More evidence – the power of music in the classroom

Yesterday morning I was greeted by a happy surprise.  A former student of mine (from 14 years ago in a French 1 class) sent me an audio text with him singing a song from French class. This delightful boy was a joker back then and he has retained his playful sense of humor.

The song he trilled for me as a souvenir was one that aging French rocker Eric Vincent had performed when he came to our school, Hampton Roads Academy, all those years ago.  The musician conducted a workshop for French students and as part of his time with us, he also sang and played some of his previous hits.

Eric Vincent

Link to You Tube

This particular offering, Quelque Chose Qui Swing, was one that my student particularly enjoyed mocking a bit in an exaggerated tone.  The point is, that because he loved ‘playing’ with it, the words and expressions stuck.  The proof? – this week’s rendition, lo these 14 years later.

I played the morning’s audio message for my 8th grade class to offer them some pedagogical evidence of why their French teacher devotes class time each week to a different French song.  First I asked them to suggests reasons for:

  • hearing the song each day as they enter class
  • viewing the accompanying You Tube video if available as well as for
  • passing  out and spending 15 minutes on the lyrics (if appropriate for their level of French and maturity)

Here are their suggestions:

  • Songs help with pronunciation (an authentic French voice)
  • If catchy, the words of a song will stick with them, giving them useful language chunks to use themselves in conversation

Both of those are excellent.  I added: when we do go over they lyrics, sometimes individual students spot either connections between NEW words and words they already know and/or connections with English cognates.

I also hope that by exposing my classes to a variety of French musicians, they will find a song that grabs them and want to go home and listen/watch on You Tube.  They also notice, I hope, that French is spoken by many ethnicities.

And sometimes, we shift to English in our lyrics analysis if the themes are rich and applicable to their lives.  Brief life lessons on the spur of the moment can be a mini gold mine.

Finally, the time I sometimes invest to point out my continuing connections with some former students as well as the reasons I have for our class activities and assigned homework helps provide them with ‘buy-in’.  Kids want to know why we teachers do what we do.


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