The one where I get Final Fantasy VII into a lesson

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In my 7th graders textbook, the reading portion for our current chapter is focused on art history and linguistically on color/feeling words and “makes me feel” type phrases.  They are taught to associate colors with feelings and then make a commentary on a piece of artwork. (“The blue colors in this picture make me feel calm/sad/relaxed.”)

I am reminded of my high school Jazz class where my director tried to get us to develop at least a sense of perfect pitch.  Part of the exercises included listening to notes individually, over and over, trying to associate or think of a color that you identify with that sound.  I never did develop perfect pitch, but that is hardly the fault of my director.  The exercise wasn’t wasted either, as I was recently reminded of it by a ESL Teacher friend here in South Korea, who did a similar lesson with her students.

Since the students are familiar with making associations between feelings and colors, I thought I would add sounds into the mix.  I grabbed four songs from Final Fantasy VII (yes, a video game).  Video game or movie compositions are good because the music generally evokes specific feelings by design. This makes the whole exercise of sound-feeling association less ambigious (while still free and creative).

Using the music from musician Nobuo Uematsu is also wonderful, because he is highly talented and the music is exciting to listen to, even though it is instrumental.  (My students were asking for Kpop by the end of the lesson,  but no one seemed bored by the music).  For my purposes, I used Sephiroth’s Theme, Cloud’s Theme, Aerith’s Theme and the Fighting music.  I tried to pick music that started in one area of the feelings spectrum, but it could be difficult to differentiate the “love” of arieth and “confidence” or “happiness” of Cloud’s theme.

Here’s a little taste of Mr. Uematsu:

I played each song for the students, asking them to just listen and after each song, they told me what colors they “saw” and the feelings the felt.  After the first song, I explicitly reminded them of the phrase “this song makes me feel ______” and asked them to use it.

To reinforce, I used a trick I like to help them remember all the parts of a phrase.  I assign three parts to the phrase,

“this song (1) makes me feel (2) __________ (3)”.  

This draws the students attention to anything they may have forgotten while also covertly teaching grammatical phrases ( ‘this song’ is a noun phrase.  ‘makes me feel’ is a verb phrase and (3) is the object complement).  I then repeat the phrase and with each part, I lift a finger, so that I have three fingers lifted by the end.  Then, when the students practice using this phrase, I don’t have to wait for them to finish, or interupt them to provide meaningful feedback.  As they speak, I lift fingers, indicating that they are on track or if they have missed a piece.

So, for example, if the student responds with “makes me feel sad!” I lift two of the three fingers (each finger maps 1 to 1 with the phrase, so they will know which piece they have forgotten to include).  After awhile, I stop using my fingers and only start doing it again, if they fall back into one word answers.

The students seemed to enjoy the lesson, and at the end we examined the board (now full of feelings and colors) and I told the students that the music comes from a story.  By just looking at the words, I asked them which song they thought represented the main character, the bad guy, etc.  I was sort of surprised that it was pretty clear from their lists that the first song was Sepiroth’s Theme and that the 3rd song was Cloud’s.  I finally disclosed where I got the songs from, but Final Fantasy VII is too old for these youngsters, they hadn’t even heard of it.

Final Fantasy Colors, Feelings and Sounds

Materials Needed:

Pictures to associate colors with feelings (anger  happiness sadness fear warm-up)
Four sample songs (of any genre or type). (Fighting loop Cloud’s theme Aerith’s Theme Sephiroth’s Theme)
Whiteboard, or some way of writing down for the whole class to see
Powerpoint

Performance Objectives:

Students Will Be Able To (SWBAT): associate colorful pictures with feelings.  Students will organize their thoughts and activate their lexical memory by individually writing down as many color words and feeling words that describe the pictures.  They will evaluate in pairs by comparing their word lists and finally class-wide, the color/feeling words will be presented.

SWBAT understand and prepare for listening and associating sounds with colors and feelings by a short introduction by the teacher using language, gesture, and an audio-visual (powerpoint).

SWBAT associate music with colors and feelings without knowing anything a priori about the music.  In pairs students will discuss which feelings and colors they felt and saw and then the teacher or a volunteer will organize the words and write them on the board under “song #1”.

SWBAT express their feelings using the phrase, “makes me feel” to describe their feeling words to the second song.  Before playing song #2, the teacher will write the phrase, “this song makes me feel ________” on the board and says the phrase while gesturing to their heart on the word “feel”, followed by a mimic of any emotion.  Students will repeat the exercise for song #2, making use of the phrase “this song makes me feel _________”.  For the 3rd song, the teacher will erase, “makes me feel” and repeat the exercise.  Finally on the 4th song, “this song” is erased, and the students must perform the communicative act from memory.

SWBAT use the feeling and color words they said to describe the story the songs convey.  As a class, the students will discuss themes like, “fear” and “love”.  When the discussion ends, the teacher will reveal where the music comes from.

Before Class:

Ensure each song is ready to be played and which portions of the songs you wish to play for maximum effect.
Ensure you are familiar with the gestures and miming that you will use to help with student comprehension in the introduction, presentation and evaluation.

Warm-up: (5 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT associate colorful pictures with feelings.  Students will organize their thoughts and activate their lexical memory by individually writing down as many color words and feeling words that describe the pictures.  They will evaluate in pairs by comparing their word lists and finally class-wide, the color/feeling words will be presented.

