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06 Apr [Not] Waiting for It: Hamilton, Spoken Word, and the Interdisciplinary Unit

By Anna Murphy, Rubicon International

We recently explored reasons to incorporate spoken word into English Language Arts curriculum and offered some resources to help start this process. Now, we want to present what a fun, interactive spoken word unit could look like and how spoken word is a great opportunity for cross-curricular collaboration.

So, let’s get interdisciplinary! Interdisciplinary instruction occurs when units draw upon subject matter from multiple curricular areas. This sort of teaching helps engage students with various interests and learning styles. It differentiates instruction for the students’ benefit and simultaneously shows that individual school subjects do not exist in a vacuum, but instead interact in a multi-dimensional manner.

Spoken word units provide ample opportunities for this amalgamation of curriculum areas. The presentation aspect of spoken word draws upon Arts, while the literary components of spoken word incorporate English Language Arts. And, the topic of any spoken word piece can draw upon other curricular areas as well.

We wanted to provide you, blog readers, an example of what this can look like. So, we developed a unit on the musical sensation and global phenomenon shifting the way we understand and picture early US history. That’s right! We are talking about Hamilton: An American Musical. We didn’t want to throw away our shots on this one, so check out our sample Hamilton unit mapped in Atlas.

What did we consider when developing this unit?

To build our unit, we considered both the individuality of the three subjects at play (ELA, Social Studies, and Theatre) as well as the relationship and interaction between them in Hamilton.

  1. We aligned to standards from each subject in order to be comprehensive. Specifically, we used Common Core English, C3, and Core Arts.
  2. We organized our Enduring Understandings, Essential Questions, Content and Skills by subject area as well. At the same time, we also considered the unique interrelationships at play and incorporated those into the categories as well.
  3. In developing our assessments and learning activities, we embraced both the inherent writing, research, and analysis nature of the English classroom as well as the performance aspect of Theatre and the content of early American history.

Building an interdisciplinary unit allows students and teachers alike to break from the traditional matrix of curricular areas and instead explore the nuanced nature of topics. And, incorporating spoken word into curriculum offers prime opportunity to do so. Of course, this is just one of many ways spoken word can be adapted into an interdisciplinary unit to engage students in the art of spoken word as well as the core of its message.

However you choose to incorporate spoken word, remember that it is a powerful tool to allow students to experience poetry, and more generally language and literature, in an auditory and visual way. It makes us feel, deconstruct knowledge, explore different cultures and times, experience others’ lives, and much more.

Why do you develop interdisciplinary units? Tweet us @RubiconAtlas or find us on Facebook!

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