Teach Hamilton (the Musical) In the Classroom

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Many moons ago (2009 to be exact), before Hamilton was a big hit on Broadway, Lin Manuel Miranda presented a rap song to President Obama at the White House Poetry Jam.  It was funny, fresh and historically accurate – in other words PERFECT for my US history class to view.

The first year I showed the clip, my students were enamored. I had them rap it as a class the second time around. WHO IS THIS GUY?! asked the students (referring to both Hamilton AND LIN!)

They were hooked, students wanted MORE Hamilton… (Little did they know they were in for a round of Oklahoma shortly thereafter).

As the years went on I joshed to my students, “Oh, they are supposed to make this into a Broadway show some day, maybe you will get tickets to see it once you graduate”. Little did WE know that this was going to be the biggest musical hit of our generation!  I have had so many students have email me over the past year asking “WERE YOU IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS?!” aka, “DID YOU GET HAMILTON TICKETS YET?!” The answer, yes…. I was one of the lucky ones.  I was not giving away My Shot. In fact, I tried every day when it played at the Public Theatre to no avail. But once it was released on Broadway I bought tickets for the first week (6 months out of course).

Opening week, there I was, mouthing every word to the opening song “Hamilton”.

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a
Scotsman,
dropped in the middle of a forgotten
Spot in the Caribbean
by providence, impoverished, in squalor

Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

I was obsessed. I knew I had to bring more of the play into my classroom. Previously, when I taught the topic of the early Colonial Period and the American Revolution, I did a painting analysis of John Trumbell’s Revolutionary War paintings. BUT… when the play came out I created more curriculum to bring in lyrics from the play.

Here’s how I did it by Topic:
All the lyrics are online for you to view here: http://atlanticrecords.com/HamiltonMusic/
M
y recommendation is to print out lyrics for students to underline, then analyze as you listen to the music.

The Early Colonial Period

Topic:  Immigration
Song: Hamilton
Obviously, the first song “Hamilton” is the hook. Have students review the lyrics.
Questions to consider:
Infer – what was the immigrant experience like in the 1700s?
Can you draw any parallels to today?  Can any of you relate to Hamilton? Why?

Notable Lyric Sample:

Alexander Hamilton
We are waiting in the wings for you
You could never back down
You never learned to take your time!
Oh, Alexander Hamilton

When America sings for you
Will they know what you overcame?
Will they know you rewrote the game?
The world will never be the same, oh

The ship is in the harbor now
See if you can spot him
Another immigrant
Comin’ up from the bottom
His enemies destroyed his rep
America forgot him

Topic: American Revolution
Subject Matter: Loyalists vs Tories, Olive Branch Petition

Song: Farmer Refuted
Questions to consider:
How can we differentiate between the Loyalists/Tories and Fence sitters during the American Revolution?
Which side would you be on and why?

Notable Lyric Sample:

[SEABURY]
Hear ye, hear ye! My name is Samuel Seabury
And I present “Free Thoughts on the
Proceedings of the Continental Congress!”
Heed not the rabble who scream revolution
They have not your interests at heart

[MULLIGAN]
Oh my God. Tear this dude apart

[SEABURY]
Chaos and bloodshed are not a solution
Don’t let them lead you astray
This Congress does not speak for me

Topic: Political Parties, Hamilton’s Financial & Assumption Plan
Song: Cabinet Battles 1 & 2
Questions to consider:
How did political parties emerge during the Washington administration?
Was Hamilton’s Financial/ Assumption Plan a wise plan for the nation?

Notable Lyric Sample:

[WASHINGTON]
Ladies and gentlemen, you coulda been anywhere in the world tonight, but you’re here with us in New York City. Are you ready for a cabinet meeting???

The issue on the table: Secretary Hamilton’s plan to assume state debt and establish a national bank. Secretary Jefferson, you have the floor, sir

[JEFFERSON]
‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’
We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less
These are wise words, enterprising men quote ‘em
Don’t act surprised, you guys, cuz I wrote ‘em

[JEFFERSON/MADISON]
Oww

[JEFFERSON]
But Hamilton forgets
His plan would have the government assume state’s debts
Now, place your bets as to who that benefits:
The very seat of government where Hamilton sits

Topic: Boston Tea Party & War of 1812
Song: King George “You’ll be back”
Questions to consider:
Two Georges (Washington & George III). One a king, one a president. Which George led better and why?
Why was there a second war of Independence?

Notable Lyric Sample:

KING GEORGE
You say
The price of my love’s not a price that you’re willing to pay
You cry
In your tea which you hurl in the sea when you see me go by
Why so sad?
Remember we made an arrangement when you went away
Now you’re making me mad
Remember, despite our estrangement, I’m your man
You’ll be back, soon you’ll see
You’ll remember you belong to me
You’ll be back, time will tell
You’ll remember that I served you well
Oceans rise, empires fall
We have seen each other through it all
And when push comes to shove
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love!

