Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical “Hamilton” has been a gift to US History teachers. The lyrics bring the voices of the founding fathers to our generation in a truly meaningful way. Students across the nation are listening and gaining an appreciation for history they may not have otherwise enjoyed.
So how do you tap into the “Hamilton” movement? How do you use the music and the lyrics to bring US history to life in your classroom? Here are my top 5 tips for using Hamilton in your classroom.
Use “Hamilton” lyrics to introduce a lesson as a preview. The musical has several different songs that correlate to topics in your classroom. I absolutely love using music to introduce a lesson; it grabs your students’ attention from the very beginning and helps them make connections as they read about the content in your lesson. For example, in my lesson on George Washington’s Farewell Address, students listen to the song “One Last Time” and answer questions like: What ideas does Washington want to express in his “Farewell Address”? What is a key idea expressed in both the title of the song and in the lyrics? And Why do you think it is important that Washington did not run for president a third time?
Use “Hamilton” lyrics to add excitement to a lesson that might otherwise be boring for your students. Our students are required to describe how the leaders of the New Republic created a stable economic system. Wow! An 8th grader might not find a lecture on that topic very exciting…. But if you add music from “Hamilton”, you can pique their interest. Use QR codes in a reading on Hamilton’s Financial Plans to link to “In the Room Where It Happened” while discussing the “dinner table bargain” of the Compromise of 1790. Play “Cabinet Battle #1” as your students’ learn about the struggles to create the National Bank. Now your students will remember the topic and want to learn even more!
Use “Hamilton” to review key content prior to a test or benchmark. Do you want your students to remember the role important people played in the American Revolution? Play “Guns and Ships” highlighting the role of the Marquis de Lafayette.
Use “Hamilton” lyrics as clues in escape room activities. For example, in my US History Review Escape Room, students are sent to a station to listen to the lyrics from the song “Yorktown-The World Turned Upside Down”. A key phrase in the song is clue to solve a puzzle.
Don’t forget the “Hamilton Mixtape” – one of my favorite songs “Immigrants, we get the job done” works as a great introduction to your urbanization unit. Your students can compare two different songs describing an immigrant’s experience and make connections to experiences across time.
Always make sure to listen to the lyrics before you play any song in class. Several of the songs are marked “E”, but you can find clean versions to the songs on YouTube.
I hope you enjoy listening to “Hamilton” as much as I did – I know your students will!