Musicals Teach us History…or Do They?


    NEW Course! “If a musical is done right, you’ll leave it singing along. Let’s watch some of the most delightful ones and see what they have to teach us about the makers and ourselves.” ~Prof. Valerie



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    Actors on stage throwing confetti for Musicals Teach Us History...or Do They? course
    InstructorProf. Valerie Frankel
    Content LevelsGrades 9-10 • Lower High School
    Grades 11-12 • Upper High School
    Course Length16 weeks
    Live Webinars Held OnTuesdays, 10:00 - 10:50 AM Pacific - 1/17/23 - 5/20/23

    Musicals have always been a fun way to tell stories, including period pieces that teach about cultures and moments of history. The question is, which musicals offer historical accuracy and teach useful lessons about the era and alert people to social injustice of the past or present? How much are the values of the era coming through? Which musicals leave out the voices we should be hearing from?

    In this class, we’ll watch the musicals on our own and learn some historical context in class while also discussing what lessons the musicals teach and how accurate they are.

    For a list of musicals students will watch, please see the Materials & More tab. Parents should ensure they are comfortable with their students viewing those musicals.

    What to expect in the Required section in the classroom each week:

    • Assignments to learn history and analyze culture
    • Weekly musical viewing

    What to expect in the Highly Suggested & Optional sections in the classroom each week:

    • Curated resources, including websites & videos, are provided to excite learners and to add depth to the subject matter.
    • Additional lessons and resources to help students get more out of the lessons and research culture and history

    What to expect during the weekly webinar:

    • Weekly webinars are 50 minutes long. Webinars are recorded and are available for students with schedule conflicts.
    • In-class analysis of musicals as well as lessons on analysis and literary devices and how to find them in all forms of literature.
    • Active Participation (via the microphone and chat) is encouraged in online class discussions and also during lectures.

    Before taking this course, students should be able to: 

    • Read at a solid 5th-grade level or above.
    • Type fluently.
    • Write a paragraph independently.

    Students should be willing to:

    • Have an interest in musicals.
    • Actively participate (via the microphone) in the class discussion.
    • Encourage class discussion by adding their questions/ideas in the chat window during the webinar.
    • Respond with positive and encouraging comments on their classmates’ posts in the classroom forums.

    Required books & materials:

    • Options for finding the musicals listed below include high school or community center versions free on YouTube or the big budget movie versions available on Amazon/YouTube Video and library DVDs. Some of these are on Disney+ and other subscription channels. For all, watching student YouTube versions, listening to the soundtrack, or watching an alternate film is acceptable.

    Musical list:

    • Hamilton
    • The Greatest Showman
    • Newsies
    • West Side Story
    • 1776
    • Cyrano
    • Fiddler on the Roof 
    • Chicago 
    • Evita 
    • Les Misérables 
    • Grease!
    • Bye Bye Birdie 
    • Hairspray 
    • In the Heights 
    • Allegiance