Overcoming Obstacles

Lesson 4: Setting Expectations


  • Students will recognize the importance of having dreams for the future.

  • Students will identify and explore their dreams and goals for the future.

  • Students will create visual representations of their dreams. 


  • One copy of the “Cloud Nine” activity sheet for each student, plus extras (Part III)

Starter (3 minutes)

Start the class by offering examples such as the following to illustrate how people have worked to make their dreams come true:

  • Did you know that Helen Keller overcame her disabilities to become a world-famous speaker, author, and activist?
  • Did you know that in order to start Apple, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak sold some of their possessions and built the first Apple computer prototypes in Jobs’s bedroom?
  • Did you know that Hulda Crooks climbed Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in North America, when she was 91 years old?

Point out that these people all had dreams—they knew what they wanted to do, and they did whatever they had to do in order to make their dreams come true. Helen Keller had to overcome personal difficulties. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were willing to sacrifice and work with whatever they had to start their company. Hulda Crooks trained hard for her incredible climb, even though there were probably people around her who thought she was too old for such a demanding effort and tried to discourage her.

Say, “You have to work hard to make your dreams come true, but first you need to have a dream. Today, we’re going to talk about some of your dreams.”

Part I: This Is Your Life (20 minutes)

Purpose: Students interview one another about the future.

1. Students listen to directions.

Divide the class into pairs. Explain that students will take turns interviewing their partners and being interviewed themselves.

Explain that as interviewers, students are to imagine that they are TV reporters who are preparing brief reports about their partners’ lives. Tell students that when they are being interviewed, they are to imagine that a local TV station is interviewing them on their 100th birthday.

Since everyone will play both parts, all students should write down the following interview questions. As they write, encourage students to consider how they would like to answer each of the following questions:

  • What kinds of jobs have you had?
  • What other things have you done?
  • What was your greatest achievement?
  • What advice would you give to teenagers today?
  • What is one thing that you would like to do this year?

2. Students conduct their interviews.

Set a time limit of four minutes for each interview. Have students take turns interviewing one another. Remind them that when they are playing the role of the reporter, they should take notes that they can use later for a brief report.

3. Students “broadcast” their interviews.

Invite about 10 volunteers to present one-minute “broadcasts” on the people they interviewed. Encourage students to add some personal reflections when they report their stories. After they have finished their reports, thank the students for their presentations.

4. Students reflect on their imaginary lives.

Invite students to reflect on their responses about their lives. Ask them to consider the following questions: "When you were being interviewed, did your answers reflect dreams that you have? Did they reflect things that you would really like to do in the future?" Encourage students to consider the possibility that the answers they gave could come true.

Part II: Can Dreams Be Real? (15 minutes)

Purpose: Students identify and explore their dreams and goals for the future.

1. Students discuss the concept of dreams.

Invite volunteers to offer explanations of what dreams are. Through a brief discussion, prompt and guide students to focus on the definition of dreams as hopes or goals for the future. Write this definition on the board. Circle the words “hopes or goals for the future,” and point out that unlike the dreams we have when we sleep, these kinds of dreams can be real.

2. Students identify their personal dreams.

Ask, “What are your dreams? Did you talk about your dreams in your interview, or do you have different dreams?”

Invite students to talk about things they would like to do or be in the future. Ask two volunteers to take turns writing the responses on the board.

Encourage every student to respond. Say, “It looks like there are as many dreams written here as there are people in this class. I guess everyone has dreams for the future.” Share with students one of your dreams for the future.

3. Students reflect on the importance of having dreams.

Point out to students that keeping their dreams in mind is a good way to feel inspired, especially when they’re faced with an obstacle. That’s why it’s important for them to know what their dreams are. Say, “If you make the effort to think about what you really want to do, you’ve taken the first step toward getting there. As you learn about new things and new options, your dreams may change. That’s okay. The most important thing is to keep envisioning them.”

Part III: Cloud Nine (10 minutes)

Purpose: Students draw pictures in order to visualize their dreams.

1. Students focus on their personal dreams.

Explain to students that there will be times when they will get so busy with school, family, and life that they will lose sight of their dreams. Tell them that making a note about their dreams on paper is a good way to remember them. Doing this can help their dreams seem achievable even when life, school, and family seem to be taking up all of their time.

As you hand out copies of the “Cloud Nine” activity sheet, ask the students to think of an image that will remind them of one of their dreams. Tell them to draw this image on the activity sheet. Explain that you have extra activity sheets if anyone wishes to draw more than one dream.

2. Students draw pictures of their dreams.

Allow five minutes for students to complete their drawings. Ask students to save their drawings and bring them to the next class. Explain that students will create folders in which they will store their work. Their dream pictures will be included in these folders.

Conclusion (2 minutes)

Ask students to name the dreams they have for the future. Have them describe the first time they envisioned these dreams. Ask students to identify some benefits of recognizing their dreams. Elicit from students the following key points that were taught in this lesson:

  • It’s important to think about what you want to do or be in the future.
  • Always keep your dreams in mind; they can help you to feel motivated and focused when things seem overwhelming.
  • You can make your dreams a reality if you are willing to work for them.

Student Assessment

  1. Why is it important to have dreams for the future?
  2. List your dreams for the future.
  3. List three things you can do this week that will bring you closer to accomplishing your dreams and goals.

Extensions for Lesson 4: Setting Expectations

Using Quotations

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Discuss the meaning of this quote. Have students identify their own “rock piles” and describe the “cathedrals” they hope to build (e.g., “I’m great with kids and I’d like to own my own day care one day”).

Addressing Multiple Learning Styles

Review ideas about what it takes to realize a dream. Have students come up with slogans that will encourage them to keep their dreams in mind. Have students use the slogans to make posters for the classroom or for their rooms at home.

Writing in Your Journal

Distribute copies of “The Maya Lin Story” activity sheet. Have students list some reasons why Maya Lin was able to realize her dream. List student responses on the board and discuss them as a class.

Using Technology

Assign students to search the internet, watch TV, or read periodicals in search of stories about people who’ve realized their dreams. Have them list the important facts about their news items. Have students take the role of news anchors, individually or in pairs, to share their news items with the class.


Have students interview family members or members of the community about a goal they had when they were younger. Students should find out if their interviewees accomplished their goals and if they experienced setbacks. Have students write about their interviews. Have students share what they learned in small groups.

Additional Resources

Distribute copies of Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Dust.” Explain that Hughes was an African American man whose poetry celebrated the experiences of African Americans. Choose a volunteer to read this seven-line poem aloud. Add voices until the whole class is reading together. Have students discuss what the poem means, particularly the lines about “splinters of hail” and “not for sale,” and how it makes them feel.

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