Chris Adcock
English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Assessment
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Narrative Writing
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    The Founders' American Dreams

    The Founders' American Dreams


    In this lesson, you will consider what the Founders of the United States government might have described as the “American Dream.” You'll analyze the Preamble to the Constitution, deciding what the writers “dreamed” the role of government and the rights of citizens to be.


    • Read the lesson, the texts, and the materials. Anticipate student difficulties and what differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Make arrangements with the library for copies of the Independent Reading books if necessary (one copy of each will allow groups to read the first page together).
    • Create a page with the title and sentence stem “The purpose of government is…” Share the page with the class during the appropriate task.

    Purpose of Government

    As students share their ideas, collect and display them (on the board, a transparency, etc.).

    Look for trends in the students' responses.

    If students need a rephrase, you can try, “What is the government's job? What is it supposed to do?”

    • ELL: Keep in mind that some ELLs may have had different experiences with governments, whether that of the United States or other countries. Encourage them to speak from their lived experience.


    Complete the following sentence.

    • “The purpose of government is . . .”

    Write down and share your ideas with the class.

    Classroom Trends

    Give students a few minutes to respond before opening up for discussion. You may consider letting them talk through their thoughts with a partner before sharing with the whole class.

    Work Time

    Think about what your classmates see as the purpose of government. Write down your thoughts in response to these questions.

    • What trends do you notice?
    • What kinds of things do people see as the responsibility of the government?
    • By extension, what do you and your classmates not see as the responsibility of the government?


    Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

    Explain that the students' job today will be to read closely and analyze particular quotations. Guide them through the reading once, reading aloud and pausing once or twice for a Think Aloud, modeling your close reading of the document.

    • ELL: Since the Preamble's vocabulary is more formal and old-fashioned than spoken English or the texts students typically deal with, it may be helpful to review it with ELLs and ask questions to be sure that everyone has understood the meaning. Repeat any new words to practice pronunciation. Encourage students to use an academic vocabulary in their own sentences as a way to apply these new words in upcoming activities.

    Work Time

    Follow along with your teacher as you read the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

    • Highlight quotations that help you understand what the Founders saw as the responsibilities of government.

    Dialectical Journal

    • Display the Sample Dialectical Journal entry, if possible.
    • Though a T-chart works best, students can use other formats as long as it works for you and maintains the same designation between quotations and responses.
    • Be sure to Think Aloud about the choice of quotation and the analysis.
    • Walk through another modeled example that you and the class create together, if necessary.
    • Circulate as your students work, encouraging them to closely analyze the language as they read. If you come across an excellent entry, consider pausing to share it with the class.
      • SWD: You can choose to allow students with disabilities to focus on fewer than three quotes.

    Work Time

    Examine the Sample Dialectical Journal. Follow along as your teacher explains the example, and ask your teacher any questions you have about how to complete this kind of assignment. You will be finding at least three quotations today.

    Then, create your own Dialectical Journal.

    • Choose three quotations from the Preamble.
    • Complete a Dialectical Journal entry for each quotation.


    Roles of Government

    Call on several students. Try to move them through the text from beginning to end, and make sure that all important quotations get mentioned.

    Work Time

    Share your thoughts from your Dialectical Journal entries with your classmates.

    • What did the writers of the Constitution see as key roles of government?
    • How does, or can, government fulfill these roles?

    Journal Entry 3

    If your students seem to need help getting started, you can take a few minutes to let them talk with a partner or brainstorm as a class before they start writing independently.

    • ELL: For ELLs, working with a partner who shares their primary language can be a valuable part of the brainstorming process.

    Work Time

    Based on your reading, analysis, and discussion, write Journal Entry 3 in response to these questions.

    • Does government have any significant role in the creation or protection of the American Dream? Should it?
    • What did the Founders see as the American Dream?


    Independent Reading Group

    Frame today's meeting: students will be in their groups for only a few minutes, and their main task will be to assign tasks and decide on a reading schedule.

    • ELL: You may want to work with ELLs who need extra help in Guided Reading Groups as a way of further supporting them during Independent Reading.

    Remind students that they will have only two more meetings with their reading groups and that most reading will be completed independently.

    • SWD: If there are struggling readers who cannot read the texts independently, make accommodations. However, now that they are more familiar with the words and structures of each text, encourage them to give it a try without accommodations.

    Highlight for students that they will be responsible for keeping an ongoing Dialectical Journal with an average of two quotations and analyses each day while they read their books.

    Work Time

    Your teacher will assign you to a reading group based on your selections from the previous lesson.

    Throughout the unit, you will be reading your Independent Reading book for homework.

    You will complete an ongoing Dialectical Journal for your book with an average of two entries each day.

    • Join your group, and complete the tasks on the Independent Reading Group Organizer.

    Reading Group Discussion

    If there aren't enough books available for all students, you can have one copy of each book available and appoint a reader for each group.

    • SWD: Some SWDs may benefit from having access to an audiobook, in addition to the text, if one is available.


    Meet with your group and read the first couple of pages aloud. Discuss these questions.

    • What do you notice about the writing style? The narration?
    • Do you have any information about the setting—where and when the story takes place?

    Reading and Analysis

    For homework, have students do the following.

    • Get a copy of their books and begin reading.
    • Complete their first set of Dialectical Journal entries, which can include connections, personal responses, questions, and inferences.
    • Remind students that their responses for their Independent Reading Dialectical Journals are much more open-ended; they can include connections, personal responses, questions, inferences, etc.


    Homework Reading and Analysis

    Complete the following tasks for homework.

    • Get a copy of your book and begin reading.
    • Create an Independent Reading Group Dialectical Journal in your notebok.
    • Complete your first set of Dialectical Journal entries, which can include connections, personal responses, questions, and inferences.

    Independent Reading Dialectical Journal