Guitars in the Classroom

Since 1998, Guitars in the Classroom (GITC) has been inspiring, training and equipping classroom teachers to integrate music making across the academic curriculum through "song-based instruction" so students of all ages have educational, musical access & opportunity at school every day. Our work prepares educators to lead music, employing it as a dynamic tool for reaching all learners, teaching all subjects, and building character, creativity and community.Programs & materials are free.
Dec 30, 2013

Thank You for Turning Math into Music!

Patty Bertram and Third Graders Do Math
Patty Bertram and Third Graders Do Math

Dear Friend of Learning and Making Music,

Thank you so very much for making our fall programs successful! It was YOUR generosity empowering our trainers to bring essential tools for leading lessons through song to children in every region of the country and in Ontario, Canada. Your faith in an innovative approach, your passion putting energy into the arts, your decision to emphasize creativity in the classroom... your values are creating social change by changing the way teachers engage students.

This fall, many young students were shown how to turn complex mathematical operations into fun and easy-to-remember steps when their teachers coached them to apply math concepts to writing song lyrics.The students worked as a class and in small groups to pour their math problems into song lyrics

Imagine being a first grader trying to tell time and getting stuck on the "afters" and "befores". Or a second grader attempting to substract 2 digit numbers for the first time. Put yourself back in third grade, memorizing mutliplication tables and trying to solve for equivalent fractions.Just as you are tiring of trying, your teacher pulls out a guitar and says, let's see what we can do to help ourselves learn this lesson to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey." Now THAT is funny. Especially since children already know "On Top of Spaghetti."

Maybe you were a fourth grader who had trouble lining up columns and carrying over, then bringing down the remainder during long division. Enough wrong answers in a stern and unforgiving classroom of right/wrong answers and almighty test scores and any child can become math-phobic. Relieving anxiety around learning and increasing joy are just 2 reasons why we need more music making in math classes. Making music gets kids breathing and it lowers their anxiety level (which teachers call the "affective filter").

Writing math lyrics for learning embeds equations, operations and outcomes in melody and rhythm so the students remember them by remembering the song.

Here specifically is how, thanks to you, GITC has been making math easier to learn this fall.

Remember the old song, "You Get a Line and I'll Get a Pole" ? This is one of the "starter songs" we help teachers learn to play, sing and lead because it is catchy, fun, simple to play and in the public domain. The teachers this song in their GITC training class, then they can listen to it online, download the free song chart and be ready to share it in class right away. Once the students have learned the song, it's time to write new lyrics for learning.

Here is a fun old video of Ref Foley and his band performing the song:

Now, below, are some lyrics written by the students in a third grade class at Sandburg Elementary, in San Diego. Teacher Patty Bertram wrote this with the students and it was their very first classroom GITC composition. Her idea to have each student add his or her name at the end of each line. This had the magic effect of instilling pride in the children as they sung their own invented equivalent fraction lines.

The impact was phenomenal. Not only did the song reinforce the process of simplification, it helped students memorize certain fractions and practice doing the essential math without doing a boring worksheet or undergoing the old "drill and kill" routine that makes kids turn off to learning.

Patty's students had a wonderful time singing together- and they also did brilliantly on their math test. In fact, thanks to making music, her class finished their math curriculum one chapter ahead of the other 3rd grades that did not integrate music last year. You can hear her talk about it on our video, linked to this report.

Here is her song. You can play with with the G, G7, C and D7 chords if you like. The chart is at our website.

                                      Simplifying Fractions

                         (to the tune of "You Get a Line and I'll Get a Pole"

Chorus:   Simplifying fractions is our game, simplifying  fractions is our game,                                                    

              We di-vide the  top and bottom by one number, then we’ve got ‘em!

              Simplify a fraction & say your name! (Teacher points to student and she says her name)

              ‘Cuz simplifying fractions is our game!  (Teacher points to student & he says his name)

1.      Divide by two! (spoken)

         Two over four equals one over two, I’m Madi!

          Two over four equals one over two, I’m Sam!

          Two over four equals one over two!

          Two fourths equals one half, it’s true!

