Archdiocese of Milwaukee - Office for Schools

American Voices, American Dreams

Course Overview

This course will be language arts based and focused on the big question "What is the American Dream?" Students will be exposed to a range of challenging texts and respond through discussion, presentations, writing, and other assessments. The course will combine online instruction and collaboration with face-to-face workshops for academically gifted 7th and 8th grade students from Catholic elementary and middle schools.

Course Texts

In order to facilitate a discussion of the American Dream based on the American consciousness and its changing meaning for each generation the following works will be read and discussed by the students:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scot Fitzgerald
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Students can expect to write in various fashions about each of these texts including analytical papers and thought-provoking prompts, as well as through online discussions. Assignments about the larger question of The American Dream will also use these works as well as significant amounts of outside materials.

Course Website

Students will be given an account on the high school’s Moodle. This is an online classroom environment secured and maintained by the high school. Classroom assignments and discussions will be based here. The web address for Moodle will be provided at the first face-to-face workshop.

Student access to this website is paramount to completing the course. Each day students will be expected to log in and participate in the ongoing conversation that is American Voices, American Dreams.

Major Writings

Students will write analytical essays on the two major literary works.
Students will compose at least five Q&A interviews in the style of magazines.
Students will write a This I Believe essay at the conclusion of the course. The essay’s
focus will be on The American Dream and the students' personal conclusions.

Major Collaborative Project

The students will wrestle with the big question of what The American Dream is through a series of interviews they conduct with class outsiders. This project, called the StoryCorps Project and loosely based on the NPR program of the same title, will ask the students to engage the world around them and encourage them to apply the lessons learned through analysis of literature to help understand how the theme fits in the larger world. Students will be responsible for writing interview transcripts in a question and answer format. They will be asked to record, through audio or visual means, these interviews and then compose their interviews from that. The recordings can also be used in the second part of the project. Students will be arranged into groups that will seek to join the collected interviews and use the material to compare and contrast what they have collected to the literature we have studied.

Course Objectives

The course will provide high-ability learners with opportunities to develop advanced critical thinking and 21st-century skills by:

  • using interactive, web-based technology to seek, exchange, and respond to ideas
  • collaborating with other high-ability learners from throughout the Archdiocese
  • asking and responding to high-order questions
  • discussing the ideas of self, peers, and professionals
  • developing and refining a range of questions to frame a search for new understanding that goes beyond literal facts
  • constructing new understandings through applying critical thinking skills in an inquiry-based research process
  • connecting learning to community and world issues and Catholic truths
  • using writing and speaking skills to effectively communicate new understanding
  • creating products that express new understanding
  • using technology to organize and display knowledge in ways that others can view, use, and critique

Instructional Hours

The course will run for nine weeks and is designed to replace one class period of each school day. Students may be excused from their language arts/reading class to work independently in a library or resource room setting with Internet access to complete weekly tasks, such as responding to classmates comments or assignments online, completing research, writing, and reading.

Students will meet face-to-face with each other and the teacher for three half-day workshops. During the workshops, students will engage in some of the following:

  • unite with other high ability students
  • unite with the high school instructor facilitating the class
  • become familiar with the online classroom
  • collaborate with group members on shared projects and ideas
  • present final projects in a presentation format

Expected Course Calendar

Week One: Introduction to The American Dream and its origins.

Benjamin Franklin and The American Dream
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus and The Statue of Liberty
Begin Reading The Great Gatsby
First face-to-face meeting

Week Two: The American Dream in the early part of the 20th Century

Excerpts from Stud Terkel’s various stories
Begin individual work on American Voices, American Dreams
Intro Discussions on The Great Gatsby
First interview write-up due

Week Three: Is Gatsby really great?

The Great Gatsby paper assigned
The Great Gatsby finished by end of week

Week Four: Is Gatsby really great? Cont.

Rough draft of paper due
4 interview write-ups due

Week Five: The American Dream and us

Final draft of The Great Gatsby paper due
Begin reading Death of a Salesman
Begin American Voices, American Dreams collaborative work
Second face-to-face meeting

Week Six: Willy Loman is all of us

Finish Death of a Salesman by end of week
Assign Death of a Salesman paper

Week Seven: Willy Loman is all of us. Cont.

Rough draft of Death of a Salesman paper due

Week Eight: The American Dream and us. Cont.

Final draft of Death of a Salesman paper due
Write This I Believe personal statement

Week Nine: Present Final Projects at Divine Savior Holy Angels

This I Believe personal statement due.
Final face-to-face meeting

Student Identification

Students will be identified by participating schools and enrolled based on ability, space, and discretion. The teacher is not directly responsible for participant identification.

Building Address (use for deliveries)
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
3501 South Lake Drive
St. Francis, WI  53235 (map)

Mailing Address
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
PO Box 070912
Milwaukee, WI  53207

Phone Numbers
Janelle Luther: (414) 758-2256
Laura Kacala: (414) 758-2254

(414) 769-3408

General email

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