Through oral drills, written assignments, communication activities, and research projects, students will be able to understand and properly communicate Spanish. Music will provide a catalyst for the students' enthusiasm, and in turn, their learning. Listening to, comparing, and interpreting music will engage students and leave lasting impressions.
Strategies used will include:
· Practice the present tense endings of regular
· Practice present tense of irregular verbs
· Discuss historical implications of Latinos in the U.S.
· Listen to Latino and current Latino-influenced music
· Compare and contrast different musical genres
· Identify verbs used in songs
· Translate and interpret song lyrics
· Recognize vocabulary and grammar components
· Make connections between Latino music and themes
I will provide students with a cultural and historical background to use as a context for this lesson. This is not overly ambitious, because we will have discussed much of this in previous lessons. A good portion of the background will be review, and the rest will be in-depth looks at topics we've touched on earlier.
We'll not only listen to various Spanish and Latino music, but also listen to Latin-influenced American music. We'll read Spanish, Latin American, and Latino literature, and look at art of this type. We'll see (and hopefully do) Spanish and Latin American dances. We'll also examine Indigenous and African music, art, literature, and dance.
I think that students will really benefit from experiencing authentic cultural works. I imagine that students will be able to draw out conclusions about the exchange that takes place culturally when people migrate. I hope they'll think about how that has affected American culture as they understand it, and how it might change in the future.
I've chosen three lessons to highlight in this unit that represent different aspects of Latino culture. The three songs I selected are all at least somewhat familiar to my students, which will lessen the likelihood for resistance. Each lesson focuses on a different aspect of Latino culture, and represents a different musical style. I'd hoped to find a current song in Spanish that would appeal to my particular students, but was unable to do so. The songs I encountered were either too advanced grammatically, or were not age-appropriate in content.
The first lesson is based around the United States' national anthem,
. The original version was a poem named 'The Defense of Fort McHenry,' written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. After witnessing the attack on Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, Key was so inspired by the sight of the American flag still flying, that he wrote the poem. Key's poem was set to the tune of an old English drinking song, and in 1931,
The Star-Spangled Banner
became the National Anthem of the United States (Star-Spangled-Banner).
Many versions of the song have been recorded, and sung by many people, in many languages. British record producer (and immigrant) Adam Kidron of Urban Box Office produced a Spanish-language version,
The anthem was recorded in 2006 by a variety of musical artists, including Pitbull, Carlos Ponce, Olga Ta–on, and Wyclef Jean. The song was recorded in response to the proposed immigration reform in the United States and released in time for major pro-immigration rallies; and it has been the focus of much controversy. Students will study both the English and Spanish lyrics, analyze each, and will discuss the need for a Spanish language version, and the implications of that.
The second lesson,
, examines a traditional Cuban folk song. This song is a
a type of song with strong Spanish influences, which relies on lyrics more so than melody.
artists frequently improvise lyrics, as has happened with
Though the original music was written by José Fernandez Diaz in 1928, and has any number of versions, the most well known lyrics were adapted by Julian Orbón in the 1940s. This version adapts its lyrics from Cuban writer José Martí's collection of poetry,
published in 1891
José Martí was born in Cuba, when it was still under Spanish rule. He fought for Cuban independence, and spent time in prison as well as in exile, for speaking out against the Spanish government. Martí spent many years in Spain and in the United States. Martí is one of Cuba's most famous patriots and authors, and was killed while fighting against the Spanish in 1895. In the 1960s, American folk singer Pete Seeger brought the Cuban song to the American public. The song
has become known as both a song of protest and as a song of patriotism, in the U.S. as well as in Cuba.
has been performed and recorded by countless artists, I've chosen to use Cuban singer Celia Cruz's version, with Orbón's/Martí's words. Celia Cruz (1925-2003) was born in Cuba and eventually, like Martí, left the island because of political reasons. Cruz spent the majority of her life in the U.S. and is one of the most famous voices in Salsa, but many of her songs had a strong sense of love and nostalgia for her native home. Students will discuss Cuba's fight for independence, and relate Martí's patriotism to that of Celia Cruz, to that of people generally.
The third lesson focuses around
, a traditional Mexican wedding song (and dance) from the Veracruz region. Like the
guajira, La Bamba
has a lyric structure that allows for improvisation and it is not uncommon to hear the basic tune sung with a variety of lyrics. Though
is often heard still, the accompanying
(footwork) is no longer an integral part of the wedding celebration. This amazing dance (in which a newly married couple dance cooperatively to the song while using only their feet to tie a long ribbon into a bow) can still be seen in
performances, as it remains a symbol of Mexican song and dance.
I have chosen to use Ritchie Valens' version of
for its simple lyrics and as a way to explore Latino contributions to early Rock 'n' Roll. Ritchie Valens (1941-1958) was born Richard Valenzuela in California to Mexican-American parents. Valens changed his name to increase his chances for success, as many Latinos were discriminated against, and released his first single in 1958. Later that year, Valens released his biggest hit,
as the B-side. Valens was only seventeen when he died in the famous plane crash that killed rockers Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper as well.
wasn't Valens' biggest hit, it is the only Spanish-language song that made it onto
Rolling Stone Magazine's
list, "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time," in November 2004. In 1987, Columbia Pictures released a dramatized biography of the young musician, titled
The Mexican-American band, Los Lobos, made a cameo appearance in the film and
released its own version of the song, refreshing the idea of Latin music as pop music.
Students will look at song as part of dance and tradition. Students will learn how Latinos have influenced popular American music, and will see how Latinos have sometimes had to sacrifice aspects of their own identities to conform to a sense of "American-ness." Students will learn about the tradition of
and draw comparisons to traditions in their own cultures.