If you’ve read my bio, you know that while I have always been a fan of reading, it wasn’t until high school that I found The Great Gatsby, a book that literally changed my life.
As a former teacher and someone deeply passionate about literature and education, I’ve always believed that great teaching resources can make all the difference in the classroom. That’s why I’m thrilled to share my personal article on “Great Gatsby Lesson Plans for Teachers.”
Crafting Engaging Lessons For This Novel Can Be Challenging
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel, “The Great Gatsby,” has been a staple in English classrooms for generations, captivating students with its timeless themes and vibrant characters. However, crafting engaging lesson plans around this literary classic can be a challenging endeavor, albeit a very rewarding one.
Let’s face it, most teens today have little understanding about society 100 years ago, let alone understand some of the figurative language that the author uses.
Whether you’re an experienced educator looking for fresh ideas or a new teacher embarking on your first Gatsby journey, this article and our Great Gatsby teacher’s guide aims to be your go-to resource.
Inside, we’ll explore a treasure trove of resources designed to help you bring this Jazz Age masterpiece to life in your classroom. From creative activities that encourage critical thinking to discussion prompts that spark lively debates, you’ll find a wealth of tools to keep your students engaged and inspired.
We’ll also delve into modern teaching techniques, incorporating technology and interactive approaches that resonate with today’s learners.
As a former educator, I bring a relevant and unique perspective to teachers like you, especially on keeping students interested on the subject. Over the years, I’ve guided individuals on dressing the part, playing the part, and understanding the nuances between the movie interpretations and the book, that’s why I’m confident that our lesson plans will make learning The Great Gatsby a bit more fun and engaging.
So, whether you’re aiming to revisit your lesson plans or embark on a new Gatsby adventure, I’m inviting you to join me on this journey to discover the best resources for teaching “The Great Gatsby” effectively and making literature come alive for your students. Let’s inspire the next generation of literary enthusiasts together!
What Is the Overall Point of Teaching The Great Gatsby?
With its difficult language and sometimes vague narrator, you may sometimes wonder why teachers bother with this book.
Whether you’ve been assigned this novel and you have no choice, or you find tremendous value in The Great Gatsby, I believe one of the main reasons for using it as teaching material is that it helps to foster critical thinking.
The overall point of using this novel extends far beyond merely introducing students to a classic work of American literature. At its core, this novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald serves as a powerful vehicle for exploring complex themes, dissecting societal values, and fostering critical thinking skills that transcend the boundaries of the text itself.
Examine the American Dream
First and foremost, “The Great Gatsby” provides a lens through which students can examine the American Dream. It prompts discussions on the pursuit of success, the nature of wealth, and the moral compromises individuals make in their quest for happiness.
By dissecting the lives and choices of characters like Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, students gain insight into the allure and ultimate emptiness of materialism and ambition.
Experience the Roaring Twenties
Furthermore, the novel offers a window into the Roaring Twenties, a tumultuous era of excess and social change. It invites students to analyze the societal norms, gender roles, and class distinctions of the time, fostering discussions on the enduring relevance of these issues in contemporary society.
The Great Gatsby made history come alive for me as a student, something I had never cared for previously. The beauty of it was that I saw the very same transformation in my former students, too! I just can’t wait to share these lesson plans and guides with you!
Engage in Critical Thinking
Teaching “The Great Gatsby” also cultivates critical thinking and literary analysis skills. Students are encouraged to interpret symbolism, dissect character motivations, and discern the author’s use of narrative techniques.
This deep engagement with the text hones their ability to think critically, analyze subtexts, and articulate their ideas effectively—skills that are invaluable both inside and outside the classroom.
At its core, the overarching purpose of teaching “The Great Gatsby” is to empower students to think critically about the world around them, question societal values, and recognize the complexities of human nature.
It’s about equipping them with the tools to navigate a complex and ever-changing society while fostering a lifelong love for literature and the profound insights it can offer. Ultimately, it’s about preparing students to be informed, thoughtful, and empathetic individuals in an increasingly complex world.
Main Learning Objectives I Like to Teach My Students about The Great Gatsby
The main learning objectives in teaching “The Great Gatsby” encompass a rich array of literary, historical, and critical thinking skills. Your Great Gatsby unit plan must cover:
First and foremost, students engage in close reading to dissect the novel’s intricate prose, exploring themes, motifs, and symbols.
