It’s a Rap! (or Hamilton Author as Mentor)

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You’ve probably all seen the video of the Broadway sensation Hamilton’s  creator rapping with Obama in the rose garden. If you haven’t, you are in for a treat!

“Constitution, the POTUS, I’m freestylin’. You know this,” the playwright sings.
I kept asking myself, “How does he DO THIS?” His freestyle rapping is “Off the Dome” (just off the top of his head), but it seems so effortless and natural.  But I believe creative spontaneity stems from experience and opportunities to practice a craft.  Miranda loves freestyling.  If you google him, you’ll find him with Jimmy Fallon, Emma Watson, and warming up with Hamilton cast members.
     His freestyling is verbal and rapid but he has developed an anticipatory set to aid in his creativity.  I started to wonder how could we tap into this innovative composing to motivate some of our writers in our classrooms.  Think about those students who are given “on demand” prompts who seem to freeze up. They are lacking an anticipatory set about how writers get started and ideas flow.
     Maybe a whole story or complete topic is too much.  What if we provided opportunities to practice composing shorter ideas “off the dome”.  There are many ways we could do this, but what if we chose half a dozen related words (content area terms, rich vocabulary, etc), put them on cards, and flipped through them.  We could give them a few minutes for each and see what evolves. Lay down a beat! Don’t expect greatness or the skill of Lin-Manuel Miranda, but are there signs of spontaneity, creativity, engagement?  Think about the higher order thinking that comes with a task like this!
     I think it’s important that we find what is relevant and real to our students and use that as a vehicle for teaching and learning. Not every student will get into this, but that is true of just about every approach we take.  Mixing it up, tuning into their interests, being flexible with our approaches will help make our teaching more applicable to our students’ every day lives.  There are mentors all around us who can help us teach our students.  Finding those who are creative and successful might help our students become more creative and successful!
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Peace out!
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9 thoughts on “It’s a Rap! (or Hamilton Author as Mentor)

  1. “Mixing it up, tuning into their interests, being flexible with our approaches will help make our teaching more applicable to our students’ every day lives.”
    Love this! I was reminded of the importance of relevancy today. I was at a workshop having a discussion about writing with a first year teacher about reaching the students in her class. She wanted them to write about a leprechaun and many didn’t even know what that was, then she wondered why they weren’t successful. Oh my.

  2. I so want to see Hamilton! And I think you’re onto something here. This is why I love getting kids to recite poetry.

  3. I am reading Assessing Writers by Carl Anderson, and he talks about teaching students to become initiators of writing. I think your idea could help some kids initiate some writing. Plus, it sounds fun!

  4. I saw a bit of Hamilton and was so impressed with the creativity of the show and especially of the lyrics. What a great vehicle for students to be inspired by. Great slice.

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