To all my colleagues in education: many thanks for your interest! This page has some background for teachers and administrators, suggestions for using my music in the classroom, and so on. First, here are…
FIVE THINGS EDUCATORS SHOULD KNOW about Griffin Education Solutions:
1. The music on this website is an ongoing project designed to support student mastery of the K-8 content standards described in the NGSS and Common Core. The music is intended to be fun but rigorously educational; different songs are age-appropriate for different grades; and we have data showing that it really does support student achievement.
2. GriffinEd’s services are entirely free (really!) to schools, libraries, museums, teacher conferences, book fairs, and any other not-for-profit place of learning. Why? Because most schools don’t have a budget to pay for it, that’s why. If you or your institution has a budget to pay for educational music, that’s fantastic. Feel free to make a tax-deductible donation or ask for an invoice; your generosity is appreciated but is never required from any educational event or institution. If you’re curious, GriffinEd is a 501(c)3 educational nonprofit and gets its funding from tax-deductible donations, grants, and CD sales at non-school events. Our tax ID # is 45-5513411.
3. GriffinEd is not about teaching music, though I do consider that to be a very worthy pursuit and I will gladly support your music program in any way I can. Rather, my work is about using music as an easy, effective, proven tool for the teaching and learning of the core subjects, with an emphasis on STEM instruction.
4. Because I know your instructional time is limited and precious, I strive to take very little of it. You can even use my music while you’re transitioning from one classroom activity to another or as background music for appropriate tasks, in which case it will effectively take zero instructional time from your day.
5. I am a real, fully credentialed teacher, not some rainbows-and-unicorns idealist. I taught elementary school (all grades K-5, Title-1, mostly English Second Language, with full and partial inclusion for mild to moderate special needs) in what is now the Los Angeles Promise Zone for eighteen years. I am sharing my music with you not because of some awesome-sounding theory, but because I know it works in real classrooms with real students and real limitations on time and funding.
Okay, now the good part:
FOUR IDEAS FOR USING MY MUSIC IN YOUR CLASSROOM
You can use my music any way you like, but here are some suggestions:
1. When you’re getting ready to start a new theme/unit/topic (pardon my jargon) with your class, browse the Music section of this site for something that will support it; you can use the check boxes on our Music page to help you find what you’re looking for. If you don’t see anything that applies to your topic, please contact me: maybe I can suggest a song, refer you to someone else’s work, or even write a song for you! Don’t be shy about this: your input really is a vital tool for improving this site, so you are doing me a favor when you ask for a song.
2. When you open your theme unit, share the song you have chosen as part of the opening activities. Streaming audio is usually easiest; if your internet connection is too slow for streaming you can download the song and play it from any MP3-compatible device. If you play an instrument, great: the chords are at the bottom of the “Notes” page for each song. Print the lyrics. Each of my students had a music section in their binder, but maybe you’ll want your kids to put the lyrics in their section for math, history, etc. For very young learners you might just make one large copy on chart paper and stick it up on the wall, but when I was teaching kindergarten my students did in fact use a three-ring binder for their work and they loved it. While you’re printing things, you should probably print for your own reference a copy of the relevant Standards I have included in the notes for the song. Stick that in your lesson plan book: sooner or later an anxious parent or administrator will ask you why you’re “doing music” during a science or math lesson. When that happens, tell them you’re not “doing music,” you’re “doing teaching!” and show them the standards you are addressing. You might also mention that the NGSS and Common Core repeatedly call for more integration of music and other arts into the teaching of core subjects.
3. As your theme unit develops (probably anywhere from 2-6 weeks, depending on your curriculum and instructional style), get out the lyrics once in a while and take a few minutes to sing together. A song can also be a good transitional activity while the kids are coming back in from recess, collecting homework, cleaning their desks, etc. Don’t make the kids “study” the song (they’ve got enough to study already), just give it enough repetition so it sticks. Our research shows that five times should do it. Don’t feel that you must plan or teach a “lesson” about the song (you have enough planning to do already); just answer any questions the kids ask about the vocabulary, etc. If your students have internet access, maybe encourage them to look up some of the references in the song. Note that some songs include ideas for related lessons or projects in the notes, and you are certainly welcome to use those if you like.
4. Later in the year, when you’re looking for something productive to do with those last ten minutes of the day, get out a few songs from earlier units (they kept the lyrics in their binders, yes?) and sing together. It’s a quick, fun, painless way to review some of the old vocabulary and concepts.
Depending on where you teach, you may encounter some skepticism. So here are…
THREE THINGS YOU SHOULD TELL PEOPLE when they ask why you’re “doing music” during science, math, or other core instructional time:
1. We’re not doing music, we’re doing (science, math, etc) and using music as a study tool. Here are the (science, math, etc.) standards the students are learning from this song. (Show them the standards.)
2. There are scores of published, peer-reviewed studies (Galef, Gardner, etc.) with solid data showing that not only does including the arts in our instruction help with behavior, motivation, attendance, comprehension, reasoning skills, and graduation rates, but also that it significantly raises standardized test scores in non-arts subjects. Simply put, the arts make our kids smarter in every measurable way.
3) Besides the standards addressed in the songs themselves, the NGSS and Common Core specifically call for greater inclusion of music and other arts into the teaching of math, science, etc. Most of our current teaching materials do nothing to address this, so I am offering something that does.
Still reading? Good, because now I’m going to talk about…
TWO WAYS EDUCATORS CAN HELP
1. If you like my work and find it useful, please tell your colleagues about it. If your school or district maintains a directory of approved or suggested web sites, please ask that www.GriffinEd.org be included. Send a link to this page so they can read about it! A referral from a colleague is far, far more effective than any advertising.
2. GriffinEd’s website and music are a continuing work in progress. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, please tell us what you want! You want a song about earthworms? Better documentation of something? Please be as specific as you can and we will do our best. I cannot emphasize this enough: your input is our most important tool for developing our work.
…AND ONE MORE THING
My live shows and songwriting workshops are also a lot of fun and, like this web site, are directed toward supporting your core instruction. If you would like Tim to come to your school, library, museum, or other place of learning, please check out the pages for shows and workshops to learn how to make that happen. And yeah, it’s free for schools and other places of learning.