How To Teach The Great Gatsby: Our Helpful Resources

Last Updated: December 13th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

I was in an advanced English course in high school designed for students who would be attending college when I first read The Great Gatsby.

Copy of my book - The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Copy of my book – The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

I clearly remember looking at the front cover and thinking “BOOORING”, but little did I know that this book would change my life forever.

As a person who is passionate about literature and the Jazz Age, I understand the challenges that come with teaching a classic like The Great Gatsby.

It’s a timeless novel that offers rich themes and complex characters, but bringing it to life in the classroom can be a daunting task.

Resources For Teaching The Great Gatsby

This is why I’m excited to introduce you to our comprehensive resources that will make teaching The Great Gatsby a breeze (or at least keep students from falling asleep in class).

Whether you’re a seasoned teacher looking for fresh ideas or a novice instructor seeking guidance, this toolkit is designed to empower you.

Great Gatsby Teacher Videos & Resources

In this article, I’ll walk you through how to use our resources effectively, ensuring that your students not only comprehend the text but also engage with its deeper layers of meaning.

From lesson plans and discussion prompts to character analyses and multimedia aids, these materials are curated to make your teaching journey both enjoyable and impactful.

Are you ready? Let’s embark on this literary adventure together and inspire a new generation to appreciate the brilliance of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece!

What Is the Main Lesson of The Great Gatsby?

Others may disagree, but in my opinion, one of the main lessons in The Great Gatsby revolves around the elusive nature of the American Dream and the corrosive effects of unbridled ambition and materialism.

The Great Gatsby American Dream, Gatsby dancing with Daisy

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, set in the Roaring Twenties, tells the story of Jay Gatsby’s relentless pursuit of wealth and social status in his quest to win back his lost love, Daisy Buchanan.

Through Gatsby’s extravagant parties, lavish lifestyle, and unrequited love for Daisy, the novel highlights the hollowness of the American Dream when it is equated solely with material success.

How The Great Gatsby Teaching Resources Help

The teaching guide goes over these points in more detail, and you can even download PDFs of the guides for reading later on.

Ultimately, The Great Gatsby teaches us that the pursuit of wealth and status, while often alluring, can lead to moral decay and the corruption of human values.

You can get students to relate by making connections between current popular celebrity figures, such as Kim Kardashian or Jay Z.

The characters in the novel are consumed by their desires, leading to tragic consequences. It serves as a cautionary tale, urging us to reflect on the true essence of happiness and success, reminding us that they cannot be measured solely by the accumulation of wealth but by the quality of our relationships and the integrity of our actions.

How Do You Make Reading The Great Gatsby More Fun?

As I mentioned earlier- I remember thinking that my reading assignment from high school, The Great Gatsby, was going to be the most boring thing ever.

Kerry Wisby (me) Holding My Own Copy of The Great Gatsby Novel
The Great Gatsby Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Now I certainly don’t expect everyone to react to the book the way I did, because let’s face it, for most students who aren’t into reading, this book has a lot of confusing language, despite being only 100 years old.

I talk in another article about how I believe using the 2013 movie version, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, can help keep students more engaged.

I used to introduce the novel to my students using the film adaptations, and I noticed that they would relate much better to the movie than the novel, so why not mix the two?

You can have your students read Chapter 1, then show the first part of the movie in class. Question and answer time will show who read the chapter and who didn’t.

Another idea is to involve students in some pre-reading exercises. By reading about fashion changes from 1910 to 1920 and perhaps even assigning everyone a small task such as making their own art nouveau icon or avatar for their new flapper name, they can get into the 1920s mindset.

My High School Great Gatsby Play

I was lucky that my teacher allowed me and my friends to make a small, brief play from one section of the novel. If you split the group into 9 parts, each group can work on one chapter and do a play, having students recreate that chapter. This guarantees that your students will have read at least one chapter!

Play some music from the era and teach the kids some dance moves, such as the shimmy and the Charleston. If you are watching the movie in class, pass out Bingo cards and I guarantee that students will be paying attention so they can win a Bingo Prize (the prize can be something as inexpensive as a pencil or more theme-oriented, such as an inexpensive faux pearl necklace or pocket watch)

Fitzgerald drew many of the people and their experiences right out of his own life. A pre-study read of Fitzgerald’s tumultuous life may also inspire some students to become more interested in the novel.

