Monday, April 27, 2009

TOP 2O ESL Teaching Songs

As you many of you already know, I have been associated with ESL teaching for quite a while (20+ years).
I have always been a great advocate of music in the classroom. A shout out to Mark & Jeff, my usual partners in crime in all my crazy musical teaching adventures. Of course, almost any pop, country or rock song could be used for cloze exercises, fill in the blanks, comprehension and discussions. However, these are the songs I have used more often in classes... the ones that have worked best for me - either as part of an activity or task or as the task itself, and I´m throwing in a short description of how I used each song. You are encouraged to contribute and let us know what other songs have worked for you.

1. Instrumentals

I usually select 10 or 20 instrumental segments of songs and play them in class. For each segment, students need to answer a question while listening. For example, "what or who does this selection remind you of?", "where you would hear this music?", "How does this selection make you feel?", "Think of a verb that best describes this selection", etc. Students then share their answers in small groups and then with the rest of the class.

2. The Beatles - A Day in the Life

The middle part (the part sung by McCartney) is perfect for describing past events ("woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head")... First, I give the students strips of paper or drawings or pictures with each event, and ask them to put them in order. The first ones are obvious, the last ones not so much. Then, we listen to the song and see how many they got right. Then, I ask them to describe their own past events in the same fashion.

3. Don McLean - American Pie

This is a research song. We listen to the song in class and discuss it. Students then go home and go on-line and find out the many theories regarding the obscure meanings of this song. They can also do some reseach on Buddy Holly and other musicians directly or indirectly mentioned in the song.

4. Alanis Morrissette - Hand in my Pocket

This is a song for adjectives. You can give your students an alphabetical list of the adjectives in the song, and then they are supposed to put them in the right place. Also, you can have several discussions regarding the meaning of the song ("why does she have one hand in her pocket?").

5. Terry Jacks - Seasons in the Sun

Here, a dying young man says goodbye to his best friend, his dad and Michelle - who, depending on the interpretation, could be his girlfriend/wife or his daughter. The idea is that students choose one of these characters and write a response to him.

6. Mike + Mechanics - In the Living Years

Students discuss their relationships with their parents, and write a list of the things they would tell them before they (if they are still alive) or that they wish they could have told them (if they are already diseased).

7. Supertramp - The Logical Song

Another "adjective" song. First, I give them the lyrics of the song with all adjectives blanked out, and a list of adjectives. In groups, students are supposed to place them in the proper position (without listening to the song). Then, we listen to the song and they find out how many they got right.

8. Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire

At some point, I divided the song among the students in my class and each group had to research the names in their part of the song. Later, I asked students to finish writing the song. You see, the song ends in the mid 80's. So, the students' task was to write the paragraphs for the 90's and the 00's. Some groups could write the 90's and some the 00's, then we choose the best ones. It's a very challenging but fulfilling activity.

9. John Lennon - Imagine

I ask students to close their eyes... hey, I like Suggestopedia, OK?... and ask them to imagine themselves ten years from now... imagine the sky.. imagine the people... etc.. and then we go into the song (their eyes still closed)... afterwards, you can use that as a springboard for a wonderful discussion.

10. Pearl Jam - Jeremy

I prefer to use the video of this song because it's more powerful and students get a better understanding of the what happened and how it happened (the original not this alternate version).

11. Stevie Wonder & Babyface - How Come, How Long

Just listen to this song, and the song will give you everything you need for a rich class discussion - even the discussion questions.

12. Don McLean - Vincent (Starry Starry Night)

Use this song to talk about art and Van Gogh. Students can choose their favorite painting and share with the class.

13. Weird Al Yankovic - Midnight Star

I love using Weird Al in class. It´s fun. This song contains lots of funny tabloid news. Students can write their own following the patters given in the song.

14. Les Crane - Desiderata / Norman Rose - Deteriorata.

Desiderata is a great medival poem, and Deteriorata is its parody. Students can write their own parody of Desiderada following the patterns from Deteriorata. It's a lot of fun.

15. Monty Phyton - Galaxy Song

This is a great song for teaching numbers and about space. It's also very philosophical, and, if used wisely, could lead to a very interesting class discussion.

