The Changing ‘American Dream’ Eleventh Grade Honors

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DIFFERENTIATED LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Allow students with visual issues to move forward to watch the movie. Provide a transcript of the movie for students with hearing impairments.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: Observe students as they complete the trials. They should be correctly using evidence from the play to back up their assertions and questions. They should begin to question the characters’ motives behind actions instead of just accepting the actions.

HOMEWORK: For any character not included in the trials, write down at least three examples of evidence for both the prosecution and defense (six in all). Continue to work on scene presentations and final assessments.

REFLECTION: How did the students respond to the open-ended prompts in the trial activity? Were they able to fill in the blanks and come up with insightful questions that probed the other team’s understanding of the play? Were both sides able to use evidence to back up their own viewpoint? Did students gain understanding from questioning the character’s movements?
UNIT: The American Dream LESSON 11: Socratic Circle on Death of a Salesman TIME: 50 minutes


1.1.11D: Identify, describe, evaluate and synthesize the essential ideas in text. Assess those reading strategies that were most effective in learning from a variety of texts.

1.3.11B: Analyze the relationships, uses and effectiveness of literary elements used by one or more authors in similar genres including characterization, setting, plot, theme, point of view, tone and style.

1.6.11A: Listen to others.

1.6.11D: Contribute to discussions.

1.6.11E: Participate in small and large group discussions and presentations.

1.6.11F: Use media for learning purposes.

MOTIVATIONAL DEVICE: In order to compare the works we’ve been studying we’re going to follow in the footsteps of one of history’s most famous thinkers.


Students will watch an interview with President Barack Obama in order to practice finding changes in the American Dream throughout history.

Students will define Death of a Salesman’s ideas of the American Dream and freedom in order to compare them to the other works of the unit.

Students will participate in a Socratic circle in order to compare the works studied throughout the unit in terms of themes, characters, symbols, etc. and begin to see the change in the American Dream throughout history.

MATERIALS NEEDED: Markers, poster paper, journals, blanket

TECHNOLOGY NEEDED: Computer and projector

RESOURCES: “President Obama: American Dream Still Attainable” video, found at

LESSON TYPE: Socratic circle


I. “American Dream Still Attainable” Video (5 minutes)

A. Have student watch the video. As a part of the younger generation, do you agree with the questioner that the American Dream is not an attainable idea anymore? Why do you think President Obama believes that people around the world aspire to be like Americans? Do you agree with his sentiments? This interview is from some years ago. Do you think the changes that have occurred since then helped or hindered the American Dream?

B. Respond in your journals.

II. Definitions for Death of a Salesman (10 minutes)

  1. Have students get into two groups. They will be defining the play’s ideas of the American Dream and freedom for use in a Socratic circle. Pass out poster paper and markers.

  2. Students must include a definition for both terms on the poster. They should have textual evidence to back up their definitions, but they do not need to be included on the poster. The group will be divided up between the Socratic circle groups, so each member should have a good understanding of the group’s thought process.

  3. The Socratic circle will compare the definitions for all of the works in the unit, so the group should review the other works with any extra time.

III. Socratic Circle (30 minutes)

A. Divide each group in two and pair opposite groups together (half of group A with half of group B). Form a circle with half of the desks in the center of the room and place the blanket in the center of the circle.

B. Have the first group sit on the blanket and the second group sit in the chairs. Explain that the Socratic circle was developed by Socrates as a way to explore new ideas and concepts through discussion. The outside of the circle will be primarily observation, while the inner circle will be the participants. The groups will switch halfway through.

C. Students should practice good listening skills (polite responses, paying attention to the speaker, no belittling comments, etc) while inside the circle. Each student should talk at least once while inside the circle. Socratic circles are student-lead, so students should not look to the teacher for validation of their answers. Allow students to work through silences, stepping in only if the silence continues for more than about two minutes.

D. To begin the first discussion, ask if any students had a particularly illuminating idea about the definitions for Death of a Salesman. If nobody volunteers, have students share their group’s definitions as a starting point and discuss any discrepancies between the groups, etc.

