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Searching for the American Dream

Subject:English Language Arts, ESL

Grade Level: 9-12

Description: 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.

How it Works: 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.

Final Project/Product: Students write their own poems, expressing themes explored in this unit. Student poems can be typed and illustrated using a basic web-authoring software program such as Netscape Composer or Dreamweaver, then uploaded to a class website for an online poetry anthology.

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.

English Language Learners: The topic is very relevant to English Language Learners and recent immigrants to the United States. Poems can be read aloud in class to allow students to practice their verbal skills in English. This unit allows students to practice their writing, listening, and speaking skills in English.

Tips for the Teacher: 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.

 

 Standards Addressed
Students listen, speak, read, and write for social interaction. They use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language for effective social communication with a wide variety of people. As readers and listeners, they use the social communications of others to enrich their understanding of people and their views.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: English Language Arts
Students listen, speak, read, and write for critical analysis and evaluation. As listeners and readers, they analyze experiences, ideas, information, and issues presented by others using a variety of established criteria. As speakers and writers, they use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language to present, from a variety of perspectives, their opinions and judgments on experiences, ideas, information, and issues.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: English Language Arts
Students read and listen to oral, written, and electronically produced texts and performances from American and world literature; relate texts and performances to their own lives; and develop an understanding of the diverse social, historical, and cultural dimensions the texts and performances represent. As speakers and writers, they use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language for self-expression and artistic creation.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: English Language Arts
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for literary response, enjoyment and expression.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students will demonstrate cross-cultural knowledge and understanding.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: Social Studies

Day 1: Introduction to the American Dream
Objectives
Students will gain deeper understanding of the concept or term “American Dream.”
Students will appreciate the American Dream from varying points of view.
Students will read, write, speak, and think critically about the story “Marriage Is a Private Affair.”
Materials
Copy of the story “Marriage Is a Private Affair” by Chinua Achebe
character trait chart
Keywords
Procedure 1
Write "American Dream" on the board.
a. Students should reflect on what they feel this means to them (free write for 5 minutes). (Students will say such things as: a job, a home, freedom of speech, etc.)
b. Put ideas on the board as students share.
c. Based on what they see, teacher should ask if the American Dream could cause conflict within families.
d. If this is true, then the idea of the American Dream can be universal, meaning "the desire to be free, equal and to pursue one's own dreams without anyone or anything getting in the way" is something that everyone feels at some time, not just in America. (Teacher should write this definition on the board.)

Tell students that by the end of the unit, they will have to "rename" the unit as they see fit.

Procedure 2
Students should free write: Do your parents have any traditions that you do not understand or like?
a. Share answers aloud.
Procedure 3
Hand out story Marriage Is a Private Affair.
a. Ask students to look at the title, blurb and picture. (Note: If you get this story off the Web, there will be no picture of blurb). What do you think the story will be about (CRITICAL THINKING).
b. Begin reading with class.
c. Stop at middle of third column. Ask students what themes they see so far.
d. Write a letter to the father. Share with class.
http://chinua-achebe.com/marriage-is-a-private-affair.htm
Procedure 4
Read to "6 months later".
a. Underline one thing that they agree/disagree with. Share.
Procedure 5
Make a character trait chart for father.
a. Share traits as a class and list whether they are positive negative, or both. (Possible traits include: caring, sexist, confident, religious, old-fashioned, stubborn, controlling, traditional, inconsiderate, and hard-headed.)
b. Summary: Discuss how the son’s idea of the American Dream causes conflict in his family.
Extension
Write your reaction to the story so far. What do you think will happen?
Assessment
Informal: classwork, writing, discussion

Day 2: Exploring Star-Crossed Lovers
Objectives
Students will gain an understanding of their personal biases towards the story “Marriage Is a Private Affair
Students will compare and contrast its literary elements to another story.
Materials
Copy of the story “Marriage Is a Private Affair”
Venn Diagram
copy of monologue from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Students should have already read the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare or another story with a similar plot line (star-crossed lovers). A clip from West Side Story would substitute well.
Keywords
Procedure 1
Do Now: Share HW predictions with a partner.
a. Students share reactions to hearing various predictions.
Procedure 2
As a class, read to the end of the story Marriage Is a Private Affair.
a. Ask students how they feel about the ending. ( Many students will say that the ending leaves you hanging and they wish they knew what happened.)
b. Why do you think the author ended it with no resolution?
c. How can traditions tear families apart?
d. Who do you have sympathy for? Why?
Procedure 3
After discussing these questions, ask students to Free Write: How do your views about love and marriage affect how you feel about the story.
a. Share.
Procedure 4
Explain to students that many stories share the same theme. One story that shares the theme of love with family consequences is Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
a. Read monologue from Romeo and Juliet.
b. Ask students to make a Venn Diagram that compares and contrasts the two stories. See student sample in attachments.
c. Have students reflect on the process they went through to critically read the story: a) Predict

b) What are the themes?

c) What do you agree/disagree with?

d) Characterization

e) What are your biases? How do they affect how you read? Change them.

f) What other stories does this remind you of?

