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.
- 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?
· 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: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americannovel/video/ANamericandream.html. 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?
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.