Chapter 6: Gatsby's American Dream

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SWBAT analyze an author's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text by determining the purpose of the author's use of flashback at this point in the novel.

Big Idea

Flashing back to the truth.


The purpose of this lesson is to uncover some of the misconceptions that Gatsby has allowed to circulate about himself.  We see Fitzgerald make use of the flashback to clarify the reader's perceptions of our protagonist.  During the reading of the chapter, students should consult their Fact or Fiction worksheets and note how Gatsby, in describing his background, misled Nick.  Gatsby proves to be very misleading in allowing others to believe certain bits of information about him.  He doesn't correct the others in believing that he went to Oxford, killed a man, or is the nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm.  I often ask students to consider, "Is it lying when you let someone believe something about you and you don't correct them?"  This presents a very gray area to students as they ponder the definition of a lie.  Students at this age see things in very concrete, definite proportions.  It really gets them thinking as to whether Gatsby is a liar. 

Additionally, students will consider the structure of the chapter.  I ask them to think about the following questions: "Why did Fitzgerald include a flashback at this point in the novel?"  "What is the purpose of this flashback?"  In this lesson, I want students to see how Gatsby has misled everyone about his background.  I also want them to consider why he would do such a thing.  At this point in the novel, we will begin to see the truth or the fiction behind many of the rumors about Gatsby.  Essentially, the flashback is Fitzgerald's way of tipping off the reader that Gatsby isn't all he says he is.


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.

This activity is CCSS aligned as it demonstrates command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Gatsby Vocab Review Part II: Flashcards Presentations

15 minutes

Students will present their vocabulary flashcards.

Each student was assigned a vocabulary word from an assigned list (Gatsby Vocabulary Part II).  Students will look up their word in the dictionary and create a flashcard.  Teacher explains the difference between connotation (meaning associated with the word) and denotation (the exact meaning of the word.)  Students will create a flashcard with the following information:

  • One side: Visual representing the meaning of the word
  • Second side: 

                     Latin and Greek Roots

                     part of speech

                     Connotation: "What does word sound like?"

                     Denotation: exact meaning of word

                     Write the word in a sentence demonstrating proper usage.

Flashcards will be reviewed each day in a whole-class activities.  Students will be asked to recall information on flashcard.

1920s Presentations

20 minutes

Students present their 1920s Projects to the class.  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.  Specifically, students define how their topic from 1920s culture and politics defined the decade. 

Students explain how the information gathered in their research supports the notion that their topic was influential in defining the decade and how it supports the characteristics of Modernism. Periodically, while reading the novel, students will be asked to point out how an event is unique to the 1920s.

The types of projects that are produced for this project vary by student motivation.  The project that I have attached would be considered a good attempt at tying in historical context to The Great Gatsby.  I try to connect the project to some of the historical references in the book.  This project helps to clarify the character of Meyer Wolfsheim.  This project gives students a good sense of what life was like in the 1920s.  It is helpful to analyze Gatsby's motivations when we can see the economic and social climate of this period.  It was very materialistic and the pursuit of the American Dream was on most everyone's minds.


Chapter 6 Reading

30 minutes

To generate interest in the chapter, I show students a word splash on projector that contains significant terms and references from the chapter.  Either in a whole-class discussion or independently (as time allows), I ask students to predict what all the terms mean and how they think they will fit into the chapter.

As the class reads Chapter 6, I will have students consider why Fitzgerald decides to incorporate a flashback at this point in the novel.  I will ask the class, "What is the purpose of the flashback?"  "What does it tell us about the Gatsby character and his motivations?"

We will read the novel together in a whole-class read.  Students or I may choose a popsicle stick to identify the next reader.  Sometimes students love the power of choosing the popsicle stick.  It adds some drama to the reading.

Homework: Will the Real Gatsby Please Stand Up?

Students will decorate each paperdoll image with appropriate clothing that each character would presumably wear.  Students may draw clothing or use magazine clippings. 

Secondly, students will write three significant quotes from the novel that accurately describe each persona.  These quotes will be drawn around the images.