Teaching Language Arts through Lyric Writing
Words & Music
"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 has been featured in the LA Times, on the TODAY Show, and more.
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.
Teacher's Guide for Grades 3-6
Teacher's Guide for Grades 7-12
Songwriting 101: An Introduction to Words & Music is a precursor to Words & Music. Students learn songwriting basics, express creativity, and write a song with a professional writer. This program introduces song form and reveals secrets behind the creative process through an authentic co-writing experience. Led by a professional songwriter, students work together as a class to write an original song, discussing writing fundamentals and tips throughout the session. The program concludes with a performance of the song and a question and answer period with the songwriter. Songs created in Songwriting 101 are recorded for classroom use.
Download pre- and post-program lessons for Songwriting 101: An Introduction to Words & Music.
If you are an educator who is teaching Words & Music, please visit our Resource Portal. The portal provides classroom tools that supplement Words & Music instruction, including PowerPoints for every lesson, videos that illustrate songs and songwriting topics, songwriter biographies, new lessons, a teacher discussion board, and more.
The materials and audiovisual components in the Resource Portal are designed for educational use only and are intended solely for instruction in a classroom setting. Materials and multimedia elements are not to be shared or used for any other purpose.
How do I enroll or ask a question?
What is the cost?
The cost of Words & Music depends on your location and Title I status. Many schools qualify for free participation in the program. Words & Music professional development workshops are free to all teachers. Words & Music as a field trip to the museum includes a guided tour for which there is a fee in some cases. The cost break down for museum field trips is available here. Transportation and program subsidies are available to qualifying schools.
How long will it take me to teach the Words & Music unit?
The Words & Music unit is composed of ten, 45-minute lessons.
Is Words & Music difficult to teach if I am not a songwriter, musician, or music teacher?
Not at all. Words & Music is primarily a creative writing unit, so musical or songwriting experience is not necessary. The lessons are clearly laid out and easy to follow, making Words & Music an engaging and rewarding unit for teachers and students alike.
Does the curriculum connect to academic standards?
Yes, Words & Music lesson plans align with ELA Common Core Standards, as well as National and Tennessee music standards. Words & Music is an interdisciplinary, creative writing unit connecting the songwriting curriculum to other subjects such as math, social studies, and the visual arts. The Words & Music Teacher’s Guide notes opportunities to connect with other subject areas and explore a teaching collaboration. Words & Music can also be adapted to meet the needs of a project-based learning experience with the songwriter session serving as the culmination point.
What are the dates and times that Words & Music Professional Development is offered?
We offer eight to ten Words & Music educator professional development workshops annually. For a list of upcoming workshops, please visit the Professional Development page. Workshops are from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
What do educators say about Words & Music?
“My students have developed such an understanding for the power of words and the great impact our stories can have on each other.” – Kelly Hopkins, Frederic High School (Frederic, WI)
“The Words & Music project guides students through a meaningful and authentic writing experience.”- Laura Benton, Cockrill Elementary (Nashville, TN)
“This was a pleasant experience for all. The students learned a lot and were able to feel quite a sense of accomplishment.” – Sue Clark, Lighthouse Christian School (Nashville, TN)
“The Words & Music curriculum is well thought out, applicable, and easy to follow. Many of our students who are typically disengaged with learning, were engaged and excited. They talked about it in the halls for weeks after the conclusion of the program!” – Tonya Martin, Warren Township Schools (Indianapolis, IN)
“I would highly recommend this program to anyone considering new, innovative ways to create critical thinkers and creative artists.” – Kathy Hull, Hull-Jackson Elementary (Nashville, TN)
“I got observed this week doing one of the Words & Music lessons and got pretty great scores! Kudos on the great lessons!” – Erica Hixson, Linden Elementary (Oak Ridge, TN)