The Pursuit of Happyness Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson plan is a tool for helping students learn about Chris Gardner while reading his autobiography ''The Pursuit of Happyness.'' In this story, Gardner tells about his struggles as a homeless, single parent.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson on The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner, students will be able to:

  • Cite textual evidence when answering questions about the text.
  • Summarize parts of the story.
  • Evaluate character development.


90 minutes

Common Core Curriculum Standards


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.


Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.


  • autobiographical
  • brokerage
  • Dean Witter Reynolds training program
  • foster home
  • grit
  • homeless
  • hurdles
  • lucrative
  • meager
  • namesake
  • philanthropist
  • pound the pavement
  • poverty
  • unemployed


  • Copies of the worksheet
  • Copies of the lesson
  • Copies of the book The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
  • Paper
  • Pens
  • Clips from the movie 'The Pursuit of Happyness' directed by Gabriele Muccino
  • Chart paper
  • Markers

Reading & Discussion Questions

  • Preview vocabulary with students before reading the lesson.
  • Read The Pursuit of Happyness: Book Summary & Quotes as a class, and discuss the following questions:
    • What genre of literature is The Pursuit of Happyness?
    • What is the setting of the story?
    • What kind of person is Chris Gardner?
    • What motivates Gardner?
    • Describe Gardner's childhood.
    • How did Gardner's childhood influence the type of father he became?
    • Prior to becoming a father, what jobs did Gardner have?
    • What sacrifices does Gardner make to participate in the Dean Witter Reynolds training program?
    • Turn and talk: Do you think it was worth the sacrifice? Why?
    • How do Gardner and his son survive homelessness?
    • Why does Gardner misspell 'happiness' in the title of the book?
    • How does Gardner's life change after completing the training program?
    • Which charities does Gardner contribute to? Why?
    • Turn and talk: Based on your life experiences, which charities would you most likely contribute to?
    • What do you think the author's message of this story is?
    • How was the book received?
  • Ask if there are any questions; then give the students the lesson's printable worksheet to check for understanding.
  • Check the answers as a class.



Materials: Copies of lesson, paper, pens, video clips from the movie 'Pursuit of Happyness,' copies of the book The Pursuit of Happyness, chart paper, markers

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