16. Rent - Seasons of Love

How do you measure a year in the life? Students can come up with lists of everything they did in the last year.

17. Meat Loaf - Paradise by the Dashboard Lights

Best song for idioms. Teach baseball-related sports idioms, teach baseball-related sex idioms (going all the way, going to first base), talk about teenage sex and responsibility.

18. Abbott & Costello - Who's on First?

Yep, I know this is not really a song, but this is a great routine to use in class for pronouns and structure.

19. Rush - Red Barchetta

Great story. I have used this song to talk about formal vs informal language, and to ask students to describe a similar adventure they have had.

20. Eagles - Hotel California

Just play this song, and ask students "what is this song about?". That's your lesson plan right there.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Top 20 Songs of the Year

For 6 years now, I have been compiling the Top 20 Songs of the year on April 16. These are the best songs I have heard, on terms of quality and lyrics, from 4/16/08 to 4/16/09. These are my special songs for this year:

1. Coldplay - Viva la Vida

One minute, I held the key
Next, the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of sand, pillars of sand

But that was when I ruled the world...

2. The Killers - Human

And so long to devotion
You taught me everything I know
Wave goodbye, wish me well
You've gotta let me go
Are we human or are we dancer?

3. The Rasmus - Living in a World Without You

Suddenly someone was there in the window
Looking outside at the sky that had never been blue
Ah, there's a world without you
I see the light
Living in a world without you
Ah, there is hope to guide me
I will survive
Living in a world without you

4. Flobots - Handlebars

I can ride my bike with no handlebars, no handlebars, no handlebars

5. Bruce Springsteen - The Wrestler

Have you ever seen a one-legged man trying to dance his way free?
If you've ever seen a one-legged man then you've seen me

6. Fabulosos Cadillacs - Padre Nuestro

Quiero ver amanecer,
Pero del otro lado, ver amanecer
Pero que alguien se quede aqui
Para saber si yo sigo vivo

7. Pink - Sober

No pain inside,
But how do I feel this good sober?

8. Sarah Bareilles - Love Song

I'mma need a better reason to write you a love song today

9. Axel - Celebra La Vida

No se si dormía, no se si soñaba
pero la voz de un angel me dijo que te diga
Celebra la vida

10. Metallica - The Day that Never Comes

Love is a four letter word,
And never spoken here

11. Brad Pasley - Letter to Me

12. Jack Johnson - If I Had Eyes

13. Staind - Believe

14. AR Rahman - Jai Ho

15. Apocalyptica & Adam Gontier - I Don't Care

16. Shinedown - Second Chance

17. Kelly Clarkson - My Life Would Suck Without You

18. George Strait - I Saw God Today

19. The Airbone Toxic Event - Sometime Around Midnight

20. Peter Gabriel - Down to Earth

Just for fun, here are the top songs of years past:

Scorpions - Humanity, Tarja Turunen - I Walk Alone, Carrie Underwood - Jesus Take the Wheel
Rufus Wainwright - Hallelujah, Robbie Williams - Advertising Space, Fergie - Big Girls Don't Cry
2006: Robbie Williams - Angels, Green Day - Wake Me When September Ends, Nightwish - Sleeping Sun
2005: Dragon Force - Starfire, Evanescense - Bring Me to Life, Simple Plan - Welcome to my Life
2004: Diego Torres - Color Esperanza, System of a Down - Toxicity, Counting Crows - A Long December

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Top 20 Songs in the Soundtrack of my Life

This is probably the most personal list I can ever come up with. All the songs in this list remind me of people, places and events in my life. Some happy, some sad. Some of these songs are very painful to me, and, depending on the day, I might choose to change the radio station if one of them should come on. Whatever the case, all of these songs are linked to powerful memories of happy times and people who might not be in my life anymore and I miss tremendously. I know some of you might recognize yourselves in one of these songs. If so, you'll understand why it is on the list. This is basically the soundtrack of my life...

  1. Icehouse – Crazy

Well, you've gotta be crazy, baby to want a guy like me.
Yeah, you've gotta be out of your mind - crazy.