          I can simpli-fy and so can you! 


2. Divide by five! (spoken)

     Five out of ten equals one out of two, I’m Jane!

     Five out of ten equals one out of two

     Five tenths equals one half, it’s true

     I can simplify and so can you!

So... how much exactly have you helped children? Your gifts have empowered us to train over 200 new teachers since July to teach math through music.

You have made it possible for us to donate or loan instruments to teachers and students in 130 schools.

You have given 19,000 students a way to learn things this fall that are hard to understand by other means.

And you have made it possible for me to explain the value of music in learning to people who had never considered it possible.

Thank you for standing by GITC and me. Thanks for giving. Please stay with us in 2014 while we endeavor to raise funds for staffing and for impirical research on the academic impact of integrated music which continuing to provide the free trainings that return creativity to classrooms previously stiffled by overtesting. The time for making education better is now - and you are already involved!

We wish you a happy New Year filled with love, abundance, friendship, health and inspiration,


Girls Compose Math Lyrics
Girls Compose Math Lyrics


Dec 24, 2013

Happier Holidays with Music in Their Lives!

Hampton Virginia GITC
Hampton Virginia GITC

Dear Supporter,

This is a quick note of thanks to let you know how your donations to this project are making the holidays a happier time for children around the United States and Canada this year. Because you gave us the energy and funds to keep going, GITC has been able to:

  • Train and support 225 pK- 8 teachers to learn to lead music in their classrooms this fall!
  • Donate or loan instruments to programs in 86 schools from California to Boston, from Michigan to Ontario.
  • Bring songs and songwriting for learning to the hearts and minds of 19,000 students each day
  • Continue to restore Bluegrass musical traditions in the schools in Clay County, West Virgina
  • Make hands-on guitar and ukulele training possible for children and adults with extreme disabilities through
  • Give high school students wishing to perform community service through music a way to assist younger children by participating in our work.

What is in store for 2014 through this project?

For starters, in Head Start programs in Massachusetts, our trainer Jon Short will begin teaching music leadership to early childhood educators in January. In elementary schools in Burlington, Vermont, trainer Rik Palieri will continue the training he started last year, expanding his efforts to nearby communities as well. In Oakland and Berkeley, California , two new GITC trainers will reach out to K-8 educators new to this approach through the public schools. And this is just the beginning- so many more programs are on the horizon in February. We also have an exciting plan moving forward that involves more community concerts that bring the children and teachers together with community members to make music in public spaces, giving music a presence in the daily life of people outside the school walls. We just led the first public GITC community jam in San Diego 2 weeks ago and facilitated two holiday sing alongs at the public library in Encinitas, CA. Folks really came out to be a part of these events with the children. 

Guitars in the Classroom wants to wish you very happy holidays and the most joyous of New Years.

On behalf of the teachers and students in Hampton, Virginia, in Oxnard and Vista, California and all across the nation wherever there is a GITC program thanks to you, we hope your kindness comes back to you multiplied many times over. The love you give is making life better for thousands of children whose chances for success in school are improving because you choose care. Thank you for your blessings.

Please stay with us, be a part of this musical connection and help more children and people of every age find their voices, passion and inspiration together through sharing the power of song!

Let there be peace,


Oxnard, CA GITC
Oxnard, CA GITC
Vista, California GITC~
Vista, California GITC~
Bus Driving GITC in Clay WV!
Bus Driving GITC in Clay WV!


Nov 26, 2013

Thank you for Making a Difference!

Teacher Now Training in Virginia
Teacher Now Training in Virginia

Dear Friend,

On behalf of our organization as well as the children and teachers who will be making music because of your contribution, thank you so much for making the choice to give this project your support! These are precarious times for charitable work and each decision you make in favor of helping us- or any charity you like- is immensely important. It tells your friends and family that you stand for good. That you are not going to live life on the sidelines. That you are going to alleviate suffering and support what improves the quality of other human lives. And you have decided in funding GITC that this must include the arts. Thank you so much.