E. For the second discussion, ask students to focus on comparisons with the other works in the unit. Tell them to think about similarities and differences in the characters, themes, symbols, etc. for ideas.

F. As a member of the outside circle, students should write down at least two questions they would pose during the discussion to illuminate another aspect of the work. Have them include a brief description of the discussion leading up to the question and a possible way they might answer their own question. Collect as the students are leaving for participation points for the day.

IV. Conclusion (5 minutes)

A. Ask students for feedback on their experience within the Socratic circle. Are there any suggestions for how it could have been smoother or more engaging? What were their favorite and least favorite parts?

B. Tell students to think about the timeline of the American Dream throughout the works studied in this unit. Tomorrow they will make a timeline as a class, so for homework they should complete a rough draft.

DIFFERENTIATED LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Allow students with physical disabilities to sit in chairs as part of the inner circle. For students who have trouble listening and taking notes, require only one question from the outer circle.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: Observe students as part of the Socratic circle. They should be posing meaningful questions and answers that further the discussion and illuminate some part of the works. They should provide textual evidence as support for their assertions.

HOMEWORK: Rough drafts of the timeline for the American Dream through the works.

REFLECTION: Were the students able to participate in the Socratic circle? Did they look to the teacher for answers and validation? Were their questions and comments meaningful for the discussion?
UNIT: The American Dream LESSON 12: Timeline of American Dream through History TIME: 50 minutes


1.1.11D: Identify, describe, evaluate and synthesize the essential ideas in text. Assess those reading strategies that were most effective in learning from a variety of texts.

1.3.11B: Analyze the relationships, uses and effectiveness of literary elements used by one or more authors in similar genres including characterization, setting, plot, theme, point of view, tone and style.

1.6.11B: Listen to selections of literature (fiction and/or nonfiction).

1.6.11D: Contribute to discussions.

1.6.11F: Use media for learning purposes.

MOTIVATIONAL DEVICE: Today we’re going to make a giant visual representation of everything we’ve been doing in the unit so far.


Students will listen to the song “American Dream”, write a reflection of their current American Dream, and compare it to their first “I Have a Dream” replica in their journals in order to trace the changes in their understanding of the American Dream throughout the unit.

As a class, students will create a timeline of the American Dream in the works studied throughout the unit in order to tangibly see a progression of the American Dream throughout history.

Students will create a frozen tableau of the American Dream in a work in order to practice creating symbols for a theme in a work.

MATERIALS NEEDED: Markers, large poster paper, journals

TECHNOLOGY NEEDED: Computer and projector

RESOURCES: “American Dream [Barack Obama Official Song]”, found at

LESSON TYPE: Group work


I. “American Dream” Song (20 minutes)

A. Watch the video. Even though the artist is focusing on a specific race, do you feel that it resonates with people of all races? Why or why not? Do you think the lyrics do a good job of portraying Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech that we watched the first day of the unit? What are some of the dreams mentioned in the song by the artist, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and President Barack Obama? Do you think they are interconnected? If so, how?

B. Answer the questions posed in the journals. Write a brief description of your American Dream now. This could be in the form of a speech like Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s, a song like the one you just watched, or any other medium you like.

C. Look at your version of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” that you wrote for the first lesson in the unit. Compare it to the one you just wrote. How do they match up? How are they different? What do you think accounted for any differences you see from the beginning of the unit to the end? Synthesize your answers to these questions in your journal.

D. Ask for any volunteers to share how their dream has changed throughout the unit. Were any of the works more influential in changing your ideas? Were you surprised by any of the ideas and emotions expressed by any of the works? Were any of the characters in particular your favorite? Why?

II. Timeline Creation (25 minutes)

A. Have the class get into their time period groups. Tell them they will be working on the text that went with their time period – Revolutionary War with My Brother Sam, Civil War with Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Twentieth century with Death of a Salesman.

B. Students should discuss all of the following:

  1. The version of the American Dream present in their work, including how the work’s idea of freedom plays into that dream.

  2. What events in history led up to the viewpoints in their work.

  3. Which character best embodies the work’s American Dream.

C. After students have discussed, one member should write the historical events on the large poster board timeline. The group should be ready to present on their historical events and character tomorrow.

