El Amante y el Desacuerdo

One of my most popular CI units in the last two years has been the Unit where we discuss “desacuerdos”. This year I tweaked it a little bit to incorporate the fabulous Nicky Jam and the results were immediate and engagement high.

I used this lesson in Spanish 2 right after the introduction of irregular past tense verbs “fue” and “vio”. One day the kids played Nicky Jam’s “El Amante” during Cantaninja. I was preparing for my traditional storytelling intro to “desacuerdo” in the next week and while watching the video, fireworks went off. THAT video would make a great MovieTalk introduction to desacuerdo. I scraped the old story-asking script and created a new unit.

I began by introducing the targets, circling and discussing them with personal details. We talked about types of disagreements, what happens, how do you deal or resolve, etc. The next day we did a MovieTalk with images from “El Amante”. The past tense targets fit in so nicely and I was able to introduce them to some new vocab words along the way. They picked up a lot through context. We then watched the video. Some content in the video may not be suitable for all levels. There is the implication of domestic violence and some language. My students loved it…especially the ending which gave me the opening to tease the future tense.

Over the next two days we continued with storytelling and retelling activities:

  • Back AtCha
  • Blind Retell
  • 8 Essential Events
  • Collaborative Mural
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The collaborative storytelling mural my students did for El Amante (using the interactive whiteboard)

The targets were hit and the story retold. Then we spent a day analyzing the actual lyrics and doing a Coro with the chorus. We also continued to listen to the song throughout these days too and also did a Lyrics Training as a class. I created a Goosechase to have the students create Freeze Frame images of key phrases. I used those phrases in a Listening Assessment later that week. I also made a cloze Reading Assessment based on the story too and administered that through PearDeck.

Another one of the most fun activities we did while analyzing the lyrics was a version of #Booksnaps which I called Palabras en Escenas. We had a large Google Slide deck (using the amazing Roster to Slides add-on) where each student had to create one slide which depicted part of Nicky Jam’s lyrics and how they were applicable in other situations. Students got creative, showcased their own pop culture loves and used images and Bitmojis to reflect meaning. It was a quick activity that produced some great connections.

The music based CI lesson went so well that I’m trying to figure out what to do next. At this same time I also did “No Soy como tu Crees” with Spanish 3 as a tie in with La Llorona de Mazatlan. I can tell Nicky Jam was a hit through as he keeps being requested for Cantaninja…and several students downloaded “El Amante” and have it on their current playlist. Music + CI for the win!

Almost forgot my Pop Culture interpretation of El Amante con Jim y Pam ūüôā



There is a great episode of The Office where manager Michael Scott stops all activity in the office for a designated period of time on Monday for a mental break where the staff watches a movie. His boss questions him on this later:

Jan: How would a movie increase productivity, Michael? How on earth would it do that?
Michael: People work faster after.
Jan: Magically.
Michael: No, they have to, to make up for the time they lost, watching the movie

It’s a popular belief¬†that taking a break to do something frivolous cannot lead to increased productivity. I experimented with something called¬†Cantaninja in my Spanish 2 classes during the 4th Quarter of school and I think Michael Scott would approve.

Cantaninja is an idea I came across reading a (wonderfully helpful and insightful) blog by Martina Bex. She describes a class incentive program and an earned privilege where the students can stop time and demand a Spanish song be played.

To begin, I created a playlist of Spanish songs that I thought my students would be intrigued by. My Cantaninja playlist is ever evolving–I’m constantly adding and subtracting songs based on what I find, what seems appropriate, what the students are “in to” and what units we are studying.

Cantaninja is one of the assigned jobs students have in my Spanish class. One student is the assigned Cantaninja for a two week period. This designated student could¬†attack class at any time by yelling out “CANTANINJA!”.¬†At that moment, all activity in the class¬†must stop and the class must watch a music video of the Cantaninja’s choosing (from the playlist).

Here are the rules of Cantaninja:

  1. Cantaninja cannot be used during the last 5 minutes of class
  2. No activity can be done during Cantaninja time (no work, no computer, no talking, etc)
  3. Only one Cantaninja per class per day
  4. Cantaninja cannot be used to skip a planned activity (if we’re supposed to have a quiz, we’re still having the quiz)

The short little breaks actually did increase productivity–both for me and my students. I had to be more mindful of how I planned and structured my class because I never knew when (or if) a Cantaninja attack was coming. I had to be very organized so I wasn’t left standing there at the end of the hour with things left undone. Preparing for the possibility of a Cantaninja attack helped me be more mindful of the lessons I had planned–what was critical to do, what could we do without, what I can do if I need more time because there was no Cantaninja attack.

The productivity effect on my students was also interesting. There were some days when there was no Cantaninja attack because the Cantaninja felt it was more important just to keep to the regularly scheduled lesson. When there was a Cantaninja attack, students accepted that this was there time to take a break and then when work time rolled around, they were more apt to work then rather than find ways to waste time and mentally check out. Normally, as the teacher, I had 100% control over the agenda of the day. With Cantaninja, I relinquished control to the class through one individual. This individual had the power to adjust our class agenda for the day.

I liked noting when students would initiate Cantaninja. There was one particular time where all three sections called out for Cantaninja during the same point in my lesson (and the class cheered with relief). This was a cue to me that this particular activity  was not enjoyable.

Sometimes students would confer with one another. “When should I yell Cantaninja?” “Do we want to do one today?” Watching them discuss and reason when and why and if they should take a break was fascinating. Some designated Cantaninjas listened to the class, some didn’t. Some rarely called for an attack, some jumped at the opportunity within the first minute of class. The variety added an exciting variable to the class that I think helped make it more engaging.

Let’s not forget that this is a language classroom and the goal is to, you know, learn the Spanish language! While on it’s face¬†Cantaninja is just a nice brain break, it was also a way for me to expose my students to popular artists and Spanish music. At first, students would bombard me with questions about what everything meant. After awhile, the questions stopped and I think they just started appreciating the music–realizing that learning a language isn’t all about translating everything word for word. But they did pick up words and phrases from the songs (Thanks J.Lo and Prince Royce). After one class watched¬†Tengo Tu Love¬†I had two students mocking how “basic” that song was. I questioned what they meant and one said, “I’m pretty sure a beginning Spanish 1 student could understand those lyrics. They obviously didn’t try hard to write a good song”. They continued to pick on the song and I just returned to my seat proudly thinking “Wow, they recognized the simplicity of the lyrics! They understood what it meant!”.

12050897333_be52220d42_zOther reflections:

  • Many students have downloaded music because of Cantaninja. It’s fun to listen to the brag about how much they’ve listened to Sophia Reyes or Juanes or CD9.
  • Students recognized that “this Wisin guy” collaborates in a lot of different videos. “He must be really good”.
  • I’ve loved Enrique Iglesias for quite some time so I liked the ability to bring his music to the class. But Cantaninja also gave me the opportunity to introduce these kids to Ricky Martin. Although “Livin la Vida Loca” is mostly in English, I maintain it has important cultural significance. It wasn’t¬†that long ago that Latin music exploded into the pop chart (Holla 1998!) but that was still before these kids were born. Imagine being born in a world that doesn’t know Ricky Martin? I cannot live with that. Cantaninja has selfishly been a way for me to revisit my high school music self.