American Dreams Assignment #1: Personal Essay

“American dreams” exist on both a national and a local scale. You have been asked by your town’s historical preservation group to contribute an essay for a 100-year time capsule that describes your family’s own “American Dream.” Drawing on your own experiences as well as multiple interviews with family members (from at least one older generation above you—and more than one if possible), write a thesis-driven essay in which you describe how your family has come to define its personal interpretation of an “American Dream” in the 21st century.

Audience: Future generations of Americans

Format: 1000 words (3-4 pages); MLA style

Advice: Consider these additional questions as you draft your paper, which may provide supporting evidence for your thesis:

In ways are “American dreams” described differently across family members you interviewed? (If you noticed ways in which their descriptions do not line up, do not ignore those differences—re-read their responses, ask follow-up questions, and think through those differences in writing.)

How do the readings we have completed contribute to your understanding of your own dreams?


Type: Analyze a single primary source to support an arguable thesis.

Pre-Draft Activities:

  1. Focused free writing: What do you think of when you hear the words “American Dreams”? From where does your sense of “American Dreams” come? What or who has influenced your ideas?
  2. Journal response to readings (Jillson, Kamp, Terkel); written answers to questions about reading to understand content, progression of ideas, and main point
  3. Annotation of passages from readings
  4. Outline of one reading
  5. An interview with an older friend, family member, or peer about what American Dreams means to him or her (to be posted on Blackboard)
  6. One paragraph about each of the articles and the interview in relation to your own aspirations
  7. Peer review focused on identifying and crafting a thesis

AmericanDreamsAssignment1 (doc)

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