American Dreams and Money Nightmares: Themes in 'The Great Gatsby'

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SWBAT participate in a collaborative, teacher-led discussion on the themes of "The Great Gatsby" by drawing on their own reactions to questions addressing these themes.

Big Idea

Thinking about themes! Today, we are discussing pre-reading prompts in order to anticipate The American Dream, money, happiness, materialism, and nostalgia.

It's Middle Name Pride Day: Welcome & Introduction

8 minutes

I welcome the students to Breakfast Cereal and Middle Name Pride Day (which are two distinct holidays: National Cereal Day and Middle Name Pride Day, not one observation), and set the stage for our look at "The Great Gatsby" with the highlights of the day: we'll be addressing themes in the novel by reacting to the pre-reading questions the students completed yesterday. 

As with the Daily Holidays, Friday Favorite votes serve to build a sense of community and trust within the classroom, encouraging students to share their thoughts and participate in a wide range of discussions, build on others' ideas, express their own ideas clearly (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1). In addition, the practice developing and supply evidence for their claims--even in an informal situation--should translate to students' writing as we develop more critical and evaluative pieces this semester (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1b). 

While typically the "Friday Favorite" is a poll, I chose to hold an "open forum" discussion to more directly recognize students' own name pride.

Pre-Reading : Teacher-Led Discussion

40 minutes

In order to preview the central themes of "The Great Gatsby" that students will exploring throughout their reading of the text (RL.9-10.2), students have completed a pre-reading anticipation set, answering personal reaction questions that connect to these themes. By preparing these questions ahead of time, students will be able to draw on their thoughts and connections in today's conversation (SL.9-10.1a).

Each of the themes addressed on the pre-reading assignment--connecting to money and happiness, materialism, nostalgia, and The American Dream--are the primary these students will be addressing and exploring as they read the novel. These ideas are the most common ones associated with "The Great Gatsby," and shared across our curriculum. Additionally, I present these ideas as the most significant ideas in order to understand the character of Gatsby as well as the novel, creating a foundation for students to build on as they read, like Gatsby himself, knowing what they need, but still needing to search for it themselves.

Today, in class, we will discuss these in detail, as both students and I share our thoughts on each question, such as "Can money lead to happiness?", engaging and seeking clarification of each others' points (SL.9-10.1c).I'm choosing to hold a whole-class discussion because while students have worked in groups on open-ended and reaction style questions, the majority of our recent whole-class conversation is recall. By discussing in a large group, students are exposed to diverse perspectives, and have the opportunity to make new connections based on the reasoning of their peers (SL.9-10.1d).

In order to keep track of student homework completion and participation grades, I circulate the room while we discuss the ideas, using a seating chart to track student participation. I tell the students I will be doing this, in order to keep them focused and motivated on the topics we will be discussing.

If student conversation peters off, or if a few students are dominating conversation, I will call on students directly (pointing blindly at the seating chart is a personal favorite technique to call on students randomly). Additionally, if students are in need of a warm-up in order to process, share, and discuss their responses one-on-one, we will break for a Think-Pair-Share activity, turning to a peer and sharing their answer to one of the prompts. 

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders, Homework

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, I ask any students who may have moved around during today's conversation to return to their seats. I remind the class that for homework, they should have Chapters 1 and 2 of the novel read for our next class and complete the review guides for each chapter (Ch 1 Review GuideCh 2 Review Guide). As noted yesterday, these questions are content-based, to help students understand the plot and characters; we will build on these level one/knowledge and recall concepts as we discuss and draw meaning from the novel (RL.9-10.1).