Romeo & Juliet monologue http://teachnet-lab.org/Goldman/Monologue.htm
Procedure 5
Summary: Discuss the students’ reactions feelings about animosity among family members and how these problems are universal.
a. Link this idea to themes in stories and how they are universal as well. Students should begin to see how themes in literature can be carried across time as well as genre.
Extension
HW: Write a short essay comparing and contrasting Romeo and Juliet and Marriage Is a Private Affair.
Assessment
previous day's homework assignment

Day 3: Why Traditions Fade
Objectives
Students will gain an understanding of why traditions tend to fade as time moves on.
Students will be able to represent the causes of fading traditions in a visual manner.
Materials
Copy of the article “Looking for My Prince Charming” by Shalmali Pal
Cause and Effect worksheet
Keywords
Procedure 1
Read the article Looking for My Prince Charming by Shalmali Pal.
a. Use the critical thinking questions as procedure in asking students to identify ideas.
b. You may use the guided reading technique of asking students questions as you read along.
http://teachnet-lab.org/Goldman/shalmali.htm
Procedure 2
Fill out cause/effect chart. (see link below)
a. Hand out cultural identity worksheets and have students answer questions.
b. (Teacher note: you want students to understand the importance of needing to fit in to the society which they live in to feel accepted. This causes problems between parents and children.)
cause & effect chart http://teachnet-lab.org/Goldman/Mappinginformation.htm
Procedure 3
Free write: why do traditions fade?
a. Students should respond to this idea based on their feelings from the cause/effect chart and the cultural identity worksheet
b. In groups share-discuss with class.
Procedure 4
Summary: Discuss how the article was a clear representation of the idea that traditions fade as time moves on.
a. Link this idea back to “Marriage Is a Private Affair” and why Shalmali’s parents may have reacted differently than Okeke’s to the idea of dating outside one’s race.

Day 4: Parents vs. Children When Preserving Traditions
Objectives
Students will gain an understanding of how poetic techniques can communicate themes that are apparent in other genres.
Students will explore the difficulties of preserving traditions of one culture in a different surrounding.
Students will gain an understanding of the motivations behind characters.
Students will express their understanding of characters that may think differently than they do.
Materials
Copy of the poem “Lost Sister” by Cathy Song
Questions Worksheet for students
Copy of the movie “East is East”
Procedure 1
Ask class: What are some of the elements of poetry that we have discussed so far this year? (figurative language-simile/metaphor/personification/ apostrophe) Terms may differ.
a. Ask students: What is imagery? (definition)
b. Hand out poem Lost Sister by Cathy Song.
c. Read poem for class.
d. Give students questions on handout and answer as a class as you analyze the poem.
http://tinyurl.com/38hj53
Keywords
imagery, poetic terms
Procedure 2
Ask students to identify some themes in the poem.
a. Teacher should lead them to compare the experience of the poet to that of other characters they have discussed so far.
b. Summary: Discuss what the students learned about preserving traditions from the poem.
c. What impressions were they left with concerning the feelings that immigrants have when the come to a new country?
Questions Worksheet http://teachnet-lab.org/Goldman/questions.htm
Procedure 3
Have students reflect on the conflicts that have been presented so far. (Ideas include: parents vs. children; fitting in to the society around them; trying to achieve the American dream; losing oneself and one's culture.)
a. List them on the board. Students should express where their sympathies lie.
b. Watch clips from movie "East is East".
c. Students should answer questions as they watch the movie.
d. I suggest renting the DVD so you can just show the clips: Scene 1: Chapter 1; Scene 2: Chapter 2; Scene 3: Chapter 5/6; Scene4: Chapter 8; Scene 5: Chapter 12; Scene 6: Chapter 16.
East is East Questions http://teachnet-lab.org/Goldman/moviequestions.htm
Procedure 4
Teacher should ask students to watch the movie from the point of view of either the mother, father, or kids.
a. Instruct them to try to sympathize with the character they are assigned to.
b. Believing game: write monologues for the characters. They can finish this for homework if time is limited.
Procedure 5
Summary: Discuss the students’ reactions to the problems that the kids in the movie must face and why they sympathize with the father .
a. Remember, the key to this lesson is for students to sympathize with the father even though they make think he is wrong in his actions; they should see that he is just trying to preserve his heritage in a place that is working against his efforts.
Extension
Homework: Write a letter to the Lost Sister identifying her struggle and suggesting ways to help her.

Day 5: Expressing Hardships in Obtaining the American Dream
Objectives
Students will finalize their understanding of the causes and effects of fading traditions.
Students will explore the hardships of parents and teens through poetry.
Materials
Cause and Effect Worksheet
Copies of the poems “I Yearn” and “[we who carry the endless seasons]”
Questions worksheet
Keywords
Procedure 1
Do Now: Students should share monologues from the movie.
a. Fill out the second half of the cause/effect worksheet based on the students' reactions to the movie.
b. Free write the aim question ("Why is it so hard to forget the past?") using characters to support.
Cause & Effect Worksheet http://teachnet-lab.org/Goldman/Mappinginformation.htm
Procedure 2
Hand out poems "I yearn" (see attachments) and "[we who carry the endless seasons]" (see link below) .
a. Read aloud and discuss.
b. Discuss the difficulties that parents and teens face when they are working against each other on the topic of traditions; and how the poems relate to the characters in the movie.
http://tinyurl.com/ywq5f8
Procedure 3
Online poll: At the beginning of the unit, students were told they would be renaming the unit after gaining a new perspective on the theme "American Dream."
a. After reviewing student answers to this question on their final worksheet, set up an online poll with the five most popular titles and have students log on to vote. (See sample poll linked below) .
Online Poll http://htmlgear.tripod.com/poll/control.poll?u=cbhuck0&i=2&a=vote
Extension
Students should emulate style and write for one of the characters in the movie ("I yearn" should be written from the point of view of the father" and "[we who carry the endless seasons]" should be written from the point of view of the kids). Student poems can be typed and illustrated using a basic web-authoring software program such as Netscape Composer or Dreamweaver, then uploaded to a class website for an online poetry anthology.

Denise Goldman

mrsgoldman@msn.com

Academy of American Studies
28-01 41st Avenue
Long Island City, NY 11101

Denise Goldman has been teaching English for nine 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.


Important documents for this lesson plan.

Character Traits.pdf
Cultural Identity.pdf
finalQ.pdf
IYearn.pdf
student_samples.pdf

 

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