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Educational Resources

Visit the NBC American Dreams Site


Who's Who

American Dreams
& the 60s

A Soldier's Letters

Create a 60s Mural

Create an American Dreams Talk Show

Compare Your
Advice to Meg's


American Dreams & the 60s

Overview: In this introductory activity, students will learn about the American Dreams program in a brief reading and writing activity.

Grade Level: Middle School & High School

Introduce the Characters
  1. Read the following overview of Episode One of the American Dreams program with your students:

    This evocative drama, which won two Emmy Awards in its freshman season last year, is set against the memorable, upbeat sounds of the 1960s as it depicts a more innocent America -- as seen through the youthful Pryor family of Philadelphia as they brace for cultural turbulence ahead that still resonates in this contemporary era.

    Likable, 16-year-old "good girl" Meg Pryor (Brittany Snow, "Guiding Light") and her outspoken best friend, Roxanne (Vanessa Lengies, "Popular Mechanics for Kids") continue to pursue their dreams of dancing on Dick Clark's locally produced "American Bandstand" as they struggle through the teenage transitions into adulthood.

    At the same time, Meg's mother Helen (three-time Emmy nominee Gail O'Grady, "NYPD Blue") is embracing the newfound empowerment that the 1960s afforded women, thereby creating a tear in the Pryor family fabric -- mostly affecting the family's patriarch, Jack Pryor (Tom Verica, "Providence"). The ongoing family changes include JJ (Will Estes, "7th Heaven"), who abandons his dream of playing college football in favor of joining the U.S. Marines while he solidifies his relationship with his high-school sweetheart, Beth Mason (Rachel Boston, "The Andy Dick Show"), now a college freshman. In addition, adolescent Will (Ethan Dampf, "Collateral Damage") faces a major surgery and smarty-pants Patty (Sarah Ramos) continues with her annoying manners and now joins Meg in high school.

    In addition, Henry Walker (Jonathan Adams, "The American Embassy"), an employee in Jack Pryor's electronics store, struggles to give his family a better life. His son, Sam (Arlen Escarpeta, "The Shield") continues at East Catholic High School on his track scholarship and is caught between his father's ideals and the new civil rights struggles of the decade.

  2. Share the Who's Who section of the website with the class so students are familiar with the American Dreams characters.

Explore the American Dreams Story Line

  1. Divide the class into five small groups and assign each group three episodes to read from the Episode Guide. This Episode Guide contains programs from Season One and Season Two.
  2. Ask each group to summarize its assigned episodes by creating a list of key events. Have each groups present its list to the entire class.
  3. Collect the summaries in a booklet to use as a reference for the story line.

Defining American Dreams

  1. Brainstorming ideas is an important way to help students consider what they know about a topic and can stimulate them to create new connections among ideas. Write the words "American Dreams" in the center of a circle and ask the students to brainstorm ideas about their meaning. Record students' responses.

  2. Ask the students to respond in writing to the following prompt:
    • How would you define the phrase "American Dreams?"
    Ask for volunteers to share their thoughts. Lead a class discussion based on students' responses. As you continue to watch American Dreams, you may wish to ask students to revisit their ideas about the concept of an American dream.

    National Education Standards
    Language Arts
    Grades 6-8 Writing

    Standard 1
    Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

    Level III
    Prewriting: Uses a variety of prewriting strategies (e.g., makes outlines, uses published pieces as writing models, constructs critical standards, brainstorms, builds background knowledge) Standard 2
    Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing

    Grades 9-12 Writing

    Level IV
    6. Organizes ideas to achieve cohesion in writing

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