A.    Instructional Strategy:
individual, pair, class work
B.    Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual
C.    Task Description:
Following up on prior lessons, reactivate the students memory of color/feeling associations by showing a series of pictures which explicitly express simply feelings (sadness, anger, happiness, love, etc.).  Have the students label a piece of paper on one side as “FEELINGS” and the other “COLORS”.  Draw the students attention to the facial and body language of the pictures and any dominate colors.  Gesture that they should think (point to head, rub chin) of as many colors (point to many colors), and feelings (mimic sad/happy) and then write them down (actually do this on the board).  Give the students 1-2 minutes.After a time, tell the students to work in pairs and grow their list to as many feelings/colors as they think are appropriate for each picture.  Ask for volunteers to describe their color/feelings.  Write them on the board, and give the students a moment to copy any words they may not know.  Clarify any feeling/color that most students may not know (e.g. ‘agony’ or ‘cyan’).

 Introduction: (1-2 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT understand and prepare for listening and associating sounds with colors and feelings by a short introduction by the teacher using language, gesture, and an audio-visual (powerpoint).

A.    Instructional Strategy:
lecture
B.    Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual
C.    Task Description:
Using a simple powerpoint or other visual, explain that the students will take the words they know for feelings and colors and use them to describe music.  Following the powerpoint, explain that they will listen to four different songs and describe the colors the music makes them “see” and the feelings it makes them feel.  Explain that the songs are related and that at the end they will discuss why or how.

Presentation: (10-15 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT associate music with colors and feelings without knowing anything a priori about the music.  In pairs students will discuss which feelings and colors they felt and saw and then the teacher or a volunteer will organize the words and write them on the board under “song #1”.

A.    Instructional Strategy:
lecture, individual, pair, class work
B.    Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual
C.    Task Description:
To begin, start with the most unambiguous (in regards to feelings) song of the four.  You are helping the students understand how this activity works.  Tell them to clear their minds, close their eyes and just listen.  Don’t write anything, don’t say anything.  Just pay attention to the music.  Play the song for them and let them be silent for a moment after. And then in pairs discuss/write down what colors they saw and feelings they felt.Ask for volunteers and write their answers on the board under the title “song 1” separated under colors and feelings.  If they seem hesitant, or unsure, give a few examples and maybe a counter-example (if the song is intended to provoke anger or fear, ask the students if ‘happy’ is appropriate).  Be careful with counter-examples, as this activity necessarily depends on the students free-thinking and creativity.  At the same time, the purpose of the activity is language learning.  So dance that dance.

Practice: (30 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT express their feelings using the phrase, “makes me feel” to describe their feeling words to the second song.  Before playing song #2, the teacher will write the phrase, “this song makes me feel ________” on the board and says the phrase while gesturing to their heart on the word “feel”, followed by a mimic of any emotion.  Students will repeat the exercise for song #2, making use of the phrase “this song makes me feel _________”.  For the 3rd song, the teacher will erase, “makes me feel” and repeat the exercise.  Finally on the 4th song, “this song” is erased, and the students must perform the communicative act from memory.

A.   
Instructional Strategy:
individual, pair, whole-class
B.    Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual
C.    Task Description:
Before moving to the second song, write “this song makes me feel _______” on the board.  Separate the phrase into three parts and label them ‘This song (1) makes me feel (2) _________ (3).  Lift up three fingers and have the students repeat as you lift a finger as they say each phrase.To reinforce, read some of their feelings from song #1, holding your fingers up, say, “This song (lift a finger) makes me feel (lift another finger) nervous (lift the third finger).”  Give another example.  Call on or ask a volunteer to say how song #1 makes them feel.  As they speak, hold up all the fingers that they express. (If they say, “the song makes me feel happy” hold up three fingers.  If they just say “happy” just hold up the third finger.  Prompt until they give the full phrase).
After, play the 2nd song and repeat the exercise.  When working in pairs, circulate and make sure the students are using the phrase, “this song makes me feel” when talking with their partner.  Ask for volunteers and use the finger gesture as necessary to help prompt the students use the full phrase.  After all the feelings/colors are written for the 2nd song, erase “makes me feel” from the board, have the students repeat the phrase and gesture as necessary.  Listen the 3rd song, repeat process.  Erase the phrase from the board before listening to the 4th song.

Application: (10 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT use the feeling and color words they said to describe the story the songs convey.  As a class, the students will discuss themes like, “fear” and “love”.  When the discussion ends, the teacher will reveal where the music comes from.

A.    Instructional Strategy:
pair, whole-class
B.    Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual
C.    Task Description:
After listening to the last song, admire the amount of color and feeling words the students have come up with (the board should be quite full).  Point out to the students that the feeling and color words change from song to song.  Some songs seem to make them feel more nervous or happy or sad.Tell the students that the songs create a story. Ask which song they think represents the protagonist (use simple language “good guy”).  The antagonist? The climactic scene? Love interest?  Allow them to discuss each question in pairs or small groups and then discuss as a class.  This final portion is more free-discussion, try not to limit the students participation or critique language-use.  Instead promote fluency and listening-skills.

Before class ends, reveal where the music came from and see if the students’ guesses about the characters/feelings/music are correct.

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2 thoughts on “The one where I get Final Fantasy VII into a lesson

  1. I got to see Nobou last time I was in Korea perform with his orchestra.
    I’m curious to hear your students’ responses, as they’ve likely never played the game, and may have different feelings toward the music.
    For example, is Aerith’s theme really sad, or do I feel sadness because I associate it with the specific character?

    Like

  2. I like that numbers thing you do. Phil is taking a Korean class at the U and I help him study. Perhaps I can start using that to help him with Korean.

    Like

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