Teaching history can be challenging. How do you make it meaningful for your students? How do you help them to make connections between events in order to understand how one event leads to another? How do you help students connect events from the past to their lives today? And frankly, how do you teach students to isolate and highlight the important details of history without covering the entire page in yellow highlighter?!
I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I have learned that a big step in solving this problem is presenting your students with characters that are real and relatable. Lin Manuel-Miranda’s hit Broadway masterpiece, Hamilton, does just that. An adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton is historically accurate but fast-paced and filled with colorful characters designed to make our Founding Fathers come alive. A recording of the full show can be found on iTunes. I play each song before introducing the accompanying activity. Each teacher can determine whether or not they will introduce all of the music based on class time.
This activity serves two purposes. Students close-read commentaries on the songs that also include explanations of historical reference and give background information on the historical occurrences that inspire each song. The readings in this bundle, if read from “Alexander Hamilton” all the way through to “Non-Stop” provides information on Alexander Hamilton’s humble beginnings all the way through to his experience defending the first murder case of a new America following the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. Through these activities, students gain experience in finding evidence that directly supports answers to questions about the text, and then they take the information they have highlighted and use it to make inferences on deeper questions about the text.
This bundle includes:
* 23 well-researched, multi-page informational articles, one highlighting each song in the first act of Hamilton: An American Musical
* Five questions for each article designed to teach and enforce the concept of finding text evidence and highlighting major themes
* Five inference questions for each article designed to help students to use the information highlighted to inference and answer long-answer questions in a restate the question/answer the question/provide text evidence format
Nothing has lit my class on fire faster than the music from Hamilton. I have watched my most apathetic students become instantly turned on to learning, eagerly making literary and historical connections once turned on by the intensity and cleverness of Lin-Manuel Miranda's writing.
Act II is coming soon!
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