Archive for the ‘songs’ Category


February 8, 2008

In a recent listserve post (#90412) Donatienne wrote:

“Google Maurice Carême. Here’s a link I pulled up with a few of his poems. I think they are all little jewels. I met Maurice Careme at a book fair in Brussels when I was 15. I went with my mom who looked like my older sister. We had a blast. She was an “institutrice” and used his poems in her second grade classroom all the time.”

I respond:

Donatienne you met Carême! I love love his work. Oh my gosh. That got my heart skipping a beat when I read that. Those poets in that genre just flip me out, all the ones you and Erwan and all have been talking about.

Now just find me some space in my schedule to teach these gems, y’all. Of course, we could just present them to the kids straight up as a free standing poem, which I sometimes do on Fridays after a week of stories and reading. But there is also the enticing idea of embedding them in stories!

The idea of bringing songs and poetry into stories is just so rich! I tried to bring the first part of Christophe Willem’s Double Je in this week to teach some serious vocabulary around introductions. It really worked.

It wasn’t some lame thing of having the kids introduce each other (output too early in my opinion) – instead it was an authentic YouTube videoclip in which a very popular French pop singer is introduced to a group of adults. Of course I had their attention! I am just overwhelmed by this idea that songs and poetry can be used to gig up stories and CI. It’s the blending of three mighty forces – songs, poetry, and narrative teaching.

You know, we have so many choices in TPRS! Blaine has given us a formula (circling, cute answers) for fun, for energy in our CI classes. Lise said on the list yesterday that in the middle of a story she got her kids chanting a line from the story using Mary Had a Little Lamb. Words flowing naturally into a fun chant for a few minutes and then back into the story, who woulda thunk it ten years ago in our profession?

We can blend a song with introductions (Double Je above), as well as poems into stories, mixing, blending poetry and song and stories. There are probably hundreds of examples of this happening every day in TPRS classes around the world!

Back in the fall my class had studied this awesome exchange between Marius Pontmercy and  Cosette from Les Misérables:


Je ne sais même pas votre nom, chère mademoiselle/I don’t even know your name dear miss. Je suis fou!/I am crazy!  Qu’elle est belle!/How beautiful she is!


… dites-moi qui vous êtes/tell me who you are.


Je m’appelle Marius Pontmercy/My name is Marius Pontmercy.


Et moi, Cosette/And I, Cosette.


Cosette, je ne trouve pas les mots/Cosette, I don’t find the words.


Ne dites rien/Say nothing !


Mon coeur tremble/My heart is trembling.

And there is another line where Marius says:

C’est un rêve..?/Is this a dream?

And she says, putting up one finger and looking directly into his eyes:

Non…c’est vrai!/No…it’s true!

There have been many moments since that time some months ago when I have been able to insert this last part of this scene into stories, much to the protestations of my students who are at the same time fascinated by such declarations of love but feel compelled to yell “Gross!” in the middle of it.

I don’t mind, because I am a great singer and they love to listen to me sing, and, let’s not forget, when they hear such bits of songs in stories, they are awash in comprehensible input, while at the same time getting to see and hear some great literature.  

It’s incredible, really, how such “moments” from opera, literature and music can fatten up a story, and now we’re bringing poetry into the mix. It never ends!


Le Je est un Autre

February 4, 2008

Choice of content, again, is the spark that ignites or douses stories. Check out Double Je by Christophe Willem –  on YouTube.

You know what? The kids can get this. Easy for them because half of them ARE this video – they live it daily. We’ll spend a week on this song. Translation, PQA, extended PQA, listen to it, lipsync it, spin stories from the lyrics. Luckily not objectionable subject matter.

For those who believe that the language in this song is too fast and therefore not understandable by first year students, I say hooey. We learn languages because we are interested in what they mean, not because people start out speaking slowly to us.

Fatal Bazooka

February 3, 2008

We get kids up and acting, but what are they acting about? We make the story all about them and their worlds. Even if we were skilled magicians at TPRS, the story will not really be interesting to them without good personalized content.

In my own experience taking my kids into a fifteenth century world of forested creatures provides good content. Stories around rock stars and teen celebrities always work really well – it is a staple of content choice in TPRS. Stories based on Sponge Bob characters or the Simpsons also work wonderfully, because most of the kids are experts in this area.

A huge leap forward in the choice of content for stories in my classroom has taken place lately in my classroom in the form of rap music. I have vastly underrated the influence, for better or worse, of rap artists on American kids. French rap is a good place to go for a good story.

