Fitzgerald and The Modernists

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SWBAT analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact by recognizing the impact the Modernist Era had on the novel.

Big Idea

Modernism makes mockery of American Dream.


This lesson introduces students to the Modernist movement and the ex-patriot literary set of the 1920s.  This concept is essential to The Great Gatsby as the ideas of the American Dream and the materialism that accompanied it are a center stage in the novel. 

Additionally, to further engage students with this theme, they will be assigned a topic from the 1920s, and they will create either a Powerpoint or Prezi showcasing a famous historical happening from the era.  Students will present their presentations to the class in the form of an oral presentation.  The class will take notes on the presentations and a test will be given following the completion of all presentations.  About 4-5 presentations will be given each day for about a week, depending on class size.

Daily Language Practice

10 minutes

In this short section of the lesson, we do some grammatical review.  I call it the Daily Language Practice.  I put two sentences with grammatical mistakes on the projector or overhead.  The class writes the sentences on paper.  I then solicit the class to volunteer which errors they see.  This is a great activity to begin class.  It allows for a smooth segue to English class, and it offers a great review of grammar for the SATs.

SAT Question of the Day

10 minutes

To continue with SAT prep as I am encouraged by my department head, I consult with College Board to pull up the SAT Question of the Day.  I put the question on the overhead and as a whole-class discussion we look at clues within the questions to lead us to the correct answer.  We also discuss why the answer is correct.  Lastly, we look for strategies to help students find the correct answers.  The link below will lead to the question of the day.  It changes daily and it is sometimes math.  If the question is not ELA, I will go to a weekend date and search for an ELA question.






Assigning the 1920s Project

20 minutes

In this section, I want to reiterate the importance of the time period to the novel.  Therefore, I assign students a topic for the 1920s Project.  I have previously researched significant people and events from the era and that provides the impetus behind the topics that I chose.  I want to show highlights from popular culture, history, politics, and the economy of the time.  The project consists of students preparing either a PowerPoint of Prezi presentation on a historical event from the era.  Student will research the topic and decide which 10 facts are the most salient and provide the most comprehensive look of the 1920s.  They must choose facts that relate to the novel and students must provide evidence from the novel that links the data to specific event  that occur within The Great Gatsby.  They will also choose five visuals or other media.  Finally, students will provide an answer to the question, "Based on the information learned about your topic, why were the 1920s different from any other decade before it?"  They will also explain why the topic was important to the 1920s.  Students will also provide a bibliography of sources.

The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to the nuances of the 1920s and understand how a time period (The Jazz Age/Modernism) can influence a writer's purpose.  Periodically, while reading the novel, students will be asked to point out how an event is unique to the 1920s.

I may assign topics by writing one topic down on a piece of paper and placing all papers in a hat.  I ask students to pick a topic from the hat one at a time.  I may allow students one minute to trade with another student.  Depending on class size, some topics may be "free picks" if there are not enough topics.  Students with a "free pick" may choose any topic.

Presentations are held every day for about a week; depending on the size of the class, about 4-5 presentations may be shown per day.

See attached project outline and a list of topics.


Notes: Fitzgerald and the Modernists

25 minutes

I present a PowerPoint referencing the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his relationship to Modernism.  Students take notes in a two-sided notes format.  Students divide their notebook paper in half; on one side they title their paper "Main Idea" and on the other side they title their paper, "Details."  As I review the PowerPoint, students decipher main ideas and details.  For lower level classes, teacher may point out the main idea and students write down details.

Following the PowerPoint, I play the attached video of the life of Zelda Sayer, Fitzgerald's wife whom many believe is the inspiration for the Daisy character in the novel.  After watching the video, students will jot down what parallels they see between the two.  Students always mention the gold-digger nature of Zelda and how it compares to Daisy.