There are so many creative ways to get students interested in this classic novel from the 1920s. I hope you find some of my ideas helpful to your students.

What Grade Should You Teach The Great Gatsby?

Teaching The Great Gatsby in my class room (this is my teaching assistant Mrs Clarke)

I’m certain that some school districts have made that determination for teachers, but if you are allowed some freedom in this area or you are homeschooling, consider the following:

The decision of what grade to teach “The Great Gatsby” largely depends on the maturity and reading comprehension levels of the students. Typically, this novel is best suited for high school students, often taught in 11th or 12th-grade English classes.

Just as a reference point, I was teaching 11th grade students when I introduced the novel to them.

This is because any Great Gatsby lesson deals with complex themes such as the American Dream, wealth, social class, and moral decay, which may require a level of life experience and critical thinking skills that older high school students possess. Texts contain figurative and connotative meanings that require some level of maturity and reading abilities to be deeply appreciated by readers.

Additionally, the novel has two or more themes with intricate narrative structure and nuanced character development that may be better appreciated by students who have already developed strong reading and analytical skills.

Why It Is Suited For Higher-level Students

Higher-level students know more about using relevant and sufficient evidence to support their analyses and reflections on the novel. However, some advanced or honors-level 10th-grade classes may also successfully explore this text.

We should also remember that this novel does contain adult subjects, such as heavy drinking, law-breaking, adultery, murder, and suicide. Students should be old enough to understand these subjects and not be upset by them.

Ultimately, the decision should consider the curriculum, the student’s readiness, and the educational objectives of the course. The goal is to provide a meaningful and engaging literary experience while ensuring that the content is age-appropriate and accessible for the chosen grade level.

What Are the Essential Questions for Teaching The Great Gatsby?

Essential Questions for Teaching The Great Gatsby

You can make teaching F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby a thought-provoking experience by incorporating essential questions that encourage critical thinking and deep exploration of the novel’s themes. Here are several questions to consider when teaching this classic:

1. What is the American Dream, and how does it manifest in the lives of the characters in the novel? How has the concept of the American Dream evolved over time?

2. How does social class impact the characters in the story, and what commentary does the novel offer about class mobility and inequality in the 1920s? Are these issues still relevant today?

3. What is the significance of Jay Gatsby’s love for Daisy Buchanan, and how does it drive the plot of the novel? What does it reveal about the nature of love and obsession?

4. How does the setting of the novel, the opulent Jazz Age, contribute to the story’s themes and character development? How does it reflect the cultural and societal values of the time?

5. What role does symbolism play in “The Great Gatsby”? Analyze symbols such as the green light, the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, and Gatsby’s mansion to uncover deeper meanings in the narrative.

6. What moral and ethical dilemmas do the characters face throughout the story, and how do their decisions shape their fates? Explore the consequences of their actions and the moral ambiguity of the characters.

7. How does Nick Carraway’s role as the narrator affect our understanding of the story? What biases or limitations might he have as a narrator, and how do they influence our interpretation of events?

8. Consider the theme of disillusionment in the novel. How do the characters grapple with shattered illusions, and what commentary does this provide on the pursuit of dreams and happiness?

9. In what ways does the concept of identity and self-perception play a role in the characters’ lives? How do they construct and reinvent their identities, and what consequences does this have for them and others?

10. Explore the concept of isolation and loneliness in the novel. How do the characters experience isolation, and how does it contribute to their individual narratives? What commentary does the novel offer on the human need for connection and belonging?

These essential questions can serve as starting points for meaningful discussions, essays, and activities that will not only challenge students but also encourage them to delve deeply into the text, fostering critical thinking and a deeper appreciation for the enduring themes in this novel.

You may also let students create questions themselves to encourage them to explore the various themes more deeply.

What Do Students Need to Know Before Reading The Great Gatsby?

Student Reading the Great Gatsby

One of my issues as a student when I was given the novel was that the book was simply dumped on my desk, and we were told to read a certain number of chapters that week for discussions later on.

