Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

“Song of the Week” Part 1: Sourcing & Using


Music is a powerful tool in world language learning. As an ‘authentic resource’ it’s accessible to students, timely and full of language that speaks directly to students. I don’t allow students to use headphones and listen to their own music at any time during class so a music collection for me is essential. This year I have made a concerted effort to add more music to my class experience.

Sourcing: On a matter of principal I won’t use illegal downloads for this. Granted I have used music ‘supplied’ by my students without question in the past. However, as I am featuring these songs, I make a point of getting them legally. While songs for some languages are easier to find, for others it may a bit tougher. As a Japanese language teacher I make good use of iTunes for this. Japanese iTunes cards can be easily bought over the internet from reliable sources. Opening an iTunes account in your country of choice just requires an email address and any local address. Each song costs me $2 but for me its worth it.

Selecting: Each week I go to iTunes and scroll down the “Top Singles” section. Sometimes I do this by myself and at other times with my classes. It is motivating for kids to recognize artists that they know on the list. Equally bonding for us as a class this year  was  “Call Me Maybe” that doggedly remained on the Japan Top 10 list (groans all around)! Then the name of the song/artist and a QR code to the band’s website is put up on the board. Also a copy of the lyrics – in the Target Language only – is posted on my site, and on the board as fast as I can get to it.

Playlists: I have a master playlist of my entire collection of songs (about 500) that we also listen to. However I also keep a separate playlist just for “Songs of the Week”. When I want to I can use it to have students revisit past songs from the semester. If I have time I also project the cover as the song plays – providing students with a visual reminder of it as well.

Using as a “Cue”:  I use the song of the week as before class music (set iTunes to ‘repeat’) as well as during time at the end of class. I have started using it during activities as well as ‘background music’. Once students start on an activity it plays  – quietly – in the background. I find that a bit of noise seems to encourage students to talk with each other more. When I need their attention it is turned off. After a few weeks of doing this I see that they are noticing when I need their attention.

It’s great to know that we are listening to current language in the songs we hear. And I am enjoying seeing how much my students like to listen as well. In my next post I plan to expand on how I use musics in class…Oh – this week ? It’s “Spark” by 三代目JSoul Brothers!



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