CoverMedia Literacy Activities for Learning Civics ConceptsDefining Critical Media LiteracyTopic 1. Foundations of the United States Political System1.1 Democracy in Social Media Policies and Community Standards1.2 The Internet as a Public Utility1.3  21st Century Women STEM Innovators1.4 Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal Families1.5 Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School MascotsTopic 2. The Development of United States Government2.1 Declarations of Independence on Social Media2.2 Media Marketing and Government Regulation of Self-Driving Cars and Electric Vehicles2.3 Representations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the Media2.4 Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American Musical2.5 Bill of Rights on TwitterTopic 3. Institutions of United States Government3.1: Hollywood Movies About the Branches of Government3.2: Writing an Impeachment Press Release3.3: Members of Congress' Use of Social Media3.4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion Polls3.5: Website Design for New Political PartiesTopic 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens4.1: Immigration in the News4.2: Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and Film4.3: COVID-19 Information Evaluation4.4: Women Political Leaders in the Media4.5: Online Messaging by Special Interest Groups4.6: Digital Games for Civic Engagement4.7: Social Media and the Elections4.8: Images of Political Leaders and Political Power4.9: Media Spin in the Coverage of Political Debates4.10: Celebrities' Influence on Politics4.11: Political Activism Through Social Media4.12: Media Recruitment of Public Sector Workers4.13: Images of Teachers and Teaching4.14: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be Named4.15: Representing Trans Identities4.16: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 20214.17: Music as Protest Art4.18: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the MediaTopic 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court Decisions5.1: Prohibition in the Media5.2: The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social Media5.3: Civil War Era News Stories and Recruitment Advertisements5.4: Representations of Gender and Race on Currency5.5: The Equality Act on Twitter5.6: Reading Supreme Court Dissents Aloud5.7: Television Cameras in CourtroomsTopic 6. The Structure of State and Local Government6.1: Native American Mascots and Logos6.2: A Constitution for the Internet6.3: Military Recruitment and the Media6.4: Your Privacy on Social Media6.5: Pandemic Policy Information in the Media6.6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in Politics6.7: Gendered Toy Marketing6.8: Environmental Campaigns Using Social Media6.9: Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the Pandemic6.10: Online Campaigning for Political Office6.11: Advertising the Lottery Online and In Print6.12: Local Governments, Social Media and Digital Democracy6.13: Protecting the CommonsTopic 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy7.1: Press Freedom in the United States and the World7.2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All Sides7.3: Investigative Journalism and Social Change7.4: News Photographs & Newspaper Design7.5: How Reporters Report Events7.6: Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media Platforms7.7: YouTube Content Creators7.8: Fake News Investigation and Evaluation7.9: Paywalls and Access to Online News7.10: Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print Media7.11: Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons7.12: Women Reporters in the Movies

2.4 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).

Image preview of a YouTube video
Watch on YouTube https://edtechbooks.org/-Hvzr

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?

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Hamilton Podcast Planning Sheet by Lydia Jankowski, Suhyun Shin, Emily Inman

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.

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

The Great Mask Debate by Lydia Jankowski, Suhyun Shin, Emily Inman

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