"Rich Girls Don't Marry Poor Boys": The Connection Between Author and Text

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SWBAT analyze F. Scott Fitzgerald's life and writing style as portrayed in film and print, determining which details are emphasized in each account though critical viewing and close reading practice.

Big Idea

The events of the life and characteristics of the style of F. Scott Fitzgerald are linked in his writing; today students are introduced to both.

Introduction & Welcome: It's Namesake Day!

3 minutes

Today is both Namesake Day (and the start of "Celebrate Your Name Week), and National Frozen Food Day, and I welcome students to class identifying that it is also the start of our look at F. Scott Fitzgerald and "The Great Gatsby." To draw a connection between this week's naming holidays and Fitzgerald, I point out that they will discover why Fitzgerald shares a name with the composer of the National Anthem. 

As always, the Daily Holiday serves to draw students in, building student ownership and a sense of community in the class, and draw connections between the "real world" and our classroom. 

An Introduction to "The Great Gatsby": Reasons and Objectives

Often considered one of the "Great American Novels," F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity due to the 2013 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. Many students are familiar with the work, at least the basic premise of the story, and in this unit we explore the novel's enduring popularity by analyzing key ideas that make the story both memorable and powerful:

The style of the author and connection between author and text (RL.9-10.5)

The use of color and other symbols (RL.9-10.2)

Characterization and character relationships (RL.9-10.3)

The enduring legacy of "The Great Gatsby" on screen through Critical Viewing (RL.9-10-7)

In The Style Of...: A Look at the Writing Style of F. Scott Fitzgerald

15 minutes

Students are asked to read the "Gatsby Style Activity"* they were given as they entered the room. They are directed to identify the situation being described, and to annotate the clues that reveal how the situation emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details in the text (RL.9-10.2). Ultimately, this is a highly descriptive passage describing a pass to the dean's office, and as a class, we annotate a projection of the piece together, looking