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I have used these materials with high school students as pre-reading material for The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men primarily, but they could be used in any other class or situation where discussion of social class and the American Dream are salient.
American Dream in Lyrics – Discussion and close reading of several songs centered on the themes of the American Dream and social class issues. Encourages critical thinking through comparison and contrast and could easily be turned into a longer writing assignment.
Anticipation Guide: Questions to encourage discussion among students. This would be a great opener activity. A writing assignment is included at the end to encourage extension of thinking.
Social Class and the American Dream: Peer interview and definition activity great for highlighting students’ own experiences with social class and American Dream. Could be extended to a longer writing assignment.
Social Class Opener: Activity that encourages students to define the American Dream through their own experience, ranking different factors such as “education,” “career,” etc.
Thinking About Social Class (Graphic Organizer): This graphic organizer is meant to be used to collect assumptions and stereotypes of different social classes to open discussion about student experiences.
I’ve used all of these together, and I’ve also used them a la carte. This could easily be a week’s worth of critical thinking, discussion, and writing as students explore these big questions.