The Changing ‘American Dream’ Eleventh Grade Honors

Download 158.21 Kb.
Size158.21 Kb.
  1   2   3

The Changing ‘American Dream’

Eleventh Grade Honors

Michele Schuler

Prepared for

TCSS Fall 2010

Dr Sherry

Table of Contents

Introduction Page 3

Rationale Page 4

Guiding Questions/Goals Page 5

Unit Overview Page 6

Lesson 1: Introduction to Unit Page 7

Lesson 2: Review of My Brother Sam is Dead Page 9

Lesson 3: Presentations on My Brother Sam is Dead Page 11

Lesson 4: Introduction to Uncle Tom’s Cabin Page 13

Lesson 5: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Part 2 Page 15

Lesson 6 : Comparison of My Brother Sam and Uncle Tom’s Cabin Page 16

Lesson 7: Introduction to Death of a Salesman Page 18

Lesson 8: Character Analysis: Death of a Salesman Page 19

Lesson 9: Family Dynamics in Death of a Salesman Page 21

Lesson 10: Trials for Death of a Salesman Characters Page 24

Lesson 11: Socratic Circle on Death of a Salesman Page 27

Lesson 12: Timeline of the American Dream through History Page 30

Lesson 13: Timeline Presentations and Discussion Page 33

Lessons 14-15: Scene Presentations on Death of a Salesman Page 33

Rubrics and Checklists  Pages 34-37

Summative Writing Prompt  Page 38

Introduction to the Classroom

This classroom is a coed eleventh grade honors American Literature classroom in a suburban school district. As a class, the students are creative and driven, although they can sometimes get off task. Most of the students aspire to go onto college in two years and are bright, motivated students. There is a range of strengths, with some of the students having a strong inclination towards history as well as English.

Throughout the year, students have focused on viewing social issues throughout literature. They have completed a unit on bullying and pressure, as well as various units that look at historical time periods and the literature produced by the periods’ contemporaries. Since many of the students have a strong interest in history, our next unit will focus on protest literature and how the genre has changed the course of American history. This unit will continue from where the American Dream unit left off in the 1950s and follow through to the Vietnam and Iraqi Wars. The rest of the year will bring the students up to contemporary American literature.

The classroom set-up is the basic lines of desks facing the chalkboard, since the room is also used by another teacher during other periods. The room is large enough to be rearranged without much hassle, so when the lessons require a majority of group work the room will be arranged in groups of desks by the students before class begins.

Many students are exposed to the idea of the American Dream during their high school English and/or history classes. The typical study is focused on the era of the 1920s-1950s, with an emphasis on the idea that hard work and perseverance will change an individual’s place in life. In my unit on the American Dream, the students will explore how the idea of the “American Dream” has changed throughout America’s history, specifically from the Revolutionary War to the 1950s era. I would theoretically teach this unit in the spring of eleventh grade so that the students would (hopefully) have been exposed to the history behind the time periods we will study. By eleventh grade, students are beginning to understand the society in which they live and seeing its strengths as well as its weaknesses; a unit focusing on the changing definition of the American Dream will further this understanding and allow students the chance to explore what their generation and society sees as a ‘dream’.

I will focus on the following works in my unit: My Brother Sam Is Dead by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier; excerpts of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, the latter being the main focus of the unit. Since Death of a Salesman is a standard work in many high school classrooms, the unit will focus its attention on the play and use the other works as a means of comparison of the overall themes across historical time periods. Students will have already read My Brother Sam is Dead as required summer reading; this unit will provide accountability for the summer homework. The novel will be primarily used as a way to introduce the American Dream in the revolutionary time period and compare it to the other time periods.

The works will be read in chronological order, with an emphasis on how the ‘dream of America’ has changed over time and within different circumstances to provide unity to the works. I feel that the unit does a good job incorporating different types of works and is diverse enough to hold the interest of the varied students in the classroom; this diversity in the works will, of course, be paralleled with diversity in the lesson plans to accommodate the different learning styles, abilities, etc. of the students. The different styles of writing and time periods depicted allow for activities and discussions ranging from the effects of war and slavery to the pressures society puts on the individual man. Thematically, we will focus on the importance of freedom in the idea of the American Dream and how the definition of freedom changes and evolves depending on different circumstances. At the culmination of the unit, students will be able to clearly see a progression of thoughts concerning what makes individuals free and how those thoughts created a shift in the idea of a unified ‘dream’ throughout America’s history. Taking the works studied in this unit a step further, students will be able to define today’s definition of freedom and create a modern version of the American Dream.