The commercial interests who produce these artists do a lot of content research for us, and for good reasons called dollars. No wonder rap music appeals so much to kids in their mid-teens – it is commercially aimed directly at them!

The French rapper named Fatal Bazooka has a song out called “Speak to My Hand” (“Parle à Ma Main”). I taught some of the more recognizable terms to my kids (“Non, merci”, “Pas intéréssée”) and then the next day played the song, which was about a teen girl who has an argument with her dad and goes out on the street and is a guy-magnet, but rejects them all with catchy phrases like those above. The theme of the song is “les mecs sont tous nuls” (“guys are all zeros”).

While we listened to the song the next day, with the kids trying to pick out words they could understand, I asked three boys to lipsync the words. These “mecs” were soon dancing, strutting their stuff with amazingly accurate singing, and their French accents were vastly improved in those moments of the song.

The reaction of the girls in the class was electric. The whole class wanted to do a story right then and there featuring the characters in the song. I found later that out that the guys and half the kids in the class had downloaded the “Parle à Ma Main” video the night before and had studied it, hence the acting surge the next day.

It showed me the importance of content. It made me conscious that, often, if a story wains, it is not so much because I am not doing the skills involved in asking a story as well as I could, but rather, that I just have boring subject matter.


November 10, 2007

To the tune of Brother John:

lundi mardi 2X; mercredi 2X; jeudi, vendredi, samedi 2X; dimanche 2X


November 10, 2007

This is to the tune of London Bridge:

sur sous dans (devant, derriere 3X)
sur sous dans (devant, derriere 3X) a cote de…

pres de loin de (devant, derriere 3X)
pres de loin de (devant, derriere 3X) a cote de…

a gauche a droite (devant, derriere 3X)
a gauche a droite (devant, derriere 3X) a cote de…

au dessus au dessous (devant, derriere 3X)
au dessus au dessous (devant, derriere 3X) a cote de…

en haut en bas (devant, derriere 3X)
en haut en bas (devant, derriere 3X) a cote de…

avec sans (devant, derriere 3X)
avec sans (devant, derriere 3X) a cote de…

ensemble! (arms out in a big hug!)

Marius et Cosette

November 10, 2007

The great duet from Les Misérables is easily understood by first year students, and yet is not a kid’s song like Frère Jacques. Plus, the love interest is sky-high, so the kids really listen.

Here are the words, and maybe you can download it if you decide want to use it (my translation):
The Heart in Happiness

Le coeur au bonheur, le coeur aux chimères,
The heart in happiness, the heart [seeing a] vision,

J’ai peur de la mettre en colère.
I’m afraid to make her angry.

Mon Dieu! Pardon!
My God! Excuse me!

Je ne sais même pas votre nom,
I don’t even know your name,

Chère mademoiselle.
Dear miss.

Je suis fou! Qu’elle est belle!
I am crazy!  How beautiful she is!

Le coeur au bonheur, dites-moi qui vous êtes.
The heart in happiness, tell me who you are.

Je m’appelle Marius Pontmercy.
My name is Marius Pontmercy.

Et moi, Cosette.
And I, Cossette.

Cosette, je ne trouve pas les mots;
Cosette, I am not finding the words;

Ne dites rien!
Don’t say anything!

Mon coeur tremble,
My heart is trembling,

Comme le mien!
Like mine!

Le coeur en extase,
My heart in ecstasy,

L’espace d’une nuit
[In] the space of one night

Fleur au jardin du paradis;
Flower in the garden of paradise;
Cosette, Cosette!
Cosette, Cosette!

Êtes-vous le prince que j’attendais?
Are you the prince I have been waiting for?

C’est un rêve?
Is it a dream?

Non, c’est vrai.
No, it is true.

Le coeur au bonheur,
My heart is happy.

Non, il n’était pas pour moi,
No, he wasn’t for me,

Le coeur plein de toi,
My heart full of you,

Je n’ai rien à regretter,
I have nothing to be sorry about,

Je savais au premier regard,
I knew at the first look,

Au premier soir,
On the first evening,

Il ne me dira jamais
He will never say
Ces mots-là.
Those words.

I was hoping.

Pas à moi,
Not for me,
Pas à moi.
Not for me.

I was waiting.

Et c’est plus doux qu’un rêve,
And it is sweeter than a dream,
Plus qu’un rêve,
More than a dream,
Toi et moi.
You and me.

Son coeur
His heart
Au bonheur,
Is happy,
Qui ne battra pas,
Which will never beat,

Pas pour moi.
Not for me.