As students read the novel, they learn to appreciate the beauty of Fitzgerald’s language and understand how it contributes to the story’s depth.
Students examine the multifaceted characters, such as Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Nick Carraway, delving into their motivations, complexities, and transformations throughout the narrative.
This cultivates empathy and a deeper understanding of human behavior. In-depth character analysis and group discussions will help make your students become more engaged in the subject.
Social and Historical Context
“The Great Gatsby” offers a lens into the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age, allowing students to grasp the cultural, social, and economic dynamics of the era.
Pre-reading activities can include a background on World War 1 and the Great Depression to help students analyze and understand the context of The Great Gatsby deeper. This historical context broadens their knowledge of American history.
Analysis of Themes
Students explore themes like the American Dream, wealth, social class, and moral decay, encouraging critical discussions about their relevance in contemporary society.
Through class discussions and literary analysis essay writing, students develop critical thinking skills by forming and defending their interpretations of the text.
They learn to evaluate evidence, articulate arguments, and support their claims with textual evidence.
The novel’s exploration of moral ambiguity and ethical dilemmas prompts students to reflect on their own values and ethics, fostering ethical awareness and thoughtful decision-making.
In summary, teaching “The Great Gatsby” goes beyond studying a classic work of literature. It equips students with skills to analyze complex texts, understand historical contexts, engage in critical thinking, and grapple with ethical questions.
These learning objectives are not only vital for literary appreciation but also for personal and intellectual growth, preparing students to navigate a world where critical thinking and empathy are invaluable.
Does the 2013 Movie Version Offer Any Valuable Teaching Materials?
For today’s youth, the only real reading many of them have done has strictly been reading assigned to them in the classroom.
All you need to do is look around when you’re at a bus stop or any social gathering. No one is toting a book, but everyone has a phone or tablet and is watching videos of some sort.
I’ve often wondered if watching the movie version, which has some modern music in it and less of flowery language, could be used as a teaching tool?
For example, I would suggest that teachers use the movie and go chapter by chapter. Ask students to read Chapter 1, for example. The next day, teachers show the movie and stop it at the end of Chapter 1 (before Tom takes Nick to New York).
This would leave students open to a range of thought-provoking questions. You can get students started with similar questions I have listed in the next section.
Some Questions I Ask My Students to Get Them More Engaged
- What are the differences between how the book opens and the movie opens?
- How are the movie and the book the same?
- How does the description of Jordan Baker in the book differ (or how is it the same) from the movie character? How is the romance between Nick and Jordan Baker portrayed in the 2013 movie?
- Fitzgerald’s novel is narrated by Nick Carraway, while the film uses a framing device with an older Nick recounting the story. How does this difference in narrative structure influence your engagement with the characters and their stories? What do you think are the director’s intentions behind this change?
- Are there any key themes or elements from Chapter 1 of the novel that you believe were altered or omitted in the film adaptation? How do these changes affect the overall message and impact of the story? Do you think these alterations were necessary for the medium of film?
I believe that by incorporating the film and comparing it side by side with the novel, students will still get the benefit of reading, but you can interest them more by showing them the movie that most teens today would be more willing to watch.
Let’s face it- the book sounds old-fashioned, and many teens will simply dismiss it or see it as a chore to get through. By adding film, I believe the students will have more interest in the novel.
What Are the Key Ideas in The Great Gatsby?
This literary masterpiece explores several key ideas, offering a profound commentary on American society during the Roaring Twenties and the human condition at large.
- The American Dream – At the heart of the novel is the American Dream—a belief in the possibility of achieving success, wealth, and happiness through hard work and determination. However, Fitzgerald critiques the distorted and elusive nature of this dream, highlighting how it often leads to moral compromise and disillusionment.
- Wealth and Materialism – The pursuit of wealth and the lavish, opulent lifestyles of characters like Jay Gatsby and Tom and Daisy Buchanan serve as a central theme. Fitzgerald underscores the emptiness and moral decay that can accompany the relentless pursuit of materialism, illustrating the moral bankruptcy lurking beneath the glittering facade and impeccable manners.
- Illusion vs Reality – The novel blurs the lines between illusion and reality. Gatsby’s self-created persona and the elaborate parties he hosts symbolize the way people construct illusions to hide their true selves and pasts. Even Jordan Baker, the professional golfer, is a cheat and not at all interested in sportsmanship. This theme underscores the idea that reality is often far more complex and less glamorous than the illusions people project.