  1. Miguel Bose – Amiga

El tiempo no fue tiempo entre nosotros,
Estando juntos nos sentimos infinitos
Y el universo era pequeño comparado con lo que éramos tú y yo

  1. Survivor – The Search is Over

Now I look into your eyes,
I can see forever
The search is over,
You were with me all the while

  1. Fire Inc. – Nowhere Fast

And I don't know where I ever got the bright idea that I was cool
So alone and independent but I'm depending on you now
And you'll always be the only thing that I just can't be without
And I'm out for you tonight, I'm comin' out for you tonight

  1. Journey – Send Her my Love

It’s been so long since I’ve seen her face
You say she’s doin’ fine…
I still recall, a sad café
How it hurt so bad to see her cry
I didn’t want to say good-bye

  1. Sui Generis – Confesiones de Invierno

Dios es empleado en un mostrador,
da para recibir.
¿Quién me dará un crédito, mi Señor?
Sólo sé sonreír..

  1. Lucio Dalla – L’Ultima Luna

L'ultima luna la vide solo un bimbo appena nato
Aveva occhi tondi e neri e fondi e non piangeva
Con grandi mani prese la luna tra le mani e volo' via
E volo' via e volo' via, era l'uomo di domani

  1. Cirque Du Soleil – Alegria

Beautiful roaring scream
Of joy and sorrow, so extreme
There is a love in me raging
Alegria, a joyous, magical feeling

  1. Olivia Newton-John – Twist of Fate

Don't understand what's going on
Woke up this morning, all the hurt was gone
This is a new beginning
I'm back in the land of the living

  1. Scorpions – Blackout

I realize I missed a day
But I’m too wrecked to care anyway

  1. Cats – Memory

Daylight, I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life and I musn't give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin

  1. Pink Floyd – Brain Damage / Eclipse

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

  1. Moving Pictures – What About Me?

What about me?, it isn't fair
I've had enough now I want my share
Can't you see I wanna live?
But you just take more than you give

  1. Meat Loaf – Read’em and Weep

Oh, it's there in my eyes and coming straight from my heart,
It's running silent and angry and deep!
Oh, it's there in my eyes and it's all I can say,
Come on and look at me and read 'em and weep!

  1. Blues Traveler – Runaround

But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down

  1. Rod Stewart – Forever Young

And when you finally fly away
I’ll be hoping that I served you well

But whatever road you choose
I’m right behind you, win or lose

  1. Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl

Do you remember when we used to sing,
Sha la la la la la la la la la la te da

  1. Ana Belen – Derroche

Y a la noche se le fue la mano...

  1. Joaquin Sabina – Eclipse de Mar

Que ha caído la bolsa en el cielo,
que siguen las putas en huelga de celo en Moscú.
Que subió la marea,
que fusilan mañana a Jesús de Judea,
que creció el agujero de ozono,
que el hombre de hoy es el padre del mono del año 2000.

  1. Metallica – Turn the Page

Here I am - on the road again
There I am - up on the stage
Here I go - playing star again
There I go - turn the page

Saturday, April 4, 2009

TOP 20 Songs for Holy Week

Holy Week is just around the corner, and, to me, it is a time of reflection. None of these songs are gospel - these are regular rock and country songs (and some of them may be surprising choices) but I think they can all help you reflect if you are into that kind of thing. Now, just don't go eating pork rinds on Good Friday... je je je

1. Ricardo Arjona - Jesus, Verbo No Sustantivo

2. Jesus Christ Superstar - Heaven on their Minds

John Michael Montgomery - The Little Girl

4. Mago de Oz - La Cantata del Diablo

5. Jesus Christ Superstar - Gethsemane

6. Jesus Christ Superstar -The Last Supper

7. Mago de Oz - Jesus de Chamberí

8. Poison - Something to Believe in

9. Randy Travis - Three Wooden Crosses

10. Carrie Underwood - Jesus Take the Wheel

11. Genesis - Jesus He Knows me

12. Green Day - Jesus of Suburbia

13. Ray Stevens - Would Jesus wear a Rolex?

14. U2 - Pride in the Name of Love

15. Neil Diamond - Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show

16. Ray Stevens - Mississippi Squirrel Revival

17. The Byrds - Turn! Turn! Turn!

18. Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus

19. Jose Luis Rodriguez - Se Busca

20. Iron Maiden - The Rime of the Ancient Mariner