ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.
Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.
Teacher Resources by Grade
|1st - 2nd||3rd - 4th|
|5th - 6th||7th - 8th|
|9th - 10th||11th - 12th|
Chasing the Dream: Researching the Meaning of the American Dream
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Five 50-minute sessions|
MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY
- “Paradox and Dream” in America and Americans by John Steinbeck
- “The New American Dreamers” (particularly pp. 15-25) in On Her Own – Growing Up in the Shadow of the American Dream by Ruth Sidel
- "Keeping the Dream Alive – The American Dream: A Biography” by Jon Meacham
- Note: Because of the concern with the American economy today, oftentimes articles discussing the American Dream appear in newspapers and magazines. Teachers should be alert for these articles, particularly those that are especially timely in terms of when the class is undertaking this project. Sample articles include:
- “The American Dream: Is it slipping away?” (September 27, 2010): This article examines the results of an ABC News Poll on the validity of the idea of the American Dream today.
- “Waking Up From American Dreams” (February 12, 2010): This short article explores contemporary cultural connections to the American Dream and the effect of class on the Dream.
- “In a Sour Economy, What Happens to the American Dream?” (May 7, 2009): This article explores how the definition of the America Dream changes in the time of a recession.
- A sample student paper and a sample student interview (audio) are included for teacher reference.
Grades K – 12 | Student Interactive | Organizing & Summarizing
This interactive tool allows students to create Venn diagrams that contain two or three overlapping circles, enabling them to organize their information logically.
- “The American Dream Project” assignment sheet for students
- Discussion starters - sample questions for “The New American Dreamers”
- Sample Interview Questions
- Sample Student Paper
- The Center for Steinbeck Studies
This website, The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, is a university archive focusing on Steinbeck’s life and work and offering a variety of materials for teacher interesting in teaching Steinbeck’s work.
- The American Dream: A Biography
This article discusses how the idea of the American Dream has changed society and traces the history of the American Dream.
- Familiarize yourself with the concept of the American Dream and its history. An excellent resource is “Keeping the Dream Alive” by Jon Meacham (Time, July 2, 2012 Vol. 180 No.1).
- Prepare student copies or plan access to the two readings listed above by Steinbeck and Sidel and prepare discussion starters. (Sample starters for the Sidel reading are included.)
- Make class copies of the assignment sheet The American Dream Project.
- Determine the appropriate number of groups to divide the class into. (Note: there should be a minimum of 4 students per group, but 5-7 is optimal. If class size is too small to allow for six groups, one for each decade 1950 – present, it is best to omit the most recent decade where interviewees often offer less material.)