Integrating ACTFL’s 3Ps and Presentational Communication with Reality-TV-Inspired Singing Competitions
By Jennifer Eastman, PhD
Learning Solutions Specialist, EMC School
Are you addicted to Lip Sync Battle? Have you ever watched an entire season of The Voice or American Idol? Maybe you are not a fan of Reality TV shows, but chances are your students have grown up watching one or more of these enormously popular television programs. You can easily add a bit of fun musical competition with a reality TV show model in your World Language classroom while focusing on ACTFL’s 3P Culture Framework (Products, Practices and Perspectives) as well as the Presentational Mode of Communication.
Why now? At this point in the school year with the last few months or even weeks to go, teachers often stop spending time on cultural activities and focus on what must be achieved to close out a successful school year. This often includes making sure that all required content (i.e., grammar and vocabulary) has been taught, learned and assessed before the end of the marking period. Where are the 3P’s? Where is the evidence that your student can present in the target language? Upon closer inspection of your lesson plans you may realize that you are not addressing these important aspects of World Language teaching because of the rush to “cover” material. Even if you are teaching the 3P’s and assigning presentational mode activities, you may need to admit that taking a short break each class period to change things up from the grueling end-of-school-year schedule could be beneficial for both you and your students. There is an easy way to integrate music from iCulture’s iSongs into your bell-ringer, warm-up, or wrap-up moments with your students each period for a week. Trust us—you’ll still be able to teach all of that essential grammar and vocabulary because this competition is designed to put the majority of the work on the student’s desk, not yours! As an added bonus, students will be more engaged and energized to attack their language work when you provide them with this fun, yet educational competition.
The assignment: Students will pick a song from iCulture’s iSongs and learn to sing it, either karaoke or lip sync style. They will record 30 to 90 seconds of their song performance on Flipgrid or Avenue. You will show several “performances” a day, generating hype for your student “judges” as they use a student-designed rubric or tally sheet to keep track of all the songs and performances, rating them on criteria that relates to the 3P’s, grammar, vocab, and of course, the ability of the student to hit those notes (or lip sync) in the target language. They will look forward to seeing each other’s videos. At the end of the week, when all student videos have been viewed, students will use their tally sheets or rubrics to cast their votes for the winner. The following week, you can reveal the winner and award a prize of your choosing.
The rationale: Using a reality TV theme of competition to inspire your students to learn to sing a song in the target language is a fun and easy way to insert some excitement back into your classroom at the end of the school year. If you are not sold on this idea just yet, don’t stop reading! You may be thinking that this would be just another item to create and grade, that it would take up a lot of class time, or even that students would not buy into it. Let’s debunk these myths by explaining the assignment in more detail:
Class Discussion Day 1: The first step is to announce to students that they will have the opportunity to compete in their own version of a reality TV program with their peers. You can either ask students what they want to do, or you can decide the parameters of this competition in advance and simply explain it to them verbally. Should they lip sync? Should they play air guitar? Do you have any talented students who may actually enjoy singing for the class? You know your students best, so figure out what will be the most fun for them! The discussion should only take 5 minutes of class time. Explain to the students that they will have a week to learn their song and record their performance before the in-class viewing sessions begin.
Homework Due Day 2: Students should be prepared to turn in the names of two or three songs from iCulture’s iSongs. If more than one student wants the same song, they will have back-up songs to choose. When they turn in their homework, this should only take you a few moments to sort out while students do partner or group work in class. At the end of the class period, return their list of songs with an indication of which song they will learn. Pass a sheet of paper around the class and ask the students to write down their name and song title once the songs have been delegated.
Homework Assignment Days 2, 3, 4 & 5: Students have the rest of the week and the weekend to prepare to record their performance. All you need to do is create the Flipgrid question or Avenue task and assign it. They can practice on their own and record when ready!
Student Helpers: You probably have a student or two who would be willing to be your models and provide good examples of what you are looking for in the singing or lip syncing. Ask those students to record their videos as early as possible on Flipgrid and make this video available to the rest of the students as a model. Ask another student to design a poster or a computer graphic for you to display on the board or through your projection unit for the theme of your reality TV competition. For example, Mr. Martinez’s The Voice would be “La Voz con Señor Martinez”.