- Social Class and Inequality – Fitzgerald explores the stark social stratification of 1920s America, exposing the vast disparities between the wealthy elite and the working class. He highlights how social class not only determines one’s lifestyle but also dictates the opportunities and freedoms one enjoys. This is still true today and would make for another excellent essay question or a topic for creative writing activities.
- Moral Decay and Corruption – The novel vividly portrays the moral decay of the characters and society at large. Lies, deceit, infidelity, and hedonism are prevalent, reflecting a world where traditional values have eroded.
- Obsession and Unrequited Love – Gatsby’s unwavering obsession with Daisy Buchanan illustrates the destructive power of unrequited love. His relentless pursuit of a romantic ideal becomes a tragic commentary on the human capacity for obsession and the inability to let go of the past. You can actually let students create posters (maybe even memes) around this theme.
These ideas continue to resonate with readers, regardless of age, offering timeless insights into the human condition and the ever-elusive pursuit of happiness.
What Are Some Objectives When Teaching The Great Gatsby?
I’ve created a list of 10 objectives when teaching this novel, and while yours may differ, I believe these are worthwhile.
- Literary Analysis: Foster students’ ability to analyze and interpret the novel’s literary elements, such as symbolism, imagery, and foreshadowing.
- Character Development: Encourage students to analyze figurative and connotative meanings of Fitzgerald’s language and explore the complex characters in the story, understanding their motivations, flaws, and transformations.
- Critical Thinking: Develop critical thinking skills by giving writing assignments that prompt students to evaluate character decisions, moral dilemmas, and thematic elements within the narrative.
- Historical Context: Provide historical context about the Roaring Twenties, helping students understand the societal norms, values, and events of the era.
- Comparative Analysis: Encourage students to compare and contrast the novel’s themes, characters, and settings with those of other works, fostering a deeper understanding of literature.
- Ethical Discussions: Engage students in ethical discussions by examining the moral dilemmas faced by the characters and encouraging them to reflect on their own ethical principles.
- Creative Expression: Promote creative expression through activities like character diaries, alternative endings, or modern adaptations, allowing students to reimagine the story. As another activity, you can ask students to rewrite Nick’s narrative of a scene from another character’s point of view.
- Literary Criticism: Introduce students to different critical perspectives on the novel, encouraging them to analyze the text through various lenses, such as feminist or Marxist criticism.
- Research Skills: Develop research skills by assigning projects that require students to investigate aspects of the 1920s, such as fashion, music, or societal changes.
- Presentation and Communication: Enhance presentation and communication skills through activities like group discussions, debates, or presentations on key themes and motifs in the novel.
I believe that these objectives can deepen students’ understanding of “The Great Gatsby” as a literary work and also equip them with critical thinking, research, and communication skills that can be applied across various aspects of their education and beyond.
What Life Lessons Can Be Gleaned from The Great Gatsby?
The Great Gatsby can impart several valuable life lessons that resonate beyond the novel’s pages. One of the most prominent lessons is the cautionary tale of the elusive nature of the American Dream.
Money Isn’t Everything
While ambition and hard work are important, the novel warns against pursuing material wealth at any cost. It underscores that true happiness cannot be found in the relentless pursuit of riches alone.
You will probably get many students to agree that “money isn’t everything,” but you’ll get them more engaged with an essay question (allow them to be anonymous if you want true answers).
You’ll encourage introspection with a question along the lines of, “If you could make tons of money the way Gatsby did (illegally), would you do it and why?”
A follow-up essay might be, “Where would you draw the line when it came to making money illegally?
Strive for Genuine Human Relationships
Furthermore, the book serves as a poignant reminder of the hollowness of shallow relationships and superficiality. The characters in the story often prioritize social status and appearances over genuine human connections, leading to tragic consequences.
While this theme might be a bit difficult for teens to grasp, there are plenty of modern-day stories that can help illustrate this, such as influencer Zhanna Samsonova. This encourages readers to reflect on the importance of authenticity and meaningful relationships in their own lives.
Don’t Be Obsessed with the Past
Another critical lesson is the danger of obsession and living in the past. Jay Gatsby’s fixation on an idealized version of the past prevents him from moving forward and finding contentment in the present.
Again, for teens, there is no past (yet), but one can impress on them that they should never try to recreate their high school lives as adults. This reminds us of the significance of letting go of the past and embracing the opportunities of the present.
