Now that Little Monkey is approaching three years old, I’m incorporating more preschool activities into our homeschool. One method that never gets old (and that my five year old loves as well) is music. My boys both love to dance and sing, and music is playing constantly at our house and in the car. Kids seem to be naturally attracted to music, and it is a great way to make any lesson fun.
Below are some easy ways to incorporate music as you teach Spanish, whether you are doing this in a classroom, a homeschool, or just informally. (Read more of my favorite resources for teaching Spanish).
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of CD’s of Mister G for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
3 Easy Ways to Use Music to Teach Preschool Spanish
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To my mind there are three levels of engagement you can employ when using musical activities to teach Spanish: passive, partially engaged, and fully engaged. Which level you use depends on the child’s level of Spanish and interest, your own level of Spanish, your goals in teaching, and the goal of the particular activity. My kids and I have high levels of Spanish, but I don’t always opt for “fully engaged” activities since I have to be careful about their level of interest (one reason I love using music, since they are always interested in that!) I find that a mix of activities works really well for us, to keep things fun but also keep them learning. Experiment and find the mix that works best for you!
1. Passive Learning
This could also be termed “sneaky learning,” but I’ll try to sound professional by calling it “passive learning.” 😉 For kids with little to no knowledge of Spanish, this is a great method to use to start out. Basically it involves exposing the kids to the sounds and rhythms of the language by playing music in the background, either during free play time or a dance or other exercise activity. You aren’t calling attention to the lyrics themselves, just familiarizing them with the sounds. If you are teaching Spanish at home, I’ve found that it’s great to play Spanish or bilingual songs in the car.
My kids, for example, love listening to the music of Mister G. The topics are really fun (what kid wouldn’t love a song about chocolate, or an entire album about animals?), plus the music itself – which features Grammy award winning musicians – is wonderful. In addition, the albums are bilingual, meaning that kids without much knowledge of Spanish to start won’t feel lost.
For kids with more knowledge of Spanish, passive learning is still a great way to increase their exposure to the vocabulary and structure of the language. It can also be a great tool to get them to think more in Spanish by increasing the amount they hear. This is very important in our situation. Since Spanish is our minority language, I’m always looking for ways to balance out how much English the kids are exposed to throughout the day.
2. Partially Engaged Learning
Once you’re ready to begin teaching basic vocabulary, you can do activities involving partially engaged learning. This is where you start to pick out one or two key words or phrases from a song and base a game or activity around them. So, for example, you could teach them the word rana and have them hopping around like frogs to Mister G’s La rana, or teach them jirafa and send them on a giraffe hunt to the tune of Una jirafa en mi casa. The song Siete elefantes is great for learning to count in Spanish!
These activities are great for kids without much background in Spanish because they are engaging without being overwhelming. It’s a fun way to learn basic vocabulary and get some exercise! This type of learning is also great for boys like mine, who have always been exposed to Spanish but whose understanding is mostly passive (meaning they understand very well but prefer to speak in English). I’ve noticed that my older son especially is very hesitant to speak in Spanish because he is unsure of himself. Really taking the time to reinforce the basics can build confidence and cover any gaps they may have in their understanding.
3. Fully Engaged Learning
For kids with greater understanding of the language, you can go for fully engaged learning. This would involve building on an activity like the ones mentioned above with extension activities. You can ask them questions in Spanish about the song, or teach them the lyrics, or do activities afterwards based on the full lyrics. (In Spanish: Can you imagine having a giraffe in your house? What would you do if you found one? Let’s draw a picture of a giraffe in your bedroom!) You could also have them engage with the full lyrics while the song is playing, by imitating the actions described, or having them jump up or twirl around when they hear particular words. For kids with greater understanding of Spanish, this can be a fun way of getting them to pay closer attention to the lyrics and process what is actually happening in the song.
Something rather unique that I love about Mister G’s albums is that the songs are interspersed with short spoken conversations between Mister G and his friends. Especially if you are a non-native speaker or – even if you aren’t – if you don’t have many Spanish speakers in your area, this is a wonderful way to increase the kids’ exposure to the flow of conversations in Spanish. Great for vocabulary and grammar!
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I am so excited to announce that I am giving away a copy of Los Animales from Mister G to TWO lucky US readers! Enter below for your chance to win!
Mister G is a Latin Grammy nominee and Parents Choice Gold Award winner. His albums have been selected by People magazine, Parents magazine, The Washington Post and Education.com as top albums for children. His new release, Los Animales, is a collection of original bilingual songs for children inspired by his love of animals. It features Grammy award winning musicians who together with the “kid-friendly, bilingual rock star” Mister G have created a fusion of salsa, jazz, bolero, Tejano, folk and rock music that kids and adults will love! Listen to the music here and find out more about Mister G on his website.
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