Tips: Although you may be tempted to have students record their songs in class, if you allow them to record themselves singing outside of class, you are likely to get more effort on their behalf because they know they are not time restricted and can re-record until they are happy with the results.
For the students who absolutely refuse to sing, give them a lip sync option, so they won’t have to worry about the way they sound, but will have to mouth the correct lyrics. You may consider using Avenue instead of Flipgrid for students who struggle with sharing their creative work with their classmates. This way, all students can participate, but students can opt out of sharing their videos with their classmates. Focus on the creative freedom of this project by encouraging students to dress up, be dramatic or silly, and have FUN with language.
Instruct the students to start the recording with their favorite part of the song so that you get the best representation of their ability. Many songs have 10-15 seconds of non-singing, so you may want to help them understand that it is best to start in the middle of the song. Explain that this part of the song will likely exhibit at least 1 if not all 3 of the 3P’s. They should be ready to explain the meaning of the song and how it reflects an aspect of the target culture. Ask them to reflect, compare, and contrast these ideas with those of their own experiences. You can have them include this in their Flipgrid or Avenue recording after they sing for at least 30 seconds.
Luckily with Flipgrid or Avenue as your recording tools, you won’t have to listen to the entire song. This will also help students better assess what they are seeing and hearing when viewing videos in class, they will get bored if they have to listen to an entire song, but a 30 second video of a classmate singing or lip syncing will set a good pace while viewing videos in class (See Closing Remarks below for tips on having students create rubrics to use while viewing videos.)
How to Use Class Time for Video Viewing: You will play only a few seconds of their recording for the rest of the class, and you can effectively do this with little class time. For example, for a class of 25 students, you can do 5 students a day and finish the project in a week. You give 30 seconds of class time for their Flipgrid or Avenue video and watch only 5 student videos per class. This is only 2 and half minutes of class time per day, and less than 15 minutes of class time for the entire week. While voting may take an additional minute or two, most students could vote while watching the videos. You could instruct them to keep their tally sheets or rubrics and turn them in at the end of the competition. Tally sheets or rubrics should be anonymous so that a student helper or in this case, “producer,” can tally the results for you.
Closing Remarks: Students will buy into a reality TV show competition if you do, because they will see that you are enjoying yourself, and they will be excited to do something different in class with you. You can offer this as a participation grade, as an opportunity to drop a low grade of your choosing, or even offer extra credit. If you decide to let your students use tally sheets or rubrics to vote on who has the best song or lip sync routine, you could ask them to create the rubric for voting and submit examples to you. Pick the best rubric ideas that reflect cultural meaning through the 3P’s (Products, Practice, and Perspectives). You can also ask students to focus on the level of difficulty of the song and observe any correlations to lexical and grammatical items that you are working on in class. Have one of your stellar students type up the rubric for you and distribute it to other students digitally or in print. The only thing you need to do for this activity is be the host and provide information when asked for help. You will have to assign the songs to the students, create a Flipgrid question or Avenue task, and crown the winner of the competition, but this will take mere minutes from your day and result in an engaged classroom of language and culture learners!
Still not convinced? Ask yourself, what better way to spark excitement in the World Language Classroom than tapping into their pop-culture interest but applying that to music from the target language culture? This is a win-win for you and you students. They will have great examples of ACTFL’s Presentational Mode of Communication and you will learn about your students’ creative talents while they learn about the music of the language that they study. Reality TV has given several generations of young Americans a way to tap into youth culture and American music. Shows like American Idol, The Voice, and Lip Sync Battle all use songs that have been previously recorded by other recording artists as part of their competition, and they teach students that all artists can create and interpret music in their own unique way. Take this approach to your students’ attempts at using music in the classroom. Remember that they are also learning vocabulary, grammar, and culture by singing their little hearts out. Go ahead, have some fun, and if you are brave enough, maybe you will sing for them too!