Friday, October 4, 2013

Lesson Plan: The American Dream in COYOTE WINDS

My Grandparents
I want to thank Jessica Brown for writing a wonderful lesson plan on how the American Dream is explored in COYOTE WINDS.  Below is the beginning of the plan.  If you would like to see more, please email me at

Coyote Winds Lesson Plan: American Dreams
Subject: Literature/American Studies; Grade Level: 6-9
Duration: Three to four class periods

Writing in 1931, historian James Truslow Adams described the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” He identified the American West, a place where “the frontiersman had developed the right combination of qualities to conquer the wilderness,” as the birthplace of this distinctly American can-do spirit. The American West, with its seemingly limitless land and boundless opportunities to start anew, seemed the perfect place for men and women to prove themselves, build their fortunes and live their dreams.

In this lesson, students will explore the theme of the American Dream and how it relates to the American West in Coyote Winds. After discussing their own interpretations of the American Dream and watching a brief video that defines the concept, students will break into groups and discuss how various characters’ dreams reflect, or fail to reflect, the American Dream.

Guiding Questions: 
  •  What is the American Dream? Is it different now than it was in the 1930’s? Is Coyote Winds critical of the American Dream or does it celebrate it? Might it do both?
  • In Coyote Winds, how is the American Dream connected to the American West? Why do some characters see the prairie as a land of possibilities while others feel trapped in it?  
In this lesson students will learn to:
·         Examine critically the concept of the American Dream.
·         Analyze a recurring theme in a literary text.
·         Conduct in-depth character analyses.
·         Use and summarize evidence from a literary text to support an argument. 

Procedure: Class 1: Introduction to the American Dream 
1.      Begin by asking the class to spend 10-15 minutes writing about what they think of when they hear the term “American Dream.” How would they define it? Do they know, or have they heard of people, who are living the American Dream? Is the American Dream distinctly American? Why or why not? After 10-15 minutes, ask students to discuss what they wrote with the class.

2.      For common ground, have students watch this video on the American Dream: How does the video define the American Dream? What are some the unique aspects of American history that the speakers in the video relate to the American Dream?

** Throughout this activity, as keywords come up, have one or two students write these words on the board. Keep these words visible throughout the duration of the lesson. 

     Use the rest of the class to discuss how the American Dream is revealed in Coyote Winds, and especially how Lionel’s character embodies it. 

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