Interpreting Hamilton: Replicating Lin Manuel Miranda’s Process of Creative Contemporary Interpretation of Primary Sources

Recently I learned that my 11th grade U.S. History students were extended the opportunity to attend the Broadway hit show “Hamilton,” a play that fuses contemporary hip hop with text based interpretations of historical figures.  This content is pure gold for history teachers that are hungry for ways to encourage student engagement. The program includes provided curriculum with specific instructions to deter from the proposed curriculum when necessary for the specific dynamics of my classroom. Below you will find a rundown of how my lesson materialized, with standard aligned lesson plan available here.


The essential question for this lesson is:

How was Alexander Hamilton’s perspective significant to the American Revolution and Early American policy decisions?

The central focus of this lesson contributes to the central focus of the entire unit by providing sourcing, contextual,, close reading, and corroborating evidence to consider when interpreting Alexander Hamilton’s significance in the American Revolution.

State/district standards  

HS.60. Analyze an event, issue, problem, or phenomenon from varied or opposing perspectives or points of view.

Students exhibit this standard through demonstrating the four historical thinking skills.


SWBAT Examine the events of Alexander Hamilton’s life in relation to the American Revolution.

SWBAT Interpret the debate surrounding the American Revolution by Sourcing, Contextualizing, Close reading, and Corroborating two opposing speeches by Samuel Seabury and Alexander Hamilton.

SWBAT Identify Alexander Hamilton’s role in the debate surrounding the American Revolution.

Chronologically, the lesson played out like this:

  1. Split students into random small groups, and instruct each small group to research and define their vocabulary word on the whiteboard. The vocabulary I chose to include are:  Merchant, Colony, Militia, Federalist, Ratification, Treasury, Manumission
  2. Displayed an introductory video provided by the cast of the Broadway show “Hamilton” and describe the nature of the nature of the student’s opportunity to attend this show.
  3. Instructed students to navigate through the Gilder Lehrman digital exhibition by “popcorn” reading in small groups while the instructor circulates among small groups to clarify and facilitate the activity.
  4. Asked a member from  each group to share the most interesting piece of information they learned from this activity.
  5. Prompted students to read an excerpt from Samuel Seabury’s speech against Hamilton’s support of a revolution and highlighting the text using the website, “Prism”.
  6. Prompted students to read an excerpt from Alexander Hamilton’s speech against Hamilton’s support of a revolution and highlighting the text using the website, “Prism”.
  7. Review the results of this activity with student’s recorded results from the text marking activity and discuss how this activity is essentially “close reading.”
  8. Prompt students to collaboratively research and answer the “sourcing, contextualizing, and corroboration” portions of our historical thinking skills worksheet.
  9. Discuss the results of the “text marking” activity and transfer these results to the “close reading” portion of the worksheet.

Below I have  embedded the “Digital Exhibition” provided by  Gilder Lehrman.



Holocaust Memorial Project

Over the course of the semester, the six of us in our social studies methods class at the University of Portland partnered with the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education to design and develop a companion website to assist visitors, and especially teachers, in making the most of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial in a visit or a classroom.

One particular facet I contributed to was developing a Keynote presentation to embed in the website that gave a visual representation of the losses suffered by European Jewish populations by country during the Holocaust. For this, I used data provided by the museum.

Check out the website: link

Featured image credit: link

Artifact Box Lesson

This lesson focuses on developing historical inference skills and allowing students to function as “archaeologists” in a fun, interactive environment that helps students and teachers get to know one another better.

Prior to the lesson, ask students to create an “artifact box” about themselves: a box or bag filled with 4–6 “artifacts,” or objects that they believe represent something about themselves. These can be printed photos. Have students bring these in to class prior to the lesson.

Start the lesson by reviewing the concept of inference, and giving a short example. I chose to ask students to infer about neolithic people from cave paintings, since that is the content covered in my 6th grade placement.

Then ask students to grab a box that is not theirs, and pass out this (or a similar) graphic organizer for them to complete the artifact investigation activity: Artifact Investigation lesson.

After students have gone through the artifacts in their boxes and written observations and inferences on their graphic organizers, and answered the guiding questions on the sheet, have students share what they learned about their peer from the activity.


Featured Image Credit: link

Data-based Lesson

I was lucky enough to be able to test a data-based learning segment on a real live class. It is an 11th grade US History class, and the students were learning about the decade of the 1920’s. The topic of that day’s class was the African American experience in the 20’s; specifically the Great Migration (its causes and effects), and the Harlem Renaissance. Vocabulary and key terms included the farmer’s depression, lynching, race riots, and the KKK.

Often student connect to history via the storytelling aspect. I wanted to strike a balance between taking a look at the meta-data of the time while not losing that sense of personalized history. An educational app called Nearpod provided the perfect platform for such a lecture.

To begin, we took a closer look at the Great Migration. This included some of the hardships faced by those making the journey, some common destinations and regions of origin, etc. When discussing “push factors,” I had students click on the link within the Nearpod app, which each student was using on their own Chromebook, to this website. The website they arrived at contains an interactive map that shows every lynching to have been recorded throughout US history. Students can change the date range, zoom in on specific states, view clusters of attacks categorized as race riots, and discern the race of the victims using a color-coded key.

Students were prompted on how to navigate the site, how to adjust the date range, and what to look for. They were asked questions about what kinds of patterns they observed, etc. It was a stellar opportunity to incorporate higher level thinking questions.

Next, they were asked to discuss collaborate whether,given the circumstances, they would have moved if they were alive at that time. The posts appeared to the class on the projector screen as a bulletin board with their messages posted onto it like notes.

Lastly, students were shown a map of the South prior to 1920, with regions that had a high population of African Americans shaded in darker. They were asked to draw the migration route that they would take if they were plotting their escape. Here are some samples of their work:

This led to a discussion about whether African Americans would have been welcome in Oregon, why they settled in urban centers, and more. Overall, I think the data made a big impression on the students and played a significant role in shaping the lesson as a whole. I look forward to using more meta-data in the future.