Teach PA History
Pennsylvania Boxing : Living the American Dream
Equipment & Supplies
  • overhead projector or dry erase/chalk board

Day One

Anticipatory Set: List the following names on the board or overhead and ask students to copy down the name of the boxer about which they know the most. (1 minute)

Joe Palooka
Bernard Hopkins
Joe Frazier
Tommy Loughran
Rocky Balboa
(It is very likely that most of the students will list Rocky Balboa as the most familiar. Some students will never have heard of some or any of these boxers. If that is true, they should spend their writing time–next step–expressing what they know or think about the sport of boxing.)

Provide two minutes for the students to write as much as they know about the boxer that they have chosen from the list on a piece of paper or in their notebooks. If students do not have enough to say about a particular boxer, ask them to write down their opinion about the sport of boxing. Students must record at least 3 to 5 lines of writing on topic. Teacher will check as students are writing and give full credit to everyone who accomplishes this. (3 minutes)

Pair/Share: Assign each of the students a partner or let them choose their own. Ask them to share what they wrote about the boxer whom they chose and/or their opinion on boxing. (3 minutes)

4. Reading and Interpretation: Disseminate Student Worksheet 1-Pennsylvania Boxer Fact Sheet to every student. Students will use this to take notes on the boxer about whom they are reading.

Give each student one of the following handouts: (Distribute each boxer biography as close to an equal number of times as your class size permits.)

Student Handout 1-Joe Palooka
Student Handout 2-Bernard Hopkins
Student Handout 3-Joe Frazier
Student Handout 4-Tommy Loughran
Student Handout 5-Rocky Balboa

Each handout is a short biographical writing on the five Pennsylvania boxers under focus. Instruct students to read the document before them and to write down three significant facts about their boxer on Student Worksheet 1–Pennsylvania Boxer Fact Sheet after they have finished reading. (9 minutes)

When students have had sufficient time to read their document and to record their information, they should be assigned to a different part of the room organized by the boxer about whom they have read. For example, "All of the Rocky Balboa's please sit at this set of desks". Since there are five boxers under consideration, a class of twenty will have four members per group. Ideally, no more than four members will be in a particular group. If your class is larger than twenty students plan to have multiple groups working on the same boxer. For example, in a class of twenty-eight, you may have two groups of students working on Joe Frazier and Rocky Balboa. Each boxer group should decide together what they consider to be the three most essential facts from the reading about their boxer. They should make any necessary corrections to their responses (Note: There may very well be more than three essential facts and groups should be instructed to allow for individual interpretation of the readings. As long as two or three other people have agreed that any individual fact is valid, then treat it as such.) When each student feels confident that he/she has sufficient information on his/her own boxer, the next step may commence. (5 minutes)

Have each group select one student. Ask each group's selected student to circulate around the room to the other boxer groups and fill in the three essential facts for the other boxers listed on Student Worksheet 1–Pennsylvania Boxer Fact Sheet. After students have completed the worksheet, they should return to their original groups. (5 minutes)

As the selected student is retrieving information for their group, pass out to each group a single copy of Student Worksheet 2-Pennsylvania Boxer Comparative Rubric.

Write on the board the follow responsibilities:

RECORDER: This person records the detailed responses about your group's specific boxer on Student Worksheet 2-Pennsylvania Boxer Comparative Rubric.
PRESENTER: This person presents their group findings to the class.
NOTE-TAKER: This person fills in essential information on the other boxers as they are being presented.

Of the individuals remaining sitting, each group should choose a person to fulfill each role for their group. With all group members present, each member of the group can contribute to the discussion and determine the correct responses for their boxer on Student Worksheet 2-Pennsylvania Boxer Comparative Rubric. Have the recorder write down the agreed upon responses. (7 minutes)

Ask each group's presenter to share the group's findings with the class. Remind note takers to record information for non-presenting groups as the presentations take place. (15 minutes)

At the end of class collect the copies of Student Worksheet 2-Pennsylvania Boxer Comparative Rubric from each group note-taker and the copies of Student Worksheet 1– Pennsylvania Boxer Fact Sheet from each individual. (1 minute)

13. Tell students tomorrow they are going to explore the definition of the "American Dream," but not to forget what they have learned about their boxers. They will be asked to write an essay on how one of these boxers exemplifies the American Dream.

