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Unit Plan Teaching The Great Gatsby and The American Dream

Updated on August 2, 2012

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a must read for every high school student. It's one of my favorite novels to teach, perhaps because of its amazing historical context. As is not uncommon, I love to teach The Great Gatsby as an exploration of the American dream. Does it really exist or is this "dream" set as aside for only the chosen few?

Lesson Plans for Week 1

Monday: Introduction to the Unit

Objective: Students will be able to define the American dream and define its cultural effect.

Task: Students will write a paragraph explaining what they think believe the American dream to be and how they've arrived at this definition. In small groups students will share their paragraphs, followed by a whole group discussion. The class should arrive at a working definition of the American dream.

Tuesday: Benjamin Franklin

Objective: Students will be able to identify themes in a non-ficition text.

Task: Students will read multiple selections of Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography and note elements of the American dream present throughout. 

Wednesday: Carnegie/1920s

Objective: Given a text, students will be able to expand prior knowledge and identify historical contexts.

Task: Students will read selections of Carnegie's The Gospel of Wealth to expand their knowledge of the American dream. As a whole group, we will note historical references specific to the 1920s. 

Thursday: Farrell

Objective: Given a text, students will be able to apply knowledge of the 1920s in order to take an argumentative stance.

Task: Students will read Farrell's "A Jazz Age Clerk." Students will then divide themselves into two groups based on whether or not they believe the narrator had the ability to "rise." Students will debate the issue, using the text as evidence. 

Friday: Background to The Great Gatsby

Objective: Given F.S. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, students will be able to identify the novel as representing America in the 1920s.

Task: The first half of class will be spent researching in the library. Students will break into small groups. Each group will be assigned some aspect of culture during the 1920s (the economy, fashion, women's rights etc.). Using the reliable internet or print sources, each group will research their assigned topic in order to report back their findings to the rest of the class.

Lesson Plans for Week 2

Monday: Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby (read as homework)

Objective: Students will be able to identify themes in a text

Task: Whole class discuss that will center on point of view and the characterization of the characters introduced thus far. Will be sure to also discuss emerging symbols (ie green light at the end of Daisy' dock, East v West) as they relate to the American Dream.

Tuesday: Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby (read as homework)

Objective: Students will be able to draft an essay under timed conditions

Task: Will briefly discuss the contents of the chapter. Students will then be presented with Sandburg's poem "Chicago" and asked spend 45 minutes writing a compare/contrast essay between the poem and chapter 2. 

Wednesday: Half-way through Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby (read as homework)

Objective:Students will be able to use textual evidence to support a position

Task: Literature circles. In small groups, students will respond to questions both via discussion and in writing. They will be required to cite the text to support their assertions. 

Thursday: Finish Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby (read as homework)

Objective: Students will be able to unite prior research findings and the text of The Great Gatsby.

Task: Whole class discussion. We will discuss Gatsby's party and the members in attendance as it relates back to our findings on the 1920 era. Is this scene consistent with our research findings? We will also listen to jazz music by Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. 

Friday: Chapter 4 of The Great Gatsby (read as homework)

Objective: Given a text, students will be able to identify character traits.

Task: Students will work in pairs and each pair will be assigned a character from Fitzgerald's novel. They will go back through the reading thus far and isolate key words that describe the character, both directly and indirectly. These words will be written on a large sheet of paper and then presented to the class.

Lesson Plans for Week 3

Monday: Chapter 5 (read as homework)

Objective: Given a text, students will be able to generate discussion questions.

Task: Students will look back over the reading thus far and create two open-ended discussion questions. Students will then get into pairs, share their questions and arrive at the best single question (revising as needed). As a whole group, we will then discuss each of these questions. 

Tuesday: Chapter 6 (read as homework)

Objective: Students will be able to unite themes among multiple texts.

Task: We will discuss Gatsby's "rise" from humble roots and relate back to Carnegie and Franklin, read earlier in the unit. We will note the source of Gatsby's wealth (bootlegging and junk bonds) and question why this is skimmed over by Nick. A final question: why is Gatsby so revered by readers? 

Wednesday: First third of Chapter 7 (read as homework)

Objective:Students will be able to draft an essay under timed conditions

Task: Will briefly discuss the contents of the chapter. Will then present Masters' poem "Lucinda Matlock" and ask students to spend 45 minutes drafting a compare and/or contrast essay between it and last nights reading selection (Daisy as a cheating wife and neglectful mother.)

Thursday: Second third of Chapter 7 (read as homework)

Objective: Students will be able to use textual evidence to support answers

Task: Students will be broken into small groups and given novel related questions. Each group must support their answers from quotes (properly cited) from The Great Gatsby. As a whole group, we will discuss their answers. 

Friday: The conclusion of Chaper 7 (read as homework)

Objective: Students will be able to identify differences between multiple versions of the novel

Task: Show select scenes of the 1974 film version and ask students to keep a viewing log in which they keep track of differences and similiarities between the film and the novel. They should also note their overall impression of the film.

Lesson Plans for Week 4

Monday: Chapter 8 (read as homework)

Objective: Students will be able to explore the text by considering their own judgments and the author's intent.

Task: Students will participate in an "opinion survey." Students will be asked to judge the behavior of the main characters in the text with simple agree/disagree questions. They will then write a paragraph explaining whether they believe their judgments reflect Fitzgerald's own views. They must use the text as evidence. 

Tuesday: The conclusion of The Great Gatsby (read as homework)

Objective: Students will be able to identify themes in a text

Task: Whole class discussion that will center on what statements are being made with regard to the American dream in this last chapter. We will conduct a close reading at the final paragraphs in order to further investigate this theme. We will look back at some symbols we noted early in the text: the green light, east v west etc and make sense of how these have contributed to theme. 

Wednesday: Socratic Seminar/Review

Objective:Students will use textual evidence to support their position

Task: Using a Socratic Seminar set-up, students will be asked questions and will be required to use textual evidence from The Great Gatsby to defend their response. 

Thursday: Game/Review day 2

Objective: Students will be able to recall specifics from multiple texts

Task: The class will be divided into two and we will play a "quote game" in which these two teams face-off. I will read a quote from one of the many works read during the unit; the goal is for the team to quickly identify the quote by title, author, speaker and context. The team with the most correct responses wins. 

Friday: Final Assessment

Objective: Students will be able to recall specifics from multiple works and unite themes among multiple texts.

Task: Part I of the exam is a quote identification. Student must identify the quotes given by title, author, speaker, and context.

Part II of the exam is an essay. Using textual evidence from The Great Gatsby and at least one other work, students should argue whether or not the American dream truly exists.

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    • nikkiraeink profile image

      nikkiraeink 4 years ago from So. Cal.

      I love this! Excellent!

    • Elise-Loyacano profile image

      Elise-Loyacano 4 years ago from San Juan, Puerto Rico

      I love how these plans involve different literary works. It helps create connections between ideas. Plus, if a student doesn't like one of the readings (say, The Great Gatsby), he'll get a reprieve from it for a while. When he goes back to Gatsby, it will be colored by the reading he does like, and he might learn to like it more. Thanks for posting.

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