Thinking About History & Hamilton

So, I’m getting ready to go to this reunion a week from Saturday. (Well, I’m thinking and talking a lot about it.) Today a colleague showed me this video. featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda doing a rap. It’s cool. But what’s cooler is that the rap is done, says Miranda, “about someone who embodies Hip Hop”. And by this he means Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. I’m thinking about showing this at the reunion. I want to show it because it’s cool. It’s a fresh and very different take on a historic figure. But mostly I want to show it because I know it engages students. I’m guessing an introduction to Hamilton’s life through this guy might interest middle school students slightly more than being asked to read another chapter of this.

american history bookMaybe I’ll use this video depicting how late it is to apologize. It’s about the Declaration of Independence. History needs to be fun to capture young learners.

If we’re going to use primary source documents, and I agree we need to, we must also be teaching kids the mad reading skills specific to the content area. The reason for reading matters. The context of a document matters. In fact, we cannot truly understand or “read” a political or historic document without an understanding of the context in which it was written. We can read for language and through the lens of our time, certainly. We do this all the time. But with history, we must consider both the source and the context.

I’m considering sharing a primary source document at the reunion which was first brought to my awareness by the amazingly on target folks at Stanford History Education Group (SHEG).  It’s a proclamation given by Benjamin Harrison when he was running for reelection to his presidency. I am not a historian. I am an elementary school teacher. And, to quote Kelly Gallagher, I am not a literature teacher, I am a literacy teacher. I’m hoping to bring home the importance of content area literacy – of reading historical or political documents like historians read them by giving participants opportunity to experience reading in this way.


SOL with website



Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for a place to share my writing adventure, Slice of Life 2015


About Be Strong. Be Courageous. Be You

Principal at the School at the north end of Los Angeles Harbor where AWESOME happens. Working to make the world a little more wonder-full.
This entry was posted in History & Social Studies, SOL2015, Songs that speak, Step up, lean in, lead., Teaching, video text and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Thinking About History & Hamilton

  1. Mindi Rench says:

    I am so tired of that whole “stay on the four corners of the page” malarkey that certain people keep spouting. Anyone with any formal education in the area of literacy knows about Louise Rosenblatt and her transactional reading theory, which has been proven time and again in educational research. Why would anyone put “Letter From the Birmingham Jail” or “The Gettysburg Address” in front of a young person without making sure s/he understood the historical context of the piece? ARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!

    Ok… rant (completely not directed at you) over. Your point here is spot on. Many content area teachers feel they are not reading teachers. I’ve worked hard to help them to see that in fact they are the ones who best know how to read as scientists… as historians…. as mathematicians, etc, so they are the best ones to TEACH students how to do this. It’s happening in my building, and it’s exciting to see the different types of things teachers are using to do this.

    Good luck at your reunion!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • daywells says:

      Mindi, I would love to know more about the content specific reading skills your people are finding significant when reading in their disciplines. The history and science colleagues I am having opportunity to work with have taught me some great stuff! They also feel like they do not want an English teacher teaching their content. It is incredibly helpful and considerate of students when we work together around literacy. Common core got that right!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s