Day Two

Anticipatory Set: Have students define the term "American Dream" in abstract terms (what it means in general) and in concrete terms (what it means for them personally). Students must record at least 3 to 5 lines of writing on topic. Check as students are writing and give full credit to everyone who accomplishes this. (3 minutes)

Brainstorming: Ask students to raise their hands and volunteer an aspect of their definition of the American Dream. Students may reference the American Dream from a general or personal perspective (i.e., "It is that everyone has the chance to succeed" or "My dream is to be a rapper.") Students may also address the issue from other perspectives, like social, economical, or political standpoints. It may be appropriate to recognize that not all students will see the concept in a positive light and may want to express the limitations of the Dream, like funding limitations for both rural and inner city schools, sky-rocketing higher educational costs, the historical role of racism, or the economic effects of class as aspects of the American Dream. As an extension question, a teacher may want to raise the question of whether the American Dream is fact or fiction to introduce or spur debate. Record essential information on the board. (5 minutes)

After sufficient material is on the board, open discussion. You may ask prompting questions, like…

Are there any ideas on the board in conflict? (For instance, some students may have taken the Dream to be primarily concrete, i.e. financial success/fame/comfortable living, whereas others may have been interested in more abstract concepts, like in attaining freedom of speech, religion, or self-determination. There may even be a faction that disputes the reality of the American Dream at all.)
Are there any terms of the definition with which anyone disagrees? (Again, allow two or three students to briefly express their opinions. This is primarily a warm-up, so do not get bogged down in a debate on individual topics.)
Can you give examples of anyone from your knowledge base or from experience that has achieved the American Dream? (These answers may be from such bases as family and friends, local area, sports or entertainment icons, historical figures, etc. It may be important to maintain a loose definition of what the American Dream is: the tracker and guide Tom Brown has a different idea of success and fulfillment than Bill Gates. Be sufficiently flexible to accommodate various interpretations of the American Dream.) (10 minutes)
The discussion should lead into the heart of the lesson: how the boxers we are studying have given witness to or challenged the American Dream. Such considerations will be in concert with readings of primary source documents, "The Declaration of Independence", "The Gettysburg Address", and Martin Luther King Junior's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Reading and Interpretation-Divide students into groups of three.

Disseminate to each student in the group:
Student Handout 6-The Declaration of Independence, the Opening
Student Handout 7-Transcript of Gettysburg Address (1863)
Student Handout 8-I Have a Dream, excerpts
Student Worksheet 3-Interpreting the American Dream in Historical Documents

Each member of the group will take on the primary role of reading one of the texts given to them and completing their section of the Student Worksheet 3-Interpreting the American Dream in Historical Documents. For instance, when reading "The Gettysburg Address" students may note that the phrase" all men are created equal" is purposely repeated and that freedom was at that point still an unachieved ideal for many people. They may note that "The Declaration of Independence" states that people are capable of suffering under unfair conditions up to a certain point, but then decide that enough is enough. Students may note when reading the "I Have a Dream" speech that the ideal is clarified: people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. For further assessment, see Teacher Guide to Student Worksheet 3-Interpreting the American Dream in Historical Documents.(15 minutes)

After each text has been read and students have had sufficient time to write down their notes, there should be a brief period allowed for the group to discuss amongst themselves what they found to be important in each reading. (5 minutes)

Ask students to return to their own seats and reflect on the documents that they have just read. Ask them to think about how each, in its own way, contributes to our understanding of the ideal that is the American Dream. (2 minutes)

Students should write a new definition of the American Dream based on the readings. Considering elements from all of the passages and consulting their notes from the group readings, students should formulate an objective statement of what the American Dream is. This statement should be two to three lines and should move away from the personalized and subjective statements made in the Anticipatory Set and following class discussion. It also limits the ideal to the precisely political and foundational sense in which this term is used, as defined by these three documents. (5 minutes)

While students are writing their objective, historical/political definition of the American Dream, return Student Worksheet 1–Pennsylvania Boxer Fact Sheet, as a reference aid to the students.

Have enough copies of the Boxer Biographies (Student Handout 1-Joe Palooka, Student Handout 2-Bernard Hopkins, Student Handout 3-Joe Frazier, Student Handout 4-Tommy Loughran, Student Handout 5-Rocky Balboa) to give to students who may want to reference a boxer about whom they had not read the previous day.

After students have completed a definition of the American Dream, cognizant of the direction given by the three primary source documents, they should compose an essay that explains which of the boxers studied best exemplifies the fulfillment of the American Dream. Their definition must be included in the essay. As preparation ask students to create a map or an outline of facts about the boxer's life that the student feels qualifies him as a great example of living the American Dream. (5 minutes)

Students should complete the essay as a homework assignment; one to two pages would be sufficient to answer the question effectively. Content for each boxer will vary, but to view some of the points which may be made for the boxers under consideration, see American Dream Essay Rubric.

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