When it comes to language learning, songs are extra special language. They have a dimension that makes them more than language. Using songs to teach Spanish is incredibly effective. I think of music as language glue, because it sticks language to the human brain in a way nothing else can. Just think of all the lyrics you can sing and how easily you can do it!
Many songs introduce kids to culture. They can teach everything from geography to food. Values and history are part of many songs, too. You can tap into this cultural component using a variety of activities.
To use songs to teach Spanish, incorporate visuals, movement and text. Below are 50 ideas using songs to teach Spanish to kids of different ages and levels. You can do many of the activities as listening activities first. Once kids know the song, they will sing along.
Movement with Songs to Teach Spanish
- Do gestures that represent the lyrics.
- Teach sign language for key vocabulary.
- Do actions like jumping or turning around that lets kids use their whole body. You can associate an action with a word, or do them to the rhythm of the song.
- Have kids move toy animals to make them do the actions in a song.
- Do traditional finger plays or make up your own.
- Learn dance songs like La mascota by Pim Pau, La Yenka, or Chuchuá
- Draw in rhythm to music. Cantoalegre has amazing activities for dibujo rítmico.
- Toss balls in rhythm to the song.
- Do traditional handclapping games, group clapping games or make up your own. Here are a few posts with clapping games to get you started.
- Learn the cup rhythm. It can be done with many songs, but the most popular is Si me voy.
- Sing songs for daily routines, like A guardar for picking up or Al agua pato for bath time.
- Invent songs using familiar tunes to sing about what kids are doing. You can sing things like Ponte, ponte, ponte los zapatos to the tune of 10 little fingers. Yo canto esta has a version of La bamba for washing hands.
Using Pictures and Objects with Songs to Teach Spanish
- Point to pictures cards or parts of a scene when words are mentioned. All the songs to teach Spanish from Rockalingua have lyric sheets with pictures.
- Hold up pictures or words when you sing them.
- Make a caja de canciones with figures for different songs. This wonderful idea is from a blog called Rejuega.
- Act out the song with puppets as you sing.
- Tell a song as a story with puppets. Add dialog and incorporate lines from the song as narration. Try it with Los pollitos. It is so fun!
- Represent the lyrics with picture cards and have kids put them in order as they sing.
- Use clip art or draw a scene to make a coloring page to represent the song.
- Use a felt board to tell and sing the song.
- Let children bounce a stuffed animal to the rhythm of a song as you sing.
Reading and Writing Using Songs to Teach Spanish
- Create cloze exercises (fill-in-the-blank) with key vocabulary using the lyrics.
- Put the lyrics on cards and have kids put them in order as they sing
- Have kids write in rhyming words as they listen.
- Ask reading comprehension questions about the lyrics of a song.
- Find synonyms and antonyms for words in the lyrics.
- Have kids write new verse.
- Let kids change one line to change the meaning of the song.
- Let kids substitute one word for another to change the meaning of the song.
- Illustrate the song in one scene and label the words.
- Illustrate the song line by line or verse by verse and make a mini book.
- For little ones, represent key vocabulary with pictograms. Read and sing together.
- Use the lyrics of a song as shared reading.
- Treat songs as literature. They are poems put to music, so you can talk about stanzas, literacy elements and themes. Consider the rhyme scheme and figurative language. If the song tells a story, talk about the elements of plot structure.
Culture Activities for Songs to Teach Spanish
- Talk about places, names, food, or culturally relevant objects mentioned in songs.
- Use songs to talk about regional variations in vocabulary.
- Teach songs related to holidays and other celebrations.
- Talk about, or better yet, make and taste foods mentioned songs. José-Luis Orozco has recently released ¡Come Bien! Eat Right! It has wonderful songs about food! For older kids, if you want to go to the extreme,try Lupita’s Taco Shop, which lists a staggering number of Mexican foods.
- Learn about instruments from different countries. Daria’s World Music has lots of great information and materials. You can find crafts and coloring pages here.
Book Activities for Songs to Teach Spanish
- Sing the words of a simple picture book. Here is a good example with Luna, a book published by Kalandraka.
- Read picture books that come with songs on CD. Here are a few favorites:
- Barefoot Books publishes wonderful picture books with CDs. The CDs have a song version of the story. Try Algarabia en la granja or Vivamos la granja
- There are many lovely collections of traditional songs for children. Many of these include the music in the book or have CDs.
- Arrorro, Mi Niño is a bilingual collection of traditional baby games and lullabies from fourteen Spanish-speaking countries. Tortillitas para mamá and Arroz con leche are also favorite collections of traditional nursery rhymes and songs.
- Jose-Luis Orozco has two wonderful collections of traditional songs in Spanish: Diez deditos and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America and De colores and Other Latin American Folk Songs for Children. You can purchase CDs of the songs in these books.
Finally, as you are working with kids and music, follow their lead. I have had preschoolers spontaneously sort Legos to color songs and older kids sing duets with themselves using their phones. Kids are imaginative by nature and music inspires them. There are countless ways to use songs to teach Spanish to children!