Vicky Suárez shares highlights from her presentation with Debanhi Garcia at the 2023 SongWorks Conference. SWEA members can access the handout from this presentation via the Members Access area of the SWEA website.
Debanhi Garcia and I had a great time sharing some Spanish-language songs at the Conference in Boston! Both of us are Mexican-American, and we enjoy and feel comfortable bringing songs from our culture into our classrooms. We want YOU to feel just as confident and comfortable!
Thoughts from our presentation:
Why bring songs and games from cultures different from our own into the music classroom?
From Patricia Shehan Campbell:
From the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards:
What makes this difficult to do?
Often, we are afraid—afraid of mispronouncing words, afraid of not being authentic.
How can we do this authentically?
We will have to leave our comfort zone, but we’re used to that, aren’t we? As teachers we are continually evolving, learning, and growing into the teachers we want to be.
Tips for taking that step:
- Consider the source. Reach out to a culture bearer, whether this is a person you can speak to or someone in a video. Debanhi and I are here to assist you! Use YouTube to find more authentic versions of a song or dance or recording.
- Practice the song many times. Consider your pronunciation. In Spanish the vowels are always pronounced one way only. Accents go on the next-to-last syllable, unless marked with an accent on a different syllable. Ask students in your school to help you with pronunciation.
- Take a song back to your classroom as soon as possible after you learn it in a conference session or professional development. The sooner you try something, the fresher it is and easier to recall how it was presented and why you liked it.
The song I shared at Conference was “Pajarito Canta Tu,” which means “Little Bird, Sing to Me.” It’s a very simple and accessible song, and you can listen to it here: Pajarito Canta Tu.
When you teach this song to children, you can use other verbs in place of “Canta,” and have the children act them out: Baila (Dance), Escucha (Listen), Mira (Look), Come (Eat). If there are Spanish speakers in your class, you can ask them for ideas, or look up any other verbs the children contribute.
Consider how you will introduce the song, and choose a way that is engaging for the students. Here are some possibilities, and I am sure you can create more!
- “Listen to my song and see if you notice any words that repeat.”
- “I’m going to sing a song in Spanish. Do any of you know Spanish or any words in Spanish?”
- “There’s a bird in my song. What is he doing?”
Please reach out to me or to Debanhi if you have any questions about songs in Spanish. We’d love to help you bring our culture into your classroom!
Campbell, P. (2023). Intercultural understanding through world music pedagogy. Teaching Music, 30(3), 40-43.
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Music. (2001). Retrieved from https://www.nbpts.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/ECYA-MUSIC.pdf.
Vicky Suarez teaches PK-8th grade music and choir at George Bannerman Dealey Montessori and International Academy in Dallas, Texas. She is a SongWorks Certified Educator and on the faculty for Level 2 SongWorks Certification. She was born in the United States, but her father was born in Michoacán, Mexico.