I also think that teachers might add that hope is a noble, feel-good trait, but relying solely on hope is futile. Good outcomes in life take much more than mere hope.
Moral Lapses Has Consequences
Lastly, the novel highlights the moral consequences of deception, dishonesty, and unethical behavior. It underscores the importance of personal integrity and ethical decision-making, as the characters’ moral lapses ultimately lead to their downfall.
Again, there are many modern-day comparisons that you can use to illustrate this, including Elizabeth Holmes.
In essence, this novel serves as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of materialism, superficiality, obsession, and moral compromise. It encourages readers to reevaluate their own values, priorities, and relationships, offering valuable life lessons on the pursuit of happiness, authenticity, and ethical living.
Great Gatsby Teaching Resources
I know that teachers have access to a great many resources when it comes to this novel, but I would like to introduce you to my own set of videos and downloadable PDFs that might give you a new perspective.
Explore my meticulously crafted teaching guides for “The Great Gatsby,” designed to empower educators with valuable resources to enhance their students’ learning experience.
These video guides offer a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to teaching this iconic American novel, ensuring that both seasoned teachers and newcomers have the support they need to engage and inspire their students.
With a focus on literary analysis, character development, and critical thinking, these study guides provide a solid foundation for classroom discussions and activities.
Having transitioned from the roles of being a learner to an educator, I empathize with the challenges teachers face in balancing curriculum demands and student engagement. I created these resources as a means of helping teachers streamline lesson planning while maintaining a rich and immersive learning environment.
Whether you’re seeking creative activities, discussion prompts, or historical context, I want to offer my teaching guides as a reliable companion for unlocking the timeless themes and vibrant characters of “The Great Gatsby” in your classroom.
Questions for Essays and Discussions
I believe that good essays come from good discussions. This is where the movie can come into play. By playing scenes from the movie that correspond with the chapters in the novel, you can keep students engaged.
Some subjects that can trigger discussions include:
- The American Dream: How does the novel depict the concept of the American Dream? Is it attainable, or does it remain an elusive fantasy for the characters?
- Character Motivations: Analyze the motivations of Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Tom Buchanan. How do their desires and actions drive the plot, and what do they reveal about their inner selves? Do their actions match their words?
- Moral Ambiguity: Explore the moral dilemmas faced by various characters. What ethical choices do they make, and how do these choices impact their lives and the lives of others?
- Symbols and Imagery: Discuss the symbolism of key elements in the novel, such as the green light, the Valley of Ashes, or Gatsby’s mansion. How do these symbols contribute to the themes of the story?
- Narrative Perspective: Consider the narrative style, with Nick Carraway as the first-person narrator. How does Nick’s perspective shape the reader’s understanding of the events and characters? Is Nick a reliable narrator? Why or why not?
- Social Class and Status: Analyze the role of social class in the story. How do characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds interact, and what does this reveal about the society of the time? Has society progressed in the past 100 years? Give examples.
- Illusion vs Reality: Examine the theme of illusion and reality in the novel. How do characters create and maintain illusions about themselves and others, and what are the consequences of living in a world of illusion?
- Feminism and Gender Roles: Explore the portrayal of female characters, particularly Daisy and Jordan. How do they conform to or challenge the gender roles of the 1920s?
- Tragic Hero: Is Jay Gatsby a tragic hero? Why or why not? Discuss the characteristics that define him in this role.
- Relevance Today: Consider the novel’s themes in the context of modern society. How do the issues of wealth, materialism, and the pursuit of the American Dream resonate with contemporary readers?
These questions provide a starting point for in-depth analysis and lively discussions about “The Great Gatsby,” encouraging students and readers to delve into the complexities of the text and its enduring relevance.
Final Thoughts on Teaching Materials
I hope I gave you a new perspective on how to teach The Great Gatsby.
Using my meticulously crafted teaching guides and resources, I’m sure you will find new ways to engage with your students and better equip yourself to engage, inspire, and enlighten your students like never before.
Don’t miss this opportunity to simplify your lesson planning while enriching your classroom experience. Take the next step toward fostering a love for literature and critical thinking in your students.
Click the link to explore my teaching guides and embark on a journey that will transform the way you teach “The Great Gatsby.”
Your students deserve the best, and I’m here to help as an additional resource. Order now and make a lasting impact in your classroom today!
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.