The magic of Taylor Swift is in full effect in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Teacher Sean Connolly has been using Taylor Swift songs (and other popular hits) in the classroom to help students learn concepts like skip counting, telling time, subtraction, and angles.
Students help rewrite the lyrics to these songs for upcoming lessons. Sean says this has really helped kids learn tough concepts and overall retention. It’s also been fun for him and the students to see responses from the public on Instagram and TikTok. Even Taylor Swift has given students a “like” on one of their videos.
You really have to hear the students for yourself to fully appreciate what they’re doing. Here’s their popular take on “Anti Hero,” which they used for counting by threes. Then keep reading to learn more about all they’re doing from Mr. C. himself.
@teachwithmrc Skip Count by 3 while singing to Anti-Hero by Taylor Swift. My students were so excited to give you another skip counting video. Enjoy! What do you think @taylorswift? What should we do next? #taylor #taylorswift #itsme #imtheproblem #imtheproblemitsme #swifttok #swiftie #swifties #swiftok #swiftonyx #swiftie4ever #teacher #teachertok #teachersbelike #studentsbelike #learnthroughsong #skipcounting #skipcountby3 #edutok #education #elementaryschool #taylorswiftedit #antihero #thirdgradeteacher #thirdgrade #teachersoftiktok #teacherlife #teachwithmrc @teachwithmrc ♬ original sound – Teach with Mr C
How did you decide to teach math through popular songs?
It started when I did a video of me teaching long division with a graphic organizer I made. It got 100k views, and I realized I could do a lot with the TikTok short video format. Then I came up with an idea for a Count by 9 method using the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” song. I posted it on a Friday night. By the morning it had 2,000 views, and by the end of the day, it was almost to 100,000 views.
How did the Taylor Swift song and video come about?
That weekend, it hit me to do Count by 3 method using Taylor Swift’s “Anti Hero” song. It kind of just came to me while I was driving on my way to work. The kids were all in, and we made it right away. Later that night, I couldn’t wait to post it and I remember my son was taking forever to fall asleep. He finally went to sleep around 9 p.m., and then I posted it and fell asleep myself. When I woke up, Taylor Swift herself even liked it!
I couldn’t believe it. It was at about 20,000 views in the morning. By noon, it was at 500,000, and by 4 p.m., it hit a million. It was the craziest day. It is currently up to 13 million views on TikTok and Instagram combined. We are at over 1 million likes on TikTok as well.
How many songs have you done this with?
We have done a lot and keep adding more. Here are a few of the songs:
How has this been effective in the classroom?
I have a unique job where I teach learning support in the morning and gifted in the afternoon. The students in my school are all close and love working together. The learning-support students benefit from the repetitiveness of the songs. The gifted students are obsessed with the challenge of making more. I am getting emails at least once a week from my students who have written songs they want us to sing.
How have you seen music increase retention in remembering facts?
It’s been a great increase. My students love to sing the songs while doing multiplication and other math problems. Then there are specific songs that really help too. For example, the Taylor Swift CVCe song really helped my struggling students with silent e words. I want to do one for each syllable type as well.
Do you have a background in music, or how did you come up with this?
No, and that is why I am so thankful for my students. I love music and have always had a talent for turning songs into silly lyrics in any situation. However, I cannot sing at all or play any instruments. Therefore, my songs would be nothing if I sang them.
Do you have a favorite Taylor Swift song?
“Shake It Off.”
Any other songs you’ll be working on in the future?
Oh yes. We just finished up our after-school peer tutoring program. The students were very sad it ended, so they asked if we could stay after or come in early to do more songs. We are trying to do songs for every skill in reading and math. I really like the format of something quick that works every single time. The students are all in, and they all take turns doing the directing, lighting, etc.
Where are you located and what do you teach?
I live in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, with my wife, Lauren, and the joys of my life: my son Liam (4) and my daughter Emma (18 months). I’ve been teaching learning support for 15 years and am at Hanover Elementary in the Bethlehem Area School District in Pennsylvania. I have the best job in the Lehigh Valley and am at the best school I can imagine.
What else should we know about you?
This all started because I had resources that I would sell on Teacher Pay Teachers. Then, I recorded myself completing the graphic organizers I’ve made for struggling students. This really helped get the resources out to other teachers. I started my own website, Intervention Station, and have started selling all my resources there with step-by-step video explanations. My graphic organizers have helped thousands of students, and I hope we can continue to help struggling students and stop the gap that widens as they go through elementary school.