American Dream Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Is the American dream real or just a myth? This lesson plan guides students through the idea of the American dream, helping them to explore its ideology and criticisms. Multi-level discussions are included as well as follow-up activities and lesson ideas.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define 'the American dream'
  • explain the evolution of the American dream
  • discuss criticisms of the American dream
  • create writing to demonstrate understanding of American dream


  • 50 minutes


  • Access to technology, if necessary
  • Samples of newspaper formats

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1

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

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


  • Connect students to the topic by asking students to reply in writing to the prompt, 'What do you think the American dream is?'
  • Share and discuss answers. Notice the differences in answers and ask students to examine why this may be.
  • Ask students to title their notebooks 'The American Dream' and prepare to take notes as they read the first two sections of What Is the American Dream? - Definition & Examples.
  • Answer questions and discuss key ideas. Ask:
    • Why is the American dream an evolving mythology?
    • What are some characteristics of the American dream?
    • What is the core ideal of the American dream?
    • Why is the American dream often a great paradox?
  • Have one half of students read the next sections, 'The American Dream of the 19th Century' and the other read 'The American Dream of the 20th Century.'
  • Put students in partner pairs with one student from each group; instruct them to share their knowledge about the section they read. Discuss as a class, then ask:
    • How were the American dream in the 19th and 20th centuries alike? Different?
    • What surprised you about the content you read?
    • Are there any parts of this content you can relate to personally? Why?
    • Where do you see evidence of the American dream in your own life? Explain.
  • Allow students to read the Lesson Summary, ask any remaining questions, and finalize notes.


  • Tell students to reflect on the information they learned in the article and how it relates to them and their personal lives. Have them consider what their own 'American dream' is.
  • Ask students to write their dream down, then instruct them to create a news headline to convey their dream. Share examples of news headlines if necessary.
  • As students work, walk around the room to offer encouragement and answer questions.
  • After rough drafts are complete, allow students to transfer to nice paper. Have them write a brief article describing their dream to accompany the headline, as well as other features found in the newspaper.
  • Share work with classmates; hang and display in the classroom or hallway.


  • Analyze and explore the concept of the American dream in novels such as Of Mice and Men or A Raisin in the Sun.
  • Have students interview a family member or someone of another generation to determine their American dream. Compare to their dreams.

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