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The Statue of Liberty

[Detail] Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island, Manhattan, New York, NY

Procedure | Evaluation


What is the American Dream? Is it the same for all Americans? Is it a myth? Is it simply a quest for a better life? How has the American Dream changed over time? Some see their dreams wither and die while others see their dreams fulfilled. Why? Everyone has dreams about a personally fulfilled life ...what is your dream?

Your job is to research the dreams of others. You will then create and publish your interpretation of the "American Dream."

  • Divide into teams by research roles (photographer, lawyer, poet, politician, producer, comedian, musician).
  • Define the American Dream with your group.
  • Search in the American Memory collections and document the dreams of those who lived in the past.
  • Identify and publish your interpretation of the "American Dream" according to your research role and the evidence you found.
  • Reflect upon your personal dream — for the nation and for yourself.
  • Review the Wall of Dreams for ideas. Write your own personal dream to share with your teacher and class.

Getting Started

Choose a Research Role

As a group, choose one of the research roles to create your project:

Team Description Product
Photographer With your artful eye, you capture the images of the American Dream. Design a photo essay that shows the American Dream. Show how the Dream has been affected by time, cultural influences, and significant historical events.
Lawyer Your passion for controversy and debate guide your vision of the American Dream. Prepare a legal brief about the status of the American Dream. (Legal brief includes: title, who vs. whom, statement of facts, argument, conclusion, references.)
Poet Using your poetic grasp of language, you seek out the heart and soul of the American Dream. Create a poet's notebook that shows the American Dream. Your notebook includes samples of your poetry that shows how the "Dream" has been affected by time, cultural influences, and significant historical events.
Politician With a finger on the pulse of the American people, you trace significant political events that shape the American Dream. Write and deliver a speech that traces the political events that shape the American Dream. Your speech shows how the "Dream" has been affected by political response to cultural influences and significant historical events.
Producer Lights, camera, action! You show the story of the American Dream through stories, films, and a script for a movie. Make a storyboard for your movie. Sequence the scenes to produce a movie of the American Dream.
Comedian You find the irony in the American Dream. Write a standup comic script or create a political cartoon or comic strip that expresses irony or the humorous side of the American Dream.
Musician With your ear for melody, you play the music of the American Dream. Write the sheet music or record music that characterizes the American Dream based upon your research.
Reporter On the newsbeat you report and chronicle the events which shape the American Dream. Write a news article that reports the results of your research on the American Dream. (Article includes: title, who, what, when, where, and how.) Your news article describes the events that have shaped the American Dream through the decades.

Record the results of your discussion.

What do you already know about the American Dream?

Your group needs to define the American Dream. Read "What Is The American Dream?". Find out what the dream means to each member of your group. Brainstorm and share your ideas. What do you know about the "American Dream"? With a partner create a mind map of what you know, or believe you know, about the American Dream. All ideas are valid. Use paper or visual thinking software to record your ideas. Share the results with your learning team members in your group. This is the beginning of your project, so file your results with your archive manager.

Define your Project

Determine your research theme or topic: Are you interested in immigration/emigration, families, social life? Will you investigate one decade or compare how the American Dream evolved over the decades? Discuss topic ideas with your group.

Analyzing Documents

Use the Primary Source Analysis tool and questions provided by your teacher to practice reading and interpreting sources with sample materials. Your team will look at resources through the lens of your research role.

Research — Gather Evidence — Create the Team Product

As a group, be sure you all understand the task for your team's research role. Divide the tasks. Create an action plan. Record the results of your discussion.

Discuss possible questions and anticipate how you will answer them. Search the American Memory collections and gather your evidence.

Create your learning product. Develop a strategy to share your learning project which allows all team members to contribute and share their ideas.


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