Re-Defining the American Dream: Using Multicultural Literature to Revise the Ideals that Shape our Nation

Elizabeth Craig, Language Arts, Martin Luther King Middle School

Final Unit (PDF)     Implementing Common Core Standards (PDF)

200 Word Synopsis

The American dream is a common theme that shows up in a variety of American literature. It is at the heart of the novel The Great Gatsby, a required novel for most high school students. This unit will pair the dream of Gatsby with writings from diverse authors, such as Ntozake Shange, Sandra Cisneros, Ishmael Reed, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Junot Díaz, and Jayne Cortez. Students will be asked to explore the concept of the American dream by using the texts provided for class discussion. Students will consider the obstacles to achieving the American dream and the role of race and ethnicity on the journey to reaching success. Students will analyze the impact of location on the concept of the American dream – is it only possible to achieve success in a city? Students will form their opinions through activities such as keeping a daybook, participating in gallery crawls, and discussing key concepts in a Socratic Seminar. Finally, students will write a personal essay that describes their vision or dream for their life, the obstacles they might encounter along the way, and the ways in which they will overcome their obstacles by following the lead of their role models.