I was not prepared for Fitzgerald’s complex language, it took me a while to even realize what year he was talking about, and I really had to work at some of the figurative language. Don’t forget that I was (am) an avid reader, so this novel was probably easier for me than other students!

A bit of pre-reading or background knowledge would have been super helpful. I knew nothing about WWI other than I realized that it must have occurred before WWII. I had never heard the term The Jazz Age although I did know about Prohibition.

When I am teaching The Great Gatsby, before diving into the novel,  I try to give my students some foundational knowledge on the 1920s to enhance their understanding. First and foremost, they should be familiar with the historical context of the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, and the aftermath of World War I.

Men and women partying in an art deco bar

You can blame my history teachers or the school board, but in my time, I learned about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and WWII. The First World War was completely left out, and this type of background would have provided insights into the societal norms, values, and extravagant lifestyle depicted in the book.

I try to get my students to understand the basics of the American Dream concept, as it’s a central theme in the story. I find discussing the pursuit of happiness, success, and wealth in the context of the American Dream can also help students grasp the characters’ motivations and conflicts.

Furthermore, some insight into the author’s life and experiences, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s own relationship with wealth and society, can shed light on the novel’s themes and characters.

the themes of The Great Gatsby Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Speaking as both a former student and a teacher, I believe that it helps students to be familiar with literary devices such as symbolism and foreshadowing, as these are integral to understanding the narrative’s depth.

In sum, providing students with historical, cultural, and literary context can significantly enrich their reading experience of The Great Gatsby and help them appreciate the novel’s themes and nuances more fully.

Why Teach The Great Gatsby?

Teaching The Great Gatsby is a vital endeavor because it offers students a unique opportunity to explore timeless themes that resonate across generations.

A teacher with his students discussing The Great Gatsby

This classic novel provides a lens through which we can examine critical aspects of American society, such as the pursuit of the American Dream, wealth and materialism, social class, and moral decay.

By engaging with these themes, students can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of human nature and the consequences of unchecked ambition and obsession. All these are central ideas that are still relevant today.

Furthermore, The Great Gatsby introduces students to the power of literature in evoking empathy and encouraging reflection.

Through the flawed yet compelling and different characters like Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker, and Nick Carraway, students can analyze the complexities of human relationships, moral dilemmas, and the illusions people construct for themselves using textual evidence from the novel.

The Great Gatsby Major Themes

Teaching The Great Gatsby encourages critical thinking, fosters discussions about societal values, and hones students’ analytical skills. These are tools that students will use far beyond the typical Great Gatsby party.

It also provides a platform for exploring the complex account and historical context of the 1920s and its relevance to contemporary issues.

In essence, while many English Teachers have included this classic for its literary elements, teaching The Great Gatsby is far more than simply imparting literary knowledge. It’s about nurturing well-rounded individuals who can navigate the complexities of the world with insight and empathy.

Before You Go

I hope you found my personal experiences and recommendations helpful to your lesson plans.

You can unlock the full potential of teaching The Great Gatsby with my comprehensive teacher’s resource set! My meticulously crafted package includes a treasure trove of resources designed to make your teaching experience not just easier but also truly transformative.

Great Gatsby Videos for teachers by chapter

With professionally produced videos, you can bring the world of Jay Gatsby and 1920s America to life in your classroom, engaging students in a dynamic visual exploration of the novel’s themes and characters.

The downloadable PDF guides provide step-by-step lesson plans, discussion questions, and in-depth analyses, saving you valuable prep time and ensuring every class is a captivating literary journey.

Don’t miss this opportunity to enrich your students’ understanding of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece and ignite their passion for literature. Elevate your Great Gatsby unit plan with these invaluable resources, and watch your students flourish as they delve deep into the captivating world of The Great Gatsby.

Ready to transform your classroom? Click ‘Get Started’ now and embark on a literary adventure that will leave a lasting impact on your students.

How To Teach the Great Gatsby: Our Helpful Resources
How To Teach the Great Gatsby: Our Helpful Resources
Unlock the secrets of teaching The Great Gatsby with our invaluable resources. Elevate your classroom experience today using my personal resources from my lessons.
Gatsby Flapper Girl