Don’t Let a Pandemic Stop You From Being in the Room Where it Happens

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August 31 is the 102nd anniversary of celebrated Broadway composer Alan Jay Lerner’s birth. Lerner is best known for his collaborations with Frederick Loewe on hits such as Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, and Camelot. Among other honors, he won three Tony Awards and three Academy Awards, making him one of Broadway’s most proficient and well-known songwriters.

When you think about Lerner and make comparisons to modern-day Broadway composers, one of the first to come to mind is Lin-Manuel Miranda because of his immensely popular play, Hamilton: An American Musical. Even during the pandemic, millions continue to watch the play through the live recording available on Disney+, which has allowed many viewers to see it for the first time.

Hamilton provides the perfect opportunity to engage students through music as they learn about Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution. It allows students to be in “The Room Where it Happens” as they learn about Hamilton’s story, from his youth to the ongoing political debate and drama of his career.

Hamilton the Musical Resources

Use these links to find the original recordings and lyrics from the play to use during classroom lessons.

Alexander Hamilton Teaching Resources

Capture students’ interest in Hamilton and take advantage of some of these free teaching resources to extend student learning about Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution.

  • Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America (TeachersFirst review) – Explore this interactive site to follow a timeline of Hamilton’s life, take a peek at some documents (including letters written by Hamilton), and browse the Hamilton log to see a weekly chronicle of events in Hamilton’s life.
  • The Federalist Papers (TeachersFirst review) – Remember the song “Non-Stop” from the musical? It is all about writing The Federalist Papers. Visit the Library of Congress’s website to view the full text of all 85 essays written to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution.
  • Who Was Alexander Hamilton? Early Influences (TeachersFirst review) – This three-minute video tells the story of Hamilton’s difficult childhood. It also includes a couple of ideas for writing prompts to use after students view the video.
  • You Decide: Jefferson or Hamilton? A Biography of America (TeachersFirst review) – Although the play focuses on Alexander Hamilton, it also highlights the conflict between him and Thomas Jefferson. This activity challenges students to compare and contrast these two visions for the United States and defend their opinion on which idea best supports their view of the role of government.
  • Teaching History with Hamilton (TeachersFirst review) – It is rare to find resources for elementary students related explicitly to Alexander Hamilton, Teaching History with Hamilton is one of those. It includes age-appropriate resources for grades K-12, including games, coloring pages, and word searches for younger students, while resources for older students include podcasts, music, and a set of graphics. Find many Hamilton-inspired lessons under the content area for teachers. In addition to lesson resources shared by grade-level bands, this site includes lessons for special education and professional development opportunities for educators.
  • The Hamilcast – Did you know that the cast of Hamilton has a podcast? Listen to over 200 episodes of the podcast to learn more about the show’s production, how teachers use the music to excite students about history, and how the cast finds references to Hamilton in everyday life. Listen to any of the podcasts through the website, download them to your computer, or subscribe through most podcast hosting resources.
  • TeachersFirst Edge – Although not specifically related to Hamilton, the Edge is the best place to find free tools for creating and sharing student work. Browse through the different categories to find tools for creating podcasts, digital books, videos, and much more. Encourage students to share their creativity to demonstrate learning by offering a variety of options to show what they know!

Need more reasons why you should bring music into your classroom?

During this pandemic, music is a helpful tool for both students and educators. What better way to relate learning to students’ interests than by using a famous Broadway play as a starting point for lessons? When used intentionally, music can set the mood for many teaching activities and help us…

  • Connect with others.
  • Relieve stress and relax.
  • Increase student engagement

Whether you teach remotely, in a blended situation, or in-school, the music of Hamilton is an excellent way to encourage students to explore American History in a new way. Who knows? One of your students may be the next Alan Jay Lerner or Lin-Manuel Miranda and write the next Broadway blockbuster musical!

How are you using music to enhance student learning during the pandemic? Do you have a tip to share on teaching history with Hamilton? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.

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