Teaching Language Arts through Lyric Writing

"I was 12 when I learned my first three chords on guitar and wrote my first song. My life changed forever ... Music became the way I told my stories." Taylor Swift

Since 1979, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has helped students tell their stories through its innovative Words & Music program. More than 100,000 students have learned to write song lyrics while developing key skills in language arts. Not only does Words & Music teach core curriculum, but it also connects young people to Nashville’s music community, pairing classes with songwriters who transform student lyrics into finished songs that are performed in an interactive workshop.

Words & Music also provides classroom teachers with new resources, tools, and techniques that get students excited about writing. The foundation of the program is the Words & Music Teacher’s Guide, a ten-lesson unit that educators use to guide their students through a step-by-step lyric-writing process. Multimedia classroom materials—including PowerPoints, videos, and primary source materials—are available in the Digital Resource Portal.

The Words & Music songwriter workshop can occur in the Taylor Swift Education Center during a field trip to the museum, or it can travel to schools in Middle Tennessee. Words & Music is also available to schools far from Nashville via Distance Learning videoconference.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum also offers a precursor to the Words & Music program through Songwriting 101: An Introduction to Words & Music. In this workshop, students learn songwriting basics, express creativity, and write a song with a professional writer.


Step One: Participate in a Words & Music Professional Development Training

The first step to participating in Words & Music is attending a Words & Music educator professional development training. This specialized training for teachers discusses the Words & Music Teacher’s Guide and portal, offers insight into instructing the unit, and provides a co-writing experience with a songwriter. Training is required for teachers participating in the program for the first time. We encourage teachers who enroll in Words & Music each year to attend trainings periodically to learn the latest tips and techniques. Professional development workshops are offered throughout the year.

Dates for 2016/17: 8/26, 9/16, 9/24, 11/4, 1/27, 2/17, 3/10

Step Two: Enroll in Words & Music

Following training, teachers may enroll in the Words & Music program by e-mailing schools@countrymusichalloffame.org or registering online .

One of the museum’s most popular programs, Words & Music fills up every year. Enrolling in Words & Music requires setting a timeline for teaching the unit and scheduling the culminating songwriter workshop.

Step Three: Instruct the Words & Music Unit

Once enrolled, teachers may begin instruction of the lyric writing unit, guiding their class through each of the nine pre-visit lessons in the Words & Music Teacher’s Guide. The Digital Resource Portal provides additional materials that supplement the Teacher's Guide. Museum educators are available to assist and answer questions during the instruction period.

Step Four: Send Final Student Lyrics to the Museum

Student lyrics are due to the museum at least two weeks prior to the scheduled songwriter workshop. Lyrics are shared with a songwriter trained to work with students. The songwriter selects a sample group of lyrics (five to eight for a 45-60 minute workshop) that represent diversity of subject matter and writing, then sets the words to music for the workshop with students.

Step Five: Attend Words & Music Songwriter Workshop

Students are encouraged to prepare questions for the songwriter about songwriting, the music industry, and other related topics. All Words & Music sessions are recorded as a souvenir for use in the classroom following the program.


Grades 3 - 6
Grades 7 - 12



Words & Music is funded in part by the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation; Marylee Chaski Charitable Corporation; CMA Foundation; the Chet Atkins Music Education Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee; Connie Dean-Taylor, in memory of her father, Country Music Hall of Fame member Jimmy Dean; Dollar General Literacy Foundation; HCA Foundation; Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission; Nashville Predators Foundation; Southwest Airlines; T&T Family Foundation; and Wells Fargo.
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