If you haven’t checked out The New York Times Learning Network’s Hamilton lesson plan you should stop reading and go do it right now. Come back in 30 minutes when you are done. It’s long and intense and AWESOME. I’m thrilled that I was able to be a part of it!
While helping with the lesson plan I came up with a lot of ideas for using Hamilton in the classroom. Not all of them made it into the final post so I have decided to share them here. Are you teaching with Hamilton? Let me know how you are using it!
A Few More Ways to teach with Hamilton
- Annotation: Recently I have been experimenting with digital annotation. I love how tools like hypothes.is allow students to discuss texts and contribute to a larger conversation. it allows students to interact with a text. Hamilton has taken on a life of its own at Genius, the annotation website. Even the composer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has contributed to the annotations! Have students create their own annotations and then compare them to the annotations on Genius. (See more ideas for using annotation in this post).
- Write Your own Literary Figure Poem/Rap: Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired to write Hamilton while reading Ron Chernow’s lengthy biography of the same name. He has said that he immediately saw parallels between Hamilton’s life and the lives of some of his favorite hip-hop and rap stars. Miranda first planned to create a hip-hop concept album about Alexander Hamilton and he performed the opening number at a White House event in 2009. You can see his performance, where he plays Aaron Burr, on Youtube. After watching the performance, challenge students to use Miranda’s song as a mentor text as they compose their own poem/rap about a character in the novel they are reading.
- Concise writing: Composer Lin-Manuel Miranda is a prolific user of Twitter and one of his most famous social media moves is to frequently change his Twitter biography. As a result, his bios are often quirky and his followers try to draw out the meaning behind them. Use this Skills Practice | Concise Writing lesson to help students create their own Twitter biographies. After creating their own, challenge them to create a biography for a historical or literary figure. Lin-Manuel Miranda has said Alexander Hamilton probably would have been a Twitter user, so what would his biography have looked like? What would Julius Caesar’s look like? What about Oliver Twist or Katniss Everdeen?
- For the love of a book: In a 2015 Artsbeat blog entry, Lin-Manuel Miranda is quoted as saying, “I’m going to keep it really simple today. The whole thing started because I picked up a book and fell in love,” before reading aloud the first five paragraphs from the prologue of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton. This 832-page tome is not what many people might view as inspirational. But that’s the magic of books; what inspires one person to take action and change the world around them might have little effect on another reader. Ask students to think about the book or books that have changed their outlook, viewpoint, or even lives. Have them share their reading history with each other through infographics, essays, or posters.
I hope these ideas inspire you! If you have not yet listened to the cast recording or checked out the recorded performances available online I think you should drop everything you are doing and start listening now. It’s fantastic and many of my students are as obsessed as I am! I’m slowly working my way through the Chernow biography (I’ve switched to the audiobook, which is working better for me). What’s even cooler is that I have a few 9th grade students who are also reading Chernow’s book after being introduced to Miranda’s music! It’s pretty incredible and I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to share this experience with my students.
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