D. In addition, the groups should have a human tableau that symbolizes the American Dream of their work.

  1. For example, the group with the Revolutionary War might depict someone throwing a box marked ‘tea’ over the side of an imaginary ship to represent how the colonists’ dream was a country of their own. It may also be more symbolic, if the students can make a strong case for the symbols they incorporate.

  2. These do not need to be extremely detailed or sophisticated; students are encouraged to use labels or other easily-made props to get their point across.

III. Wrap-Up (5 minutes)

A. Ask students for any questions regarding the scene presentations, timeline presentations, or final writing assignment. Remind them that they should be working on the long-term assignments as well as the night’s homework.

B. Review the sign-up list for the scene presentations; make sure everyone knows when they will be presenting.

DIFFERENTIATED LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Lyrics of the song for students who have hearing impairments; extra time on the activities if students need to work at a slower pace.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: Observe students as they are completing activities. Look for insightful answers to the questions posed for the journal responses and creative answers for the timeline project.

HOMEWORK: Finish anything that’s left for your timeline for tomorrow. Make sure you’re working on the scene presentations that are due in two days and the final writing assignment that’s due in four days!

REFLECTION: Did the students draw connections between the first journal entry and today’s journal entry? Were their reflections on their American Dream insightful and accurate? Were the students able to come up with a symbolic tableau for their works?
UNIT: The American Dream LESSON 13: Timeline Presentation TIME: 50 minutes
Summary: Students present to the class their part of the timeline and their tableau from yesterday. The class will discuss the timeline, then place it in the classroom to save for the remainder of the semester.
Homework: Prepare for scene presentations the next two days.

UNIT: The American Dream LESSONS 14-15: Scene Presentations for Death of a Salesman TIME: 50 minutes
Summary: Students present their scenes for Death of a Salesman. Class will have time to discuss the scenes after the presentations.
Homework: Finish final writing assignment due the next day.
Journal Assessment Name _____________________________
Each entry will be graded separately and worth five points; altogether, there will be a total of 50 points for the journaling assignment. Criteria for each entry are as follows:
__/2: Journal entry fully answers the question(s) that were posed in class.

__/2: Journal entry shows a connection to some aspect of the student’s life.

__/1: Journal entry is thoughtful and brings up a unique point about the subject.



Time Period Presentations Name _____________________________
Each student will receive an individual grade out of five for their successful completion of the webquests; as a group, they will receive a grade for the presentation of their time period during the unit. See the webquest for details on the grade for completion of the webquest.
___/2: Presentation discussed all questions found on the introductory webquests and satisfies all of the requirements on the webquest’s evaluation page (content of the presentation).

___/2: All members have an equal role in the presentation.

___/1: Presenters are loud enough and have eye contact with the audience.
Presentation Total: ___/5

Completion of Webquest Total: ___/5

Project Total: ___/10

Death of a Salesman Scene Presentations Name _____________________________

Content of Presentation: ____ / 10
Student demonstrates how scene is influential in the play or important to a character’s development.
Student gives an analysis of any symbols or themes found in the scene.
Student clearly connects scene to the rest of the play.

Presentation: ____ / 5
Eye contact is frequent and confident.
Speech rate is not too fast or too slow.
Speech pitch is varied (not monotone).
Student is confident with material presented.
Student is poised (not leaning, slouching, fidgeting, etc).

Paper Analysis: ____ / 10
Mechanics are strong and any mistakes do not detract from the content of the paper.
Student demonstrates full understanding of the scene and play as a whole.
Student uses enough textual evidence to fully support the importance of the scene.
Final Paper Rubric Name _____________________________

This rubric should be used in connection with the checklist on the reverse side.


4 – Excellent!

3 – Good!

2 - Fair

1 - Poor


There is a clear and logical progression of ideas. All evidence builds on top of each other and clearly supports the thesis.

There is a logical progression of ideas that is sometimes clear. The evidence is related and supports the thesis with some exceptions.

There may be a progression of ideas, but it is somewhat illogical and murky. The evidence is slightly related to the thesis, but does not relate to itself.