This unit will introduce the students to different styles of writing and literature – a play, a historical novel, and a work of young adult literature. I feel that it is important for students to have experience with all of these different genres in order to expand their definition of literature and understand it as a whole. Students will also gain practice with comparing and contrasting across works by following the theme of the American Dream throughout the unit.

Some individuals, of course, will be opposed to parts of my unit. Uncle Tom’s Cabin may be seen as a work too long and detailed for the demanding unit, so I will provide students with select chapters to understand the gist of the work. While we will still read the text of Death of a Salesman, I will also have students watch parts of a film adaptation of the play, with a major project centering on an oral report and screening of key scenes of the play. As for the darker content of the play, I would argue that by eleventh grade students have already been exposed to so much violence and dark imagery through television and movies that perhaps Willy Loman’s character would make them stop and think deeper about the inner struggle of dark characters the next time they view a dramatic work.

Big Questions

1. What does it mean to be ‘free’?

2. How have definitions of freedom been changed in different historical situations?

3. What is the American Dream? How is it alike or different from your definition of your ‘American Dream’? How do you see both of these in your life?


  1. Trace the American Dream throughout the course of history.

  2. Explore how different historical circumstances change the idea of the American Dream and freedom.

  3. Compare and contrast themes and characters’ motivations in different works and genres of literature.

  4. Comprehend basic elements of the work, including plot and character development.

  5. Define their own version of the American Dream.

Unit Overview and Goals

Lesson 1

  • “I Have A Dream” motivation (5)

  • Time period webquests

  • Overview of unit

Lesson 2

  • Revolutionary War time period presentations

  • My Brother Sam is Dead review game (4)

Lesson 3

  • Definitions for novel (1)

  • Presentations of definitions

Lesson 4

  • Civil War time period presentations

  • Reading workshop for Uncle Tom’s Cabin (4)

Lesson 5

  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin, continued (4)

  • Definitions for Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1,2)

Lesson 6

  • Presentations for Uncle Tom’s Cabin

  • Jigsaw on definitions/comparison of the two works (2)

Lesson 7

  • 1950s time period presentations

  • Introduction to Death of a Salesman (3)

Lesson 8

  • Character debate (4)

  • Stock characters discussion (4)

Lesson 9

  • Discussion of homework/family dynamics in the play (3, 4)

  • Model of choosing a scene

Lesson 10

  • Character trials (2, 3, 4)

Lesson 11

  • Definitions for Death of a Salesman (1)

  • Socratic circle (2)

Lesson 12

  • ‘American Dream’ song motivation/comparison to ‘I Have a Dream’ motivation ( 5)

  • Creation of American Dream timeline throughout history (1)

Lesson 13

  • Timeline presentations (1)

Lessons 14 & 15

  • Scene presentations (4)

UNIT: The American Dream LESSON 1: Introduction to Unit 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.

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

1.6.11A: Listen to others.

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

1.6.11F: Use media for learning purposes.

MOTIVATIONAL DEVICE: Today we’re going to start our unit on the American Dream. To start it off, we’re going to watch a speech of one very influential American’s dream.


Students will watch Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech in order to compare an American dream in 1963 to their own idea of an American dream now.

Students will complete a webquest about one of the time periods covered by the works in the unit in order to gain historical context of the works.

Students will synthesize answers from their completed webquests in order to create presentations to the class on their assigned time period.

