May 8, 2014
It’s that time of the year again for the ‘Boom bang a bang’ jamboree that is the Eurovision song contest! It is an event that lends itself to exploitation in the classroom in a number of ways, so here are a few ideas:
- Pupils could consider what constitutes ‘Europe’ and think about the differences between the geographical (or indeed historical) concept of Europe compared to membership of the European Union and the European broadcasting union. Pupils could be given a list of countries in the language they are learning and match them to the English (or simply work out what the English is)/plot where the countries are on a map and/or create a venn diagram showing how the various countries relate to the different concepts of ‘Europe’.
- Pupils could practise their reading skills and using numbers in the target language by doing a quiz on Eurovision facts and figures. The example in this presentation is in French but could be easily adapted to other languages.
- Pupils could listen to short extracts from some of the songs and have a Group Talk type discussion about the songs/music/video they like and why. The Eurovision site has links to all the songs, including videos.
Those are ideas for activities that could be used year after year at Eurovision song contest time. Then of course, there are the songs themselves. Increasingly there are fewer and fewer entries where the contestants are singing in their own language (or at least in the languages most commonly taught in the UK classroom). A cursory glance through this year’s songs reveal that the Belgian, German, Austrian and Swiss entries are all sung in English.
Thankfully France has bucked the trend with a cracking upbeat number from the group Twin Twin entitled Moustache. On the Eurovision site you can see the wonderfully retro looking video which the group has created; this takes the form of a game show in which the contestant really wants to win a moustache! It has already proved to be a bit controversial with the accusation that the group has plaigerised the song Papaoutai by Stromae
On the face of it the desire for a moustache might seem very bizarre but actually the song is satirising modern values which puts material things above some of the more simple things in life. So some ideas to exploit the song and its accompanying video:
- Comprehension work on the lyrics – what words do pupils already know, what can they work out from the context and other clues etc. The lyrics are actually fairly straightforward and can be found on the Eurovision site here.
- Using the lyrics to do some grammar work, especially the use of the present tense.
- Taking screenshots of the video to describe appearance – there are some pretty wacky hairstyles!
- Using the lyrics to get pupils to think about their values in life and what other simple things someone might wish for, such as love, friends, happiness or health. Pupils could be given a list of things to rank in order of importance and say why. They could also be shown pictures of people in different situations; they have to imagine what these people would say that they would wish for.
Finally, for pupils learning Spanish there is Ruth Lorenzo’s Dancing in the Rain which uses a mix of Spanish and English – the lyrics can be found in a link from here.
October 2, 2013
Water, water everywhere is the theme of this year’s National Poetry day, an annual “nationwide celebration of poetry for everyone everywhere”. It falls on the first Thursday in October which this year just happens to coincide with Germany’s National day, or Tag der deutschen Einheit, on October 3rd.
When I was learning German (many moons ago!) both my grandmothers, a maths and art teacher respectively, took great delight in showing me what German they knew by reciting a German poem – Die Lorelei by Heinrich Heine. I’m sure that the reason that they could remember it word perfect years after first coming across the poem was due to the repetition of sounds, rhymes and rhythms. They may even have heard and learnt the words set to music. If so that too would have helped to fix the words in their mind.
The story of the Lorelei luring the fishermen to their death on the Rhine whilst combing her golden hair fits perfectly with the theme for this year’s National poetry day, so if you are tempted to give it a go here are a couple of videos that could be used to introduce it to students. The first is a spoken version of the poem showing the text with the music of the song version in the background:
The second version the song version without text but is of a boat trip on the Rhine:
Of course is the weather is not so good on National Poetry day maybe a rain inspired poem might fit the bill rather better?
Having got into the theme of water poetry I had a look for French as well.
For younger and beginner learners of French how about this poem entitled La Mer by Paul Fort? Paul Eluard’s poem Poisson is also quite accessible. A wider collection of water themed or inspired poems can be found here as well as this anthology put together by a class from Grenoble. Finally I found some examples of water inspired poems written by French school children.
With the requirement for pupils to be exposed to literary texts under the new national curriculum there’s no time like an occasion such as National Poetry Day to get started…
December 11, 2012
Thanks to a Facebook friend who drew my attention to this amazing video about young people living in a slum in Paraguay who have created musical instruments out of the rubbish they have found around where they live.
It has been produced by Landfill Harmonic and is a short clip from a forthcoming documentary in which the young people talk about how their instruments have been made and how they have formed the “recycled orchestra”. The video is in Spanish (with subtitles) and would fit in very well with lessons to do with
- the environment
- comparing the lives of young people around the world
Landfill Harmonic film teaser from Landfill Harmonic on Vimeo.
January 16, 2012
Chinese New Year (春节 Chūn Jié or Spring Festival) is almost upon us – Monday January 23rd. This year is the year of the dragon (龙年 lóngnián), the fifth animal of the Chinese zodiac.
I was looking for a suitable video of the story to show the pupils in my Mandarin club and came across this version in English which is attractively illustrated.
I also found a song about the animals of the Chinese zodiac (十二生肖歌 shí’èrshēngxiào gē). It has a catchy refrain in which the Chinese for the animals of the zodiac are repeated in order – useful for fixing this in the mind! This version is in pinyin and is relatively easy to follow, although the last word doesn’t match with what is sung. This other version is slower, has images of the animals and the meaning of the song, but otherwise is just in characters, so not so suitable on its own for my KS3 club. However, I’ve done a transcription in characters and pinyin for use with beginners.
December 11, 2011
Christmas is coming and it’s song time! I’ve just added a few links on the Chinese songs page to videos for Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is coming tonight and We wish you a merry Christmas.
If you really want to go to town and do some carols in Chinese, John Pasden’s blog Sinosplice has some downloadable zip folders of mp3 files and pdf files of the lyrics of some popular Christmas carols such as Silent Night, Joy to the World and the First Noel. Happy singing!
August 3, 2011
Following on from my post about using a joke to introduce the topic of racism, and Ausländerfeindlichkeit in German I’ve come across this song which could also used as a resource to address these issues. In addition to portraying the feelings of the victim:
Ich bin ein Außenseiter, ein Möchtegern, eine Randfigur von einem fremden Stern,
ich bin ein Mauerblümchen, unscheinbar und brav, ein Loser, ein schwarzes Schaf
the song also has some very good examples of use of the passive to convey the actions of the bully or the racist.
Ohne weiße Wolle wirst du ausgestoßen, ohne weiße Wolle wirst du bloßgestellt, man zeigt
auf dich – so gehts in dieser Welt, ohne weiße Wolle wirst du abgestempelt,
ohne weiße Wolle bist du außen vor. Man liebt dich nicht, da mach ich mir
The tune is very catchy and there are also rap sections so should have wide appeal..
July 8, 2011
One of the real bonuses of having PGCE students working with you is that they often come up with fantastic resources and creative ideas for using those resources. This song from the Lassie Singers is just one example and was used in a lesson I observed. The lyrics are perfect for introducing relative clauses in German as well as for looking at adjectives and adjectival agreement.
Danke schön, Anke!