include images with the song on the audio track or having students lip sync lyrics and act out themes for the song.

    Talk about culture, Latin music, different music styles (like salsa, merengue, vallenato, tango, mariachi, bolero, flamenco, Andean, etc.), Ricky Martin, music videos, etc. Music can help students identify with the language more and help them to develop more of an interest in Latino culture. Use the opportunity to spread enthusiasm!

    Assessment: Teachers can develop a vocabulary quiz to assess students’ knowledge of the vocabulary in the song. (While quizzes can test knowledge, music will also help students develop an ear for the language and pronunciation skills that can’t necessarily be immediately evaluated.)

    Useful Internet Resources:
    * Musical Spanish
    Includes articles and links to sites about teaching languages through music.

    * La Bamba Spanish Lessons

    * La Bamba – Lyrics

    * Teacher’s Guide to Using Songs in the Classroom (online version of the lesson plan)