Teach Hamilton in the Classroom

Teach Hamilton in the Classroom


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, what a hit this would turn out to be. I have had students from as far back as 2009 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”.

I knew I had to bring more of the play into my classroom. When I teach the American Revolution I usually do analysis with John Trumbell’s Revolution paintings, so when the play came out I created more curriculum to bring in lyrics from the play. All the lyrics are online for you to view here: http://atlanticrecords.com/HamiltonMusic/

Here’s how I did it by Topic. 

Topic:  Immigration
Song: Hamilton

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

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
Song: Farmer Refuted
Discussion re: Loyalists vs Tories, Olive Branch Petition
Questions to consider: How can we differentiate between the loyalists/Tories and fence sitters. Which side would you be on and why?

Notable Lyric Sample:

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

Oh my God. Tear this dude apart

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 Hamiltons Financial/ Assumption Plan wise for the nation?

Notable Lyric Sample:

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

‘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


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?

Notable Lyric Sample:
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).

Notable Lyric Sample: 
The battle of Yorktown. 1781

Monsieur Hamilton

Monsieur Lafayette

In command where you belong

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

We get the job done

So what happens if we win?

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

We’ll be with you when you do

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

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!

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:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident
That all men are created equal”

And when I meet Thomas Jefferson


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


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

Synthesis Extension: Hamilton the Musical (American Revolution) vs. Les Miserables (French Revolution).

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

Notable Lyrics:
Aaron Burr!

With his own faction

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

He’s not very forthcoming on any particular stances

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

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

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


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

Who did you have in mind?

Don’t laugh

Who is it?

You used to work on the same staff


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

Conclusion Questions:
Who are the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians today?
What will your “shot be?!” What will history write about you?
Will you be in the room where it happens?
You can also always have your students make a meme from the musical:


FINALLY… YOU MUST! MUST! MUST! Show your students the Got Milk Commercial to wrap up the Unit!

Happy Hamming It up in your classrooms!

Published by No Firedrills


Reply heres...

Login / Sign up for adding comments.