Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Guided Inquiry Project: Using Music to learn French- Part 1 (Provocation and Criteria)

I have probably said before that I use a lot of pop music in my FSL classes.  Because I do.  We have "mercredi musicale" once a week where we watch a music video in French and complete a short warm-u activity connected to that song.

So when I came across this blog post on FluentU:

I thought it would be a neat thing to try out in class.  This blog post has some great ideas on how to use French pop music as a learning tool for language studies.  

This blog post breaks down a simple method for incorporating music into you language study:
  1. Choose this right kind of songs.  The author notes that he likes rap-- but that French rap was not the best choice for learning.  The rhymes were to fast, which made listening for understanding difficult.  He notes listening to a song, and if you can't make out any words, that song is too difficult for you.  For my students, I made it even easier to choose songs- I adapted a reading strategy from when I taught grade 4; students listen to a verse and a chorus and if there was more than 10 words that they didn't know or recognize that song was too difficult to use as a learning tool.
  2. The blog post outlines a few methods for using music as a learning tool.  The most important method according to the blog post is repetition is the key for successful learning using music.  
  3. Last, the blog post recommends that you like the songs you choose!  If you have to listen to the songs over and over, it shouldn't be a chore.  
The post also includes a list of 7 songs that helped the author with his French along with an explanation as to why these songs were helpful.

I thought that this was a cool idea, so as a class we read this blog post without the song suggestions.  As a class we talked about why pop music would be a great learning tool for FSL students.  Students created graffiti charts with reasons why music could help one learn a language.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that activity-- but the students came up with some great reasons:
  • Good for listening for comprehension skills
  • Can learn slang to sound more like a natural speaker
  • learn about the French culture through the videos
  • Fun
  • more likely to listen to it over and over
  • tunes and words get stuck in your head
Because this blog post generated some great discussion, I thought it would be a neat inquiry project.  And that's how inquiry projects are born!  This activity was like a provocation-- it got the students thinking about music as more than solely an entertainment medium, and more as a piece of culture, and learning tool.  

The next step was to have the students think about our question:  Quelle est la meilleure chanson d'apprendre le français?  

This question is broad and unanswerable on purpose.  Students have to think of criteria of what makes a song useful for learning about another language; they have choose a song based on that criteria; and then they have to defend their choice of song.  Having to create, follow and defend criteria is HOT skills, and therefore an inquiry project.  

Our first class activity was to create the criteria on which we would base our choices.

We had a brain-storming session as a class, and the students copied notes into their own books as we discussed the criteria.  Students used a lot of circumlocution to come up with their ideas, but in the end, they were happy with the list of criteria we created.  For a copy of this worksheet (.doc) click here. 

This criteria gave students a framework from which to find a song that would be a good tool for FSL students.  The criteria also gave the students somewhere from which to create a defence for their choice.

 To be continued in part 2!


My next blog post in this series will look at how the students researched and found their songs, as well as how they recorded the information they found, and how they created their reports and presentations.  If you would like to find all the documents that I created for this activity,  click here.

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