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Asima Saad Maura discusses her use of music in Spanish grammar instruction.

Rhythmic grammar

University's Saad Maura uses music in Spanish grammar instruction


8:26 a.m., Aug. 14, 2012--Asima Saad Maura, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures at the University of Delaware, is bringing rhythm to Spanish grammar instruction. Many students struggle with the preterit and imperfect tenses because English does not differentiate between the two. This lack of reference makes it difficult for students to understand, so Saad Maura introduces her students to the concept in a fun way.

“To me, music is contagious,” Saad Maura said. “I want to create that sensation of joy with grammar.”

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Having learned English herself through popular American music, Saad Maura said she believes non-native speakers can learn Spanish in the same way. Playing artists such as Daddy Yankee, Juanes and Amparo Ochoa who use the preterit and imperfect in their songs helps to engage students in the proper use of Spanish grammar. 

“I believe that students appreciate that music can be part of a subject that they consider boring — grammar. They don’t really think that there is anything fun in grammar,” Saad Maura explained. 

But it is not just the music that has her students excited about learning the different past tenses. Saad Maura got the idea for what she calls “clasecitas” after reading an article from Inside Higher Ed titled “Exploding the Lecture” by Steve Kolowich. The article featured Mike Garver, a marketing professor at Central Michigan University who found that shortening his lectures and adding multimedia really engaged students.

Although she gives full-length lectures in class, Saad Maura posts her short clasecitas, which translates to “short class,” on Sakai@UD for students who need extra help or further explanation. These clasecitas are video presentations with music, humor and lots of examples.

“I write the script, then I take just a few seconds of a song. I give the credit for assisting me with this process to Nathan Herbert, my TA. I try to bring humor into the classroom, and Nathan helped develop the presentations that evolved into the short video clasecitas. He thought that students would also laugh while they were learning something about grammar — and the students do laugh.”

Saad Maura said she loves teaching and likes the personal contact she has with her students in class. Outside of class, she understands the connection technology can make with today’s students. 

“The technology calls them. I believe technology sparks something in them because it’s part of their life. So the use of it, I believe, is positive,” she said. 

By incorporating some multimedia as a supplemental resource, Saad Maura said she feels she is reaching her students in a way they can relate to while strengthening the overall learning experience.

Article and video by Sarah E. Meadows

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