There is no sense of an organization or logical progression of ideas. Evidence does not relate to the thesis.


Thesis is worth arguing and debatable. There are enough quality quotes to support the thesis, but not too many to lose the student’s voice. Student demonstrates a thorough understanding of the American Dream.

Thesis is debatable but may not provide much insight into the work. There may be quality quotes, but there are either too few to support the thesis or too many to allow the student their own voice. Student demonstrates a good understanding of the American Dream.

Thesis is not debatable. Some quotes are included, but they are unrelated to the thesis or do not support the student’s argument. Student demonstrates a basic understanding of the American Dream.

There is no thesis. Quotes may be absent or incorrectly used. Student demonstrates an incorrect or incomplete understanding of the American Dream.


Mechanics are appropriate to the content area of the paper, and any mistakes do not compromise the paper’s coherency.

Mechanics may not be immediately connected to the content of the paper. Mistakes may make the paper harder to read, but not impossible.

Mechanics are incorrect for the content area, but the paper is still mostly coherent.

Mechanics are glaringly incorrect. Mistakes make the paper unreadable.

Final Paper Checklist Name _____________________________

This checklist should be used in connection with the rubric on the reverse side. While you’re completing your project, make sure you refer frequently to the prompt on the final writing project that was handed out earlier in the unit. This will help you double-check that you have included everything in your papers!

Creative Writing Option (Total Points Possible: 10)
___ Student clearly maintains the themes of the work.
___ Imitation of genre is clear and correct; student maintains basic aspects of the genre.
___ Summary explains all relevant choices (point of view, choice of genre, etc.) made throughout the creative writing piece and uses textual evidence to support those choices.
___ Summary compares other works and cites specific textual reasons why student did not choose other genres.
___ Summary contains a discussion of the work’s idea of the American Dream and clearly states how the creative writing piece maintains the same view as the work.
___ Length of both parts (creative writing piece and summary) meet minimum requirements.
Total: _____ / 10

Analytical Essay Option (Total Points Possible: 10)
___ Student compares at least two time periods (either following the American Dream throughout history or at a specific turning point).
___ Student has a clear concept of the American Dream in the historical contexts discussed.
___ Paper relates textual evidence to historical events and contexts surrounding the works in order to support the claims made with the textual evidence.
___ Length of the paper meets the minimum requirement.
Total: _____ / 10

Final Writing Assignment Prompt

For your final writing assignment, you will have a choice: you may either write a creative writing piece or an analytical essay dealing with themes we have been discussing in class. Both options will be in a take-home format, so you won’t get any class time to work on them. Please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions you may have about either assignment! 


Choose your favorite work that we have studied and rewrite it in the form of one of the other literary genres we have studied in this unit. You may change the point of view or focus character if you wish, as long as it does not take away from the themes in the work that we have discussed in class. The length should be at least three pages (but you may go above and beyond if you feel inspired!). In addition, you must write a 1-2 page summary detailing why you chose the form you did and, if you made any changes in narrative voice why you made those changes. These decisions must be backed up by specific textual references (at least two). You must also give an explanation as to why you did not choose to rewrite your favorite piece in the other styles, again citing the texts themselves as reference. You must mention the work’s idea of the American Dream in your summary paper and show how your creative writing piece keeps the same theme as the original work.


The essay option is a little more straightforward: follow the American Dream through history, much like we have been studying in class. You may either choose to present a wide overview of the American Dream or focus on one specific point in history where the dream changed (for example, the differences between African American slaves’ dreams of freedom in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the overall American Dream of the 1950s). You must demonstrate knowledge of at least two of the works we studied through specific textual references (at least two quotes from each work). The length of the paper should be at least four pages, and if you feel inspired, don’t be afraid to keep going!


Papers will be graded according to grammar and mechanics as well as an understanding of the American Dream themes and the works themselves. For the creative writing piece, you may use grammar more appropriate to the characters and situations, but you must successfully back up your decisions based on the texts (African American slave dialect in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for example). A detailed rubric will be provided as the due date gets closer.

DUE DATE: Last day of the unit. Late papers will automatically have five points deducted for each day they are late, up to half credit.
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