Topic: American Revolution/ Battle of Yorktown
Song: Yorktown (the World old Upside Down)
Activity: Couple this song with John Trumbell’s Painting- Surrender of Cornwallis
Synthesis Extension: Hamilton the Musical (American Revolution) vs. Les Miserables (French Revolution).
Questions to Consider:
Why did the colonies win the American Revolution?
Should the US supported the French during their revolution?

Notable Lyric Sample: 
The battle of Yorktown. 1781

[LAFAYETTE]
Monsieur Hamilton

[HAMILTON]
Monsieur Lafayette

[LAFAYETTE]
In command where you belong

[HAMILTON]
How you say, no sweat
We’re finally on the field. We’ve had quite a run

[LAFAYETTE]
Immigrants:
We get the job done

[HAMILTON]
So what happens if we win?

[LAFAYETTE]
I go back to France
I bring freedom to my people if I’m given the chance

[HAMILTON]
We’ll be with you when you do

Topics : Women in the Colonial Era/ Revolution/ Common Sense
Song: The Schuyler Sisters
Question to Consider:
What were women’s roles during the American Revolution?
Why was the word woman missing from the Declaration of Independence?

Notable Lyrics:
Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!

History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be
In the greatest city in the world!

[ANGELICA]
I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine
So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane
You want a revolution? I want a revelation
So listen to my declaration:

[ELIZA/ANGELICA/PEGGY]
“We hold these truths to be self-evident
That all men are created equal”

[ANGELICA]
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson

[COMPANY]
Unh!

[ANGELICA]
I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!

[WOMEN]
Work!

Topic: Washington’s Farewell Address
Song: One Last Time
Question to Consider:
Did Washington make the right decision in resigning?
What words of wisdom did Washington leave for the country?

[HAMILTON]
Mr. President, they will say you’re weak

[WASHINGTON]
No, they will see we’re strong

[HAMILTON]
Your position is so unique

[WASHINGTON]
So I’ll use it to move them along

[HAMILTON]
Why do you have to say goodbye?

[WASHINGTON]
If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on
It outlives me when I’m gone
Like the scripture says:
“Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid.”

They’ll be safe in the nation we’ve made
I wanna sit under my own vine and fig tree
A moment alone in the shade
At home in this nation we’ve made
One last time

Topic: Adams Administration
Song: The Adams Administration
Question to Consider: 
Did Adams “Mr. Rotundity” do the 2nd Administration justice during his tenure?

Notable Lyrics:
[BURR]
How does Hamilton the short-tempered
Protean creator of the Coast Guard
Founder of the New York Post
Ardently abuse his cab’net post
Destroy his reputation?

Welcome, folks, to

[BURR/COMPANY]
The Adams administration!

[BURR]
Jefferson’s the runner-up, which makes him the Vice President

[JEFFERSON]
Washington can’t help you now, no more mister nice President

Topic: The Election of 1800 
Song: The Election of 1800
Activity: 
Read Hamilton’s endorsement of Jefferson letter (coupled with these lyrics)
Questions to Consider:
Was a peaceful transfer of power possible during the election of 1800?
How did Hamilton’s letter contribute to Hamilton’s final fate (the Duel with Burr)?

Notable Lyrics:
[JEFFERSON AND MADISON]
Aaron Burr!

[JEFFERSON]
With his own faction

[MADISON]
He’s very attractive in the North. New Yorkers like his chances

[JEFFERSON]
He’s not very forthcoming on any particular stances

[MADISON]
Ask him a question: it glances off, he obfuscates, he dances

[JEFFERSON]
And they say I’m a Francophile: at least they know I know where France is!

[MADISON]

Thomas that’s the problem, see, they see Burr as a less extreme you

[JEFFERSON]
Ha!

[MADISON]
You need to change course, a key endorsement might redeem you

[JEFFERSON]
Who did you have in mind?

[MADISON]
Don’t laugh

[JEFFERSON]
Who is it?

[MADISON]
You used to work on the same staff

[JEFFERSON]
Whaaaat

[MADISON]
It might be nice, it might be nice
To get Hamilton on your side

Conclusion Questions:

Who are the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians in politics today?
What will your “shot be?!” What will history write about you?
Will you be in the room where it happens? Why?

Wrap up activities:
1) Have your students make a meme from the musical:


trump

2) YOU MUST! MUST! MUST!
Show your students the Got Milk Commercial to wrap up the Unit!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLSsswr6z9Y

Happy Hamming It up in your classrooms!

nofiredrills.com/blognofiredrills.com/blog

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6 comments

      1. Hi Kim! Thanks so much for your question. There are two ways to get around this. One, tell parents the music is explicit and have students bring back signed parental slips. The second is when you are making copies of the lyrics skip the curse words. Thats what I usually do, I print it with spaces. I hope that helps! Feel free to reach out with any additional questions.

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