In our American Studies course, The Great Gatsby is used to complement a history unit on 1920s America.
When told I’d be teaching it again this year, I knew I was up for a challenge. Based on last-year’s data, I knew I’d need to readjust and refocus my instruction and assessment with different goals, as many kids fake-read the text last year.
Despite my feelings about The Great Gatsby being, well, great, my students don’t tend to agree.
Instead of teaching The Great Gatsby as a “whole novel,” I wanted to teach Gatsby as a story, incorporating audiobook, independent reading, film, and performance.
Throughout the process, students had exposure and practice to what they deem to be “really hard” prose. Students received a reading schedule, but I didn’t assign discussion points or quizzes.
I wanted to design a unit that would help them practice reading difficult text and give them an experience with the story, rather than a torture session.
I know that I can’t measure reading competency if students’ aren’t really reading a text. So instead of an assessment on the whole novel, our summative assessment was a less intimidating, genuine, but still challenging passage analysis.
I’ve pasted the unit plan below, and linked to resources throughout the plan.
I hope this helps you, friendly Googling educator!
UDL 1920s and modernist literature plan
Time frame: 4-5 weeks
Reading: Given a variety of texts, students will use reading strategies to identify purpose, theme, and literary techniques.
- Students will comprehend, analyze, and connect complex texts to American history and other texts read/studied in class.
- Students will recognize, identify, and support the use of symbolism and literary devices in text.
Students will choose from a variety of passages from The Great Gatsby. In written analysis, they will summarize, analyze, identify/support symbolism, literary devices, and discuss the significance of the passage to the story. (Click here for the assessment.)
Modernism background text
Selection of modernist poetry (students select a poem of their choice)
The Great Gatsby (text, audio, and film)
Students will be assigned a novel and a planning calendar.
Selection of short stories: “The Yellow Wallpaper,” “The Story of an Hour,” “A Rose for Emily”
- Students will read and annotate background information on Modernism in literature and poetry
- Students will read, analyze, and illustrate a modernist poem.
- Students will view the first few minutes of the two versions of The Great Gatsby, brainstorming ideas of what life was like in the 1920s.
- Students will listen to Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby, using a whiteboard and Expo marker to draw the story as they listen (35:12).
- Students will listen to Chapter 2 (24:49) of The Great Gatsby on audiobook, following along in the text. During or post-reading, students will compose a discussion point for whole-class discussion on the reading.
- Reminder/overview of symbolism: Discussion of THE GREEN LIGHT, THE EYES OF TJ ECKLEBERG and what they might represent.
- Students will watch “Chapter 3” in Luhrmann’s Gatsby film. During or post-viewing, students will write a discussion point to aid in whole-class discussion.
- Formative Assessment:
Students will read, analyze, and discuss a self-selected short story: “The Yellow Wallpaper,” “The Story of an Hour,” “A Rose for Emily,” identifying symbolism in the texts and making connections to The Great Gatsby.
- Assign “Reader’s Theatre” for Chapter 4, 5, and 6 to be performed the following week.
- Chapters 4, 5, and 6 performances.
- Students will watch “Chapter 7” in the 1974 Gatsby film. During or post-viewing, students will write a discussion point to aid in whole-class discussion.
- Formative Assessment:
Students will independently or collaboratively read chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby in class, creating three discussion points to share with the class.
- Teacher-led model of passage analysis.
- Formative Assessment:
Students will independently annotate, summarize, and analyze an assigned passage. (Click here for this assessment.)
- Students will listen to chapter 9 (27:00) of The Great Gatsby, following along in the text. During or post-reading, students will compose a discussion point to aid in class discussion.
- Discussion of the end of the novel
- Symbolism assignment due: short discussion on student responses
- Summative Assessment
While all students may not have read the novel in its entirety, they experienced the whole story through audio, independent reading, film, and performance.
They practiced strategies of reading and comprehending difficult text, analyzed symbols, and they gained a picture of 1920s American life. And because I’m not assessing them on the novel as a whole, and instead on just one passage, their analysis will be their own, not Google’s. (I hope so, anyway.)