CoverMedia Literacy Activities for Learning Civics ConceptsDefining Critical Media LiteracyChapter 1. Foundations of the United States Political SystemTopic 1: Democracy in Social Media Policies and Community StandardsTopic 2: The Internet as a Public UtilityTopic 3: 21st Century Women STEM InnovatorsTopic 4: Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal FamiliesTopic 5: Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School MascotsChapter 2. The Development of United States GovernmentTopic 1: Declarations of Independence on Social MediaTopic 2: Media Marketing and Government Regulating of Self-Driving Cars and Electric VehiclesTopic 3: Representations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the MediaTopic 4: Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American MusicalTopic 5: Bill of Rights on TwitterChapter 3. Institutions of United States GovernmentTopic 1: Hollywood Movies About the Branches of GovernmentTopic 2: Writing an Impeachment Press ReleaseTopic 3: Members of Congress' Use of Social MediaTopic 4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion PollsTopic 5: Website Design for New Political PartiesChapter 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of CitizensTopic 1: Immigration in the NewsTopic 2: Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and FilmTopic 3: COVID-19 Information EvaluationTopic 4: Women Political Leaders in the MediaTopic 5: Online Messaging by Special Interest GroupsTopic 6: Digital Games for Civic EngagementTopic 7: Social Media and the ElectionsTopic 8: Media Spin in the Coverage of Political DebatesTopic 9: Celebrities' Influence on PoliticsTopic 10: Political Activism Through Social MediaTopic 11: Media Recruitment of Public Sector WorkersTopic 12: Images of Teachers and TeachingTopic 13: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be NamedTopic 14: Representing Trans IdentitiesTopic 15: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021Topic 16: Music as Protest ArtTopic 17: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the MediaChapter 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court DecisionsTopic 1: Prohibition in the MediaTopic 2: The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social MediaTopic 3: Civil War News Stories and Recruitment AdvertisementsTopic 4: Representations of Gender and Race on CurrencyTopic 5: The Equality Act on TwitterTopic 6: Reading Supreme Court Dissents AloudTopic 7: Television Cameras in CourtroomsChapter 6. The Structure of State and Local GovernmentTopic 1: Native American Mascots and LogosTopic 2: A Constitution for the InternetTopic 3: Military Recruitment and the MediaTopic 4: Your Privacy on Social MediaTopic 5: Pandemic Policy Information in the MediaTopic 6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in PoliticsTopic 7: Environmental Campaigns Using Social MediaTopic 8: Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the PandemicTopic 9: Online Campaigning for Political OfficeTopic 10: Advertising the Lottery Online and In PrintTopic 11: Local Governments, Social Media and Digital DemocracyTopic 12: Protecting the CommonsChapter 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media LiteracyTopic 1: Press Freedom in the United States and the WorldTopic 2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All SidesTopic 3: Investigative Journalism and Social ChangeTopic 4: News Photographs & Newspaper DesignTopic 5: How Reporters Report EventsTopic 6: Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media PlatformsTopic 7: Fake News Investigation and EvaluationTopic 8: Paywalls and Access to Online NewsTopic 9: Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print MediaTopic 10: Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons

Topic 4: Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American Musical

Hamilton: An American Musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and the founding of the United States using hip hop, R&B, pop, and soul music as well as Broadway-style show tunes. It opened in February 2015 and won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as numerous Tony Awards that same year.

Lin-Manuel Miranda described the musical as about "America then, as told by America now" (The Atlantic, September 29, 2015, para. 2).

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Explore how Hamilton portrays history and then write your own Hamilton-style lyrics in the following activities.

Activity 1: Analyze the Lyrics from Hamilton

  1. Listen to the songs from Hamilton:
  2. Listen to the songs again while reading the lyrics. Feel free to take a look at the way that Genius analyzes the lyrics after forming your own opinions and takeaways.
  3. Then, either:
    • Write a Yelp or Amazon review for each song based on the accuracy, credibility, relevance, and presentation of historical events and issues (see example Amazon Review template by Madeline Hill), OR  
    • Design a podcast, video, or website in which you discuss the following questions:
      • Are these songs factual? To what degree? Do they leave anything out? How do they complement what you’ve learned in social studies classes?
      • How is Manuel-Miranda able to make these historical moments contemporary? How does Manuel-Miranda utilize music and lyrics to convey history? 
      • Does seeing history in a more contemporary light aid your learning? How can this be applied to other disciplines and/or mediums?
      • What parallels can you draw between the points Hamilton and Jefferson bring up in these cabinet battles and contemporary political issues/debates?

Activity 2: Write Your Own Hamilton-Style Lyrics

Hamilton highlights the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debates of the time - a set of tensions between federal and state power that still dominate U.S. politics today as different levels of government seek to solve problems of racial justice and inequality, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, the struggling economy, and attacks on truth and democracy.

  1. Choose an issue that interests you and investigate how federal, state, and local government are dealing with it.
    • You could look at:
      • Pandemic policies such as mask mandates, vaccine requirements, or school reopenings.
      • Environmental and climate change initiatives such as plastic bans at grocery stores.
      • Automobile emissions and other fuel-saving transportation regulations.
      • Food safety and agricultural regulations.
      • Another area where there is disagreement between levels of government.
  2. Write your own Hamilton-style debate lyrics about the topic of your choosing. Focus on the tensions between federal and state power related to your issue.
  3. Bonus Points: Perform and record your rap song on TikTok, Snapchat, or Flipgrid.

Additional resources:

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Compare and contrast key ideas debated between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists over ratification of the Constitution (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Science) [8.T2.4]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.4
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.5
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.4
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.9
  • English/Language Arts Common Core Standards