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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans

Searching for the American Dream

Project URL: http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/Goldman/Contents.htm 

How it works:
Searching for the American Dream allows students to learn critical thinking skills in a way that incorporates various genres of literature pertaining to the immigration experience. Students read relevant short stories, articles, and poetry, and watch movie clips. Through the lessons, they are able to understand that themes can carry across not only various readings, but also various countries and time periods. A major focus of the unit is on teaching students to understand ideas from other points of view by engaging in the "believing game"-- an activity that enables them to consider the issues of a character with different views from their own. Students use the Web to access reading materials, publish their original poems, and take an online poll to change the name of the unit to suit their understanding of it.

Standards addressed:  
Students use the general skills and strategies, stylistic and rhetorical aspects, and the grammatical and mechanical conventions of written compositions, and gather and use information for research purposes. They utilize the reading process to understand and interpret a variety of literary and informational texts. Additionally, they employ  listening and speaking strategies to understand and interpret visual media and the characteristics and components of the media.

Materials used:
A computer with Internet access is required to download stories and help students expand their ideas. Should the teacher decide to create an online poetry anthology, then a basic web authoring program and server space will be necessary.

The students:
The students involved in the project are ninth graders from all over the borough of Queens in New York City. They are a heterogeneous group based on skills and background. The class is made up of about 34 students.

Overall value:
Searching for the American Dream
is beneficial to students in many ways. They use critical thinking skills to learn to read in a more intellectual way, become aware of their biases, and use this knowledge to see things from other points of view. Furthermore, students learn about the difficulties of immigration. May of them can directly relate to the stories. Use of the Internet allows them to further explore the real-life stories of other people who have experienced similar tribulations in their lives.
Many of the stories can be altered to adapt to your class. Teachers should feel free to use some of their own ideas for poems and stories that they may feel more comfortable with, as long as the basic premise of the unit remains the same.


About the teacher:
Denise Goldman has been teaching English for five  years. She is a member of the New York City Writing Project and a recipient of an Impact II grant. Denise received her Master's degree in English Education from New York University in 1999. She teaches at the Academy of American Studies.


Subject Areas: 
Language Arts


Grade Levels: 



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