Chances are, I’m preaching to the choir. I would have been far less likely to hop into an article about bringing Hamilton in to my English classes before I took the time to listen to and enjoy the musical. But, should you be free spirited enough to have explored this article without a preexisting passion for Hamilton, the first bullet point on our list is for you.
I don’t mean that in the way raving fans of niche bands often do. The writing, the mechanics, the plot line, the character development, the references to popular culture, the deliberate choices in language – it really is exemplary.
In a world where we often turn to pop songs to help bridge our students’ acceptance and understanding of poetry, where we urge our less-progressive colleagues to treat modern hip hop lyrics with the same literary merit as other works in our canon, we’ve been given a gift. A synthesis of hip-hop and history that, without any academic prompting whatsoever, I have heard students singing in the halls.
If it’s richness of craft that you’re after (…and you are…), Hamilton is waiting in the wings for you.
Enter your email below to receive TeachArgument’s guided close reading and rhetorical analysis materials for Hamilton’s opening number, “Alexander Hamilton!”
Plenty of texts are rich enough to thoroughly analyze in class… and while the lyrics from Hamilton fit nicely into this category, this may not be enough of a reason for you to take action. After all, there are countless works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction that never see the light of day in curriculumland – why should Hamilton?
The answer is – the slippery slope. English teachers are instantly thrilled by the musical’s literary merit, and History teachers are just as quickly enthralled by the content that’s unpacked in so compelling a way. But Hamilton’s true power comes in the form of what follows the musical.
For me, and for many of my students, conducting a close reading of the song “Alexander Hamilton” turned into listening to the entire soundtrack, which turned into a compulsion to devour Chernow’s 826 page Hamilton biography.
The text makes for a lovely analysis, but even more importantly, it can act as a catalyst to spark students’ interest in and love for reading and writing, history and politics, theater and drama.
The opportunities to connect the stuff of Hamilton across disciplines are countless. The general ideas that are packed into the lyrics lend themselves nicely to crossover in the humanities (i.e. studying the lyrics of a song for both their literary merit and historical accuracy; prompting students to compose their own lyrics for other historical figures, etc.), but open doors to math and business (i.e. deconstructing his plan for the US economy) as well.
Just about every state in America has adopted ELA standards that require the close reading and examination of “American” documents. I can’t think of a better way to make the written works of our founding fathers any more engaging or relevant than this.
We put a nifty little synthesis task together in the tail end of our Hamilton lesson bundle that considers various perspectives taken on keeping his portrait on the ten-dollar bill. Perfect for a discussion, a debate, and a synthesis essay.
Access our ‘Hamilton’ materials in full, as well as all of our resources for teaching English and argument through pop culture, by joining the TeachArgument Community now!
Or, click here to grab our ‘Hamilton’ resources “a la carte.”