My grandparents and a large portion of my family on my father’s side live in Guadalajara, Mexico. I wanted to share some of my enthusiasm for the city and Mexican culture with my students, so I had them listen to Vicente Fernández sing “Guadalajara” in typical mariachi style. I instructed them to listen carefully and write down all the words they knew. Since this was early in the semester of a beginning Spanish class, many could catch only a few words, and they all had to listen attentively.
Afterwards, I provided them with the lyrics in English and Spanish and had them identify the verbs they heard. We read the lyrics together and discussed the words they had identified and any other questions they had. Then I asked them which words they thought were verbs. This was how I introduced the subject of verb conjugations. Thus the grammar concepts were contextualized before I even taught the rules. Most of the verbs used in the song are conjugated in the present tense, the first tense I was teaching. In this way the grammar I was teaching and my students were learning was directly connected to the artistic and cultural context of the song, and students could see how it was put into use directly.