Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Misconceptions  about Hamilton: An American Musical
  1. It’s stuffy (Nope! It’s actually fun hip-hop!)
  2. You have to see it (Nope! You can listen to the audio like the rest of us poor Floridians)
  3. It’s not useful in a middle classroom (Nope! I think it can honestly teach benchmarks with higher-order thinking)

But seriously -- I don’t think I’ve geeked out this bad since New Kids on The Block.

I know, I know -- you haven’t seen it. NEITHER HAVE I (sigh). The only people who have seen it have lived in or visited NYC in the past year AND happened to have tons of cash to spend OR won a $10 ticket in a lottery.

I live in Florida. I’m a teacher, so I don’t have tons  of cash to spend.

So instead of seeing the biggest musical of this century so far -- I listen to it. Free on Amazon Prime Music. Free on Youtube. Or pay for the album, digitally or in the store. Whatevs.

I listen to it. And I watch clips on PBS.

But, if you teach 6th, 7th, or 8th grade in Pinellas -- NOW is the time to use Hamilton in your class! It hits benchmarks in ALL middle school classes this month (or next month).

And if you teach something else -- see if you can use it?

And it can give you a great jumping-off point for higher order thinking.I like to abbrieviate Higher-Order Thinking as “HOT”. It’s  more fun that way.

I think everyone should get HOT4HAM!

Here are my FOUR favorite ideas of HOT4HAM (HOT= “Higher Order Thinking” for “Ham”, Hamilton)

  1. If you’re teaching causes of the revolution...  Use “Farmer Refuted” but make sure you have the lyrics, either on paper or on the screen.
    1. Teaching Idea: Have the kids listen, the first time, to “Samuel Seabury’s” side and then write a one-sentence summary of his (the Loyalists’ side). Then, have them listen  again, this time paying more attention to Hamilton’s (the Patriots’ side) and write a one-sentence summary of the Patriots’ side.
    2. HOT Higher-Order Thinking: Have the kids connect other historical figures from class to the side in the song they would identify with (Seabury’s Loyalist and Hamilton’s Patriot)
Addresses benchmarks (US Hist) SS.8.A.3.2; SS.8.A.3.3; (Civics) SS.7.C.1.3)

  1. If you’re teaching the American Revolution ... Use “Right Hand Man” (first two minutes) and use “Guns and Ships”. Again -- print or project the lyrics (especially because they are rapped so fast in this song). You might annotate the lyrics, too, to help with some of the tough vocab here.  
  1. Teaching idea: Then, ask students to turn and talk about how the individuals in the songs (Washington, Hamilton, Lafayette) contributed to the American War effort.
  2. HOT Higher Order Thinking: Specifically, ask them to tell us how those men helped America win the war.  Have them rap their answer for bonus points.
Addresses benchmarks (US Hist) SS.8.A.3.3; SS.8.A.3.4, SS.8.A.3.6

3. If you’re teaching the Early Republic ... Use “One Last Time” (which is available as an actual video -- with actors singing!! At a Washington Prize Award ceremony).  This number teaches Washington’s Farewell Address -- both the reasons behind establishing the two-term presidency and the actual words of the document itself.
  1. Teaching idea: Ask students to read excerpts from Washington’s Farewell Address to determine a few of the main ideas.
  2. HOT Higher Order Thinking: I would ask students to use historical cause and effect skills and to write a few sentences about what would be different in our country if Washington hadn’t self-limited the presidency to two terms.
Addresses benchmarks (US Hist) SS.8.A.3.12 (Civics - it’s a stretch, but maybe  SS.7.C.3.8)

4.  If you’re teaching the Constitutional Convention & Federalist Papers ... Use “Non-Stop” and choose the excerpts that best help (there’s some extraneous verses here). Then,
    1. Teaching idea: Focus on the verse about the Constitutional Convention.  Have students examine Hamilton’s contributions to the Constitutional Convention.
    2. HOT Higher Order Thinking: Have students pull out two or three ways (from the song or the PBS Article that PROVE that Hamilton was a Federalist.
    3. Teaching Idea: Focus on the verse about the Federalist papers. Have students discuss why Hamilton may have been motivated to write 51 essays about the Constitution.
    4. HOT Higher Order Thinking: Have students explain how the quote below connects to the Federalists :
Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.
-Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 15
Addresses Benchmarks: US Hist SS.8.A.3.10, SS.8.A.3.11. Civics SS.7.A.1.8

You don’t have to use Hamilton: An American Musical in your class. But you do have to use HOT (Higher-Order Thinking) -- and use them frequently.

Image result for hamilton musical memeIf you’ve seen Hamilton: An American Musical -- tell me. Wait, don’t tell me. I’ll be too jealous.

I encourage you to catch a listen to Hamilton (links to audio above). Can you use Hamilton to teach middle school Civics or US History -- or something else? How can you use it to have kids practice higher order thinking skills(HOTs)? As always, I love to hear from you (especially if you have an extra plane ticket AND an extra Broadway ticket) :D Email me (about the HOT, not actually about your ticket)

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