The American Dream Back to School Lesson

Back to School Time!

Back to School Lesson for the Social Studies classroom

What is the American Dream?

The American Dream.  It means different things to different people.  I love to start each school year off by asking my students to explore the concept of “The American Dream” and define it for themselves.  I usually start by asking them what the first thing that pops into their head when they hear the phrase “The American Dream”.  Answers typically vary quite a bit with some students quoting lines from the Declaration of Independence or the Preamble and others listing American foods like cheeseburgers and apple pie (especially the period before lunch.)  I often reference this activity throughout the year.  There are so many individuals and groups in American history who pursued their idea of the American Dream and took actions that influence us even today!

Family Survey

After we’ve accessed their prior knowledge, I’ll ask them to go home and survey their family and friends about their American Dream beliefs.  Some parents love this and have hour long conversations with their kids about their heritage or political beliefs.  Other parents don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to the assignment and keep their answers short, sweet and to the point.  The following day, students share some of the responses they got from their families with the class.  We always have great discussions about how perspectives influenced the various opinions.


Next I like to have students read some quotes from famous people about the American Dream.  I’ve got quotes from everyone from Whoopi Goldberg to Tommy Hilfiger.  Some of them are generic and simple and some of them are complex and controversial.  I ask students to either agree or disagree with the quotes and explain why.  At the end of this activity, I ask students to take a moment to draft their own definition of the American Dream.

Wrapping it Up

With their definition of the American Dream in mind, I challenge students to find a song that they feel best represents their beliefs and create a bumper sticker using lyrics from the song.  These bumper stickers are great to use for decorating bulletin boards, door ways and marker boards in the classroom.  I’ve had some amazing bumper stickers turned in by students in the past few years! Why bumper stickers?  I always tell the kids, you can tell alot about a person from the bumper stickers on their car.  These bumper stickers tell me a lot about my new students and where they come from.

If you’re interested in all of the materials for this really cool first week of school activity, check out my teacherspayteachers store:

One Comment:

  1. Great!!! Exactly what I was looking for for the “first days.”

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