MATERIALS NEEDED: Markers, poster paper, journals

TECHNOLOGY NEEDED: Computer and projector, computer for each student


-“I Have A Dream” speech by Dr Martin Luther King Jr, found at

-“Dreaming Through History: A Study of the American Dream” webquest, found at

LESSON TYPE: Discovery learning


I. Introduction to the American Dream (10 minutes)

A. Watch “I Have A Dream” speech at

B. Discuss main points of speech.

1. What are some of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s dreams?

2. Do you think these dreams are still applicable to us as Americans today?

3. How has America changed since the time this speech was given?

4. Did the changes that America has gone through since the Civil Rights Movement affect the dreams we now have?

C. Pass out the journals. Have students create their own version of “I Have A

Dream”. This could be a speech, drawing, poem, etc. Save the assignment in their

journals for use at the end of the unit.

II. Time Period Webquest (20 minutes)

A. Have students log onto their computers and complete the time period webquests,

found at

B. When they are finished, have students submit their answers to the class web page.

III. Creating Posters (15 minutes)

A. Group students together according to the time periods they researched in the


B. Students will synthesize answers onto a poster for a presentation to the

class at their assigned times (Civil War with Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Twentieth

century with Death of a Salesman).

IV. Overview of Unit (5 minutes)

A. Give students a brief overview of the unit agenda.

1. Review My Brother Sam Is Dead.

2. Read excerpts from Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Death of a Salesman.

3. Track the American Dream throughout America’s history.

B. Introduce assessments.

1. Summative assessment

a. Students will have a choice of either creative writing or essay writing.

b. It will be in a take-home format.

c. Rubric will follow as unit progresses.

2. Introduce presentations.

a. Time period presentations

i. They will be based on webquest completed in class.

ii. Informal – grade based on completion.

b. Death of a Salesman scene presentations

i. After reading play, students choose scene of importance to a character or to the whole of the play and give a 2-3 minute presentation on the scene and its importance.

ii. Students must also write an accompanying half-page explanation on the importance of the scene.

iii. Rubric will be provided at a later date.

DIFFERENTIATED LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Copy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s speech for hearing impairments; allow students to work in partners if they find the computers hard to see and read.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: Observe students as they are completing activities. Make sure the webquests answer questions completely, and all answers are represented on the posters.

HOMEWORK: Review My Brother Sam Is Dead – characters, plot summary, key quotes, etc. It will be basis for the review game tomorrow.

REFLECTION: How well were the students able to complete the webquests? Could students apply the ideas presented in “I Have A Dream” to America today? Could they apply it to their own lives?
UNIT: The American Dream LESSON 2: My Brother Sam Is Dead review game

TIME: 50 minutes


1.6.11A: Listen to others.

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

1.6.11F: Use media for learning purposes.

MOTIVATIONAL DEVICE: Today we’re going to play a review game of your summer required reading novel, My Brother Sam is Dead.


Students will present on the historical background of the Revolutionary War in order to gain an understanding of the historical context of the novel.

Students will correctly answer the questions in a review game in order to review the plot of the novel My Brother Sam is Dead.

Students will define the terms “freedom” and “American Dream” according to the novel in order to understand the viewpoints of the time period.

MATERIALS NEEDED: Poster paper, markers

TECHNOLOGY NEEDED: Computer, projector

LESSON TYPE: Presentation, game


  1. Time period presentation: Revolutionary War (10 minutes)

A. Group work (5 minutes)

1. Presentation group should prepare for presentation of their poster.

2. Other students should divide into groups of 3-4 to discuss My Brother Sam is Dead and what they reviewed for homework last night. Students will be playing a review game with the rest of the period, so they should have incentive to stay on task.

3. Revolutionary War group will present to the class; other students should practice good listening skills (paying attention, respectful, etc) while taking notes for their future reference.

II. My Brother Sam is Dead review game (25 minutes)

A. Bring up the PowerPoint review game.

B. Students will be competing together as one class. Tell students that they will be competing as a class against other sections from their grade level to see which class earned the most money. The class with the largest earnings will win a free reading day at a later point in the year!

C. Pick the value, click on the number, and answer the question. Continue until values run out.

III. Definitions of freedom and American Dream for My Brother Sam (15 minutes)

A. Have students get into time period groups.

  1. Ask students to brainstorm ways that My Brother Sam defines freedom and the American dream.

    1. Questions to think about: Is there a sense of group solidarity with these terms, or are they more focused on the individual? Do any of the characters have conflicting definitions? If so, how else is the conflict depicted in the novel? What do these definitions say about the attitudes of the time period? Do they say anything about the daily life of the time?

