Music, going beyond the cloze

This post is about how to go beyond the cloze activity for songs and ways to use a song as a means of comprehensible input.  There are lessons/materials for three songs at the bottom.

One of the basic activities to do with a song in a language class is the cloze activity.  Though this is not a terrible activity to do, there are many other things that can be done with a song in class.  Music is a big part of all of my classes and not only is it a great way to expose students to pop culture, but it can also be a compelling way to acquire certain structures.  Songs also provide a great story and everyone loves stories.

At the Agen, France TPRS Conference, Margarita Pérez García, who teaches Spanish and French in Great Britain, shared what she does with music in her classes.  She works in transforming songs into stories by using visuals. She teaches key structures from the song by using visuals and photos, either from the music video or images online.  Just like a MovieTalk, she uses the photos/visuals to do a PhotoTalk.  She turns the song lyrics into an embedded reading and creates a story based on the lyrics.  She works by layers -making the song fully comprehensible little by little- which in turn increases students’ exposure to the song. By the end, the students read the lyrics and listen to the song in many different ways without being repetitious. This is such a powerful and compelling way to go beyond the cloze for music.  Margarita gave me permission to share her lessons/materials for the songs ‘Duele el corazón’ by Enrique Iglesias, ‘Sofía’ by Alvaro Soler, and ‘El Perdón’ by Nicky Jam/Enrique Iglesias.  Those materials are shared at the bottom of this post.  First, a brief explanation of how Margarita develops these resources.

Let’s take the song Sofía by Alvaro Soler.

  1. First, read the song lyrics.  See what the story is.  The song is about a boy who dreamt about an eternal love with a girl.  But time passed and things changed and the love disappeared.  Now she is with someone else but he still loves her.  He still thinks about her but she is no longer with him.
  2. Look for the nouns that the students may need to understand the story/song. Often these pertain to the theme or can be grouped in themes that will appear in many songs. Frequently body parts, love, sadness, treason, etc. 
  3. Then look for verbs and Word chunks that are repeated. These will be your key structures. In Sofía: ya no, sigue + gerund, juntos. 
  4. Then, it’s time to “to build the image” by:
    1. Finding one image that summarizes the mood and/or story of the song. Poetry is a perfect start. Google ‘acción poética’ and some of the lyrics and you will find many wall graffiti with inspirational phrases. Margarita uses this photo to start the discussion: “En tus ojos sé que ya no estoy”  Questions to ask the class (in the TL):  Who says this?  How do they feel?  Why are they not in their eyes?  Why would someone say this?entusojos
    2. Finding pictograms to associate nouns with images, establishing meaning of the specific vocabulary of the song. Margarita uses and then creates word-image mini activities and games.
    3. Looking for images online and from the music video that illustrate the story.  Since the Sofía music video is just him singing and others dancing in Cuba, the better images for the story are on Google.  Find a few images and write an embedded version of the story recycling as much as you can from the lyrics. Use the images to PhotoTalk and the text to read aloud, Q&A relationships, ping-pong translation, choral translation, etc.
    4. When you use the song in your class this way, you will have enough material for 1 or 2 lessons. Do the starter activities, move onto PhotoTalk, then the embedded readings.

      5.  Then, listen to the song as a class.  Play the music video and/or the lyric video. Pass out the lyrics.  Have the Spanish on one side and the English on the other side.  Have a student read the song in Spanish.  You can pause and do comprehension checks or talk about the story if you want using the lyrics as you would use any reading. Ideas can include a structure scavenger hunt!  Using the lyrics, have students find certain structures.  Here is the sheet for Sofía: Sofía_Lesson1.001

    6.  Finally Wrap up the song.  Do an assessment if desired.  Margarita ended the Sofía lesson with this slide to prompt a discussion. Sofía_Lesson2.001

Our aim is to fill students’ heads with compelling images of the story of the song with as much comprehensible input we can, creating strong word images associations that they will relive when they listen to the song over and over.

The structure of a typical song lesson would be the following

1. Poetry in a wall: approach to the context of the song

2. Starter activity: word-image association with simple nouns and getting familiar with the basic language of the song through illustration, translation and discussion or any other word-image association activity

3. Embedded reading base version

4. Photo talk and reading version A with any combination of reading aloud and translations

5. Read aloud the chorus

6. Sing, Sing, Sing

7. Reading version B or Lyrics & any reading activity of your liking

8. More singing!

9. Discuss

After this the song will be stuck in students heads and they will be begging to sing it all the time 😉

Here are the materials/lessons for three songs:

In Agen, a group of Spanish teachers designed together a lesson for “Fotografía, by Juanes. I will publish this soon too.



  1. This is awesome! My students love “El perdón”! I’m having a hard time downloading the lesson since it is an older version of PP. Any suggestions? Gracias!

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