We are heading into the holiday season now with new classes on the horizon because of you. Not just classes, but new songs- ones that will increase language learning and literacy. The work in Hampton, Virginia, for example has really taken off! You can read about it in this report.

37 of you contributed to this project. Each one of you has done something that matters. Of particular note, I would like to thank Peter D'Addario and Joan Maute for contributing very significant matching funds to this campaign, and to Whitney Kroenke, Jasmin Powell, Art Harvey, Janet Godin, Della Peretti, Nathan Davis, and GITC friend, Kevin Wimer and his company, for pushing this campaign across the finish line. Thank you so much to you teachers, friends of teachers and family members who gave! We could not have raised $5,000 in such a short time without you all! Thank you!!

Now. instead of giving you platitudes, please allow me to complete this report by sharing a note I received day before yesterday from our program in Vista, Calfiornia. This in addition to the article from Hampton, Virginia will paint a pretty accurate picture of what is going on in the teacher training classes.

Vista Academy is a Title 1 (low income) school with a positive mission to learn through the arts. No matter how scarce their funding grows, the teachers are passionately dedicated to teaching and to their students and families. This fall they are taking GITC training for the first time. To understand how your contribution will matter to so many more people, please read what Margaret Welch, the GITC trainer in Vista has to say about her program.

Thank you again for being a part of Guitars in the Classroom in everything we are attempting to accomplish each day. We can do this as long as we stick together!

With endless gratitude,


The Note

                                                                                                                November 23, 2013

Hi Jess,

We have been busy in Vista.  We did not have class the week of our parent conferences.  But last Monday's class was our 6th class.  We have had no "drop outs," and in fact have gained a new member or two.  All of the guitars are being used, and we are in good shape.  Everyone is tuning their own guitar.

Our newest member is the person who will start teaching our school's music class after Thanksgiving.  She plays some guitar, and wondered about the open G.  We talked and I explained the program, and she thought it was great.  So she has joined us.  She is enjoying learning the open G chords, and is having a great time with us.  She has invited the teachers in the guitar class to bring their guitars to the music class with their students, and wants my input so we can coordinate.

Jolene, our lefty, is LOVING her lefty guitar.  It is amazing that the Godin people were able to send it. She wants to send a thank you letter.

Some interesting updates:  Our principal is totally into this.  She has been practicing her guitar at home, and her 2 kids now want to learn guitar.  She and two of our teachers from the class were in a meeting. She had already told me she had a meeting and would miss guitar class.  But, a couple of minutes later, in the three of them walked.  I was surprised.  After class the principal told me they were in the meeting when she looked at the clock and announced to all, "Well, I have to leave.  It is time for guitar class."  So great!

Our speech teacher has been using her guitar to piggy back simple songs for the speech skills with her students, and loves their participation when they are singing.

The ELD coordinator is starting the little class with the kindergarteners and their parents.  She is loving the Amigos materials and other GITC ideas.  We are coordinating, and I am helping her with piggyback words for some concepts.  She is leading the singing, and the other teacher who is doing the story part is one of our regular guitar members.  GITC has really enriched that whole  kindergarten ELD class.  Very exciting!

Our class played some cute Thanksgiving and Halloween songs, and played them with their classes.  They can now play The Lion Sleeps Tonight and the Addition and Subtraction songs to I've Been Working on the Railroad.  We have been doing the shuffle strum.  I made the eggs by digging out our plastic Easter eggs from our garage and filling them with rice.  Nice device for the shuffle rhythm.

One of the teachers wants to be able to play Izz's Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  Online I found the chords for his original version, too hard for our group.  But I also found a version in the key of G which we will be able to play after I teach them the C major and Em, so that is where we are headed.  If we put the capo at the fifth fret and don't strum the bass strings, it sounds a lot like a ukelele.  I am also very excited to get into the 12 bar blues in about 2 weeks.  I have a friend, a former VAPA teacher who now is at the high school, who plays bass.  I plan to surprise the class by having him come play bass with us as we have a blues jam in a few of weeks.  Wouldn't that be fun??

Have a great Thanksgiving.  I am glad to have the week off.  So busy.  So ready for a break.



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