  2. If the group finishes discussing, students may synthesize answers on a poster to hang in the classroom for the duration of the unit. If the discussions run long, students should finish the definitions for homework and will have an opportunity to create the posters in class before they present.

  1. Closure (2 minutes)

A. Assign homework.

B. Ask for questions regarding the homework.

DIFFERENTIATED LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Students who have trouble listening and taking notes at the same time may discuss the notes with a peer after the presentation. Students who have a visual disability may move closer to the overhead or have a copy of the questions for the game.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: Observe class during the activities; class participation. Make sure students are referencing specific points in the novel and backing up their answers with clear support from the text.

HOMEWORK: Finish defining “freedom” and “American Dream” according to the novel in your journals.

REFLECTION: Did the students learn from their classmates’ presentation? Were they able to successfully complete the review game? Did they understand the concepts of the definitions?

UNIT: The American Dream LESSON 3: Wrap-Up My Brother Sam TIME: 50 minutes


1.1.11G: Demonstrate after reading understanding and interpretation of both fiction and nonfiction text, including public documents.

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.

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

1.6.11F: Use media for learning purposes.

MOTIVATIONAL DEVICE: Today we’re going to be finishing up our discussion of the ideas of freedom and the American Dream in My Brother Sam is Dead.


Students will view an educational parody video in order to compare and contrast the mediums of text and music/film.

Students will synthesize on a poster the concepts of freedom and American Dream according to the novel in order to demonstrate knowledge of the important themes of the novel.

Students will use textual evidence to enhance their poster’s claims about the themes of the novel in order to practice finding supporting evidence.

MATERIALS NEEDED: Markers, poster paper, first excerpt of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (chapter 9)

TECHNOLOGY NEEDED: Computer and projector

RESOURCES: “Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration” video, found at

LESSON TYPE: Group work, presentation


I. “Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration” Video (5 minutes)

A. Ask students to compare the emotions in the video to the ones they found in the novel. Which were the same? Which were different? Do you think either medium was better suited for a particular emotion? Which one? Did one of the mediums do a better job portraying the colonists’ ideas of freedom than the other? Why?

B. Write answers in journals; students will document responses to opening videos throughout the unit so they can see a tangible progression of their ideas about the American Dream and freedom throughout the unit..

II. Definitions for My Brother Sam (15 minutes)

        1. Students work in time period groups to synthesize their answers to last night’s homework onto posters.

        2. Poster must include:

1. Definitions for freedom and American Dream in novel.

2. Example of an instance where a character gains (or loses) freedom

according to the novel’s definition.

3. Quote from the novel as evidence of the definitions.

III. Presentations on the definitions (25 minutes)

A. Students will present posters to classmates.

B. While their classmates are presenting, students will fill out the worksheet and turn it in at the end of class to receive a participation grade.

C. Presentations should spark discussions on characters and themes of the novel, so allow students time to discuss discrepancies between the groups.

IV. Wrap-up (5 minutes)

A. Pass out first excerpt for Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

B. Tell students they will begin the Civil War and Uncle Tom’s Cabin tomorrow.

1. Give group presenting on the Civil War time to prepare for tomorrow’s

presentation (they should be able to come in to class and be ready to go). Let

other students begin to read the excerpts for homework.

DIFFERENTIATED LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Provide scaffold notes for students who have issues listening and taking notes at the same time.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: Student posters and presentation worksheets. Make sure students are explaining the quotes on the posters with clear examples why they chose the quotes they did. In the discussion, students should be able to back up their interpretations with evidence and be able to hold their ground when challenged.

HOMEWORK: Read the first excerpt of Uncle Tom’s Cabin until page 11. While you’re reading, make sure to note where you see a character’s perception of freedom and dreams for use in class tomorrow.

REFLECTION: Were the students able to understand the differences between the ways the text and the music video presented Revolutionary America’s idea of freedom? Did the student presentations spark as much discussion as desired? Did the students understand the main themes of the novel?

UNIT: The American Dream LESSON 4: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Part 1 TIME: 50 minutes

Download 158.21 Kb.

Share with your friends:
  1   2   3

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page