Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.
Teaching The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is often thought of as one of the great American novels and offers many insights into American society, history and culture. The novel deals with themes like the American dream, the superficiality of the upper classes, and gender equity and relations. If you are teaching this novel to your students, you can use it as a gateway to talking about what makes America unique, or you can use it to describe class consciousness. The novel also provides excellent examples of character development, and you can do important work around motivation and personality. Finally, Fitzgerald's unique writing style and poetic language might be something to focus on with your class. Whatever you hope to get out of the study, it can be helpful to work with a unit plan that organizes your instruction and timing. The unit plan outlined in this lesson aims to teach The Great Gatsby over the course of four weeks. Of course, you can modify this plan according to your own instructional goals as well as your students' needs.
The Great Gatsby Unit Plan
For the first few days of week one, consider doing some pre-reading activities with your students. This might include investigations into the Roaring Twenties or previews of some of the major vocabulary in the novel. You can also have students research Fitzgerald's life or write what they think the American dream is and what they associate it with when encountering that concept.
Midway through week one, introduce your students to the novel. Have them read the first three chapters. As they read, begin a class-wide character map. Use the map to keep track of the novel's major characters and the personality traits that stand out the most, as well as the way the characters are connected with one another.
During week two, have your students plan to read chapters 4 through 7. While some of these chapters can be read or at least completed as homework, it might be helpful to have students read some of them aloud in class. In these chapters, Fitzgerald really explicates his setting. Make sure your students are envisioning the setting and developing a sense of how the setting's details are intertwined with themes of socioeconomics and Americanism. You might consider having your students sketch or make models of some of the novels scenes.
Ask your students to revisit last week's writing on the American dream, and discuss this concept as it relates to the novel so far. Make sure that your students understand Gatsby's own dreams and the ways they both are and are not coming to fruition under Fitzgerald's rendering.
During week three, students will complete their reading of the novel. Make sure that they are understanding the plot and its closure by doing activities that help monitor their comprehension. In addition to having discussions about the plot, you might consider having students write summaries or draw comic strips representing the events in major scenes.
Once your students have finished reading the novel, make sure you give them a chance to discuss its ending. The end is both sad and poignant, and Fitzgerald leaves his readers with an extraordinarily poetic image. One option is to have your students write or draw in response to the closing quote; another is to have them consider other ways the novel might have ended.
Finally, during week four of your unit, you might consider letting your students view the 1974 film of The Great Gatsby in class, giving them a chance to compare and contrast the film and the novel itself. This is also a good week to give quizzes if that is part of your instructional strategy.
Week four of this unit is also a great time to have your students undertake interdisciplinary projects based on the novel. For instance, you might have them write letters to Fitzgerald from the point of view of his characters, or create presentations about different aspects of the 1920s. You might also encourage students to do projects around the theme of the American Dream, responding to this concept artistically or dramatically. Make sure that students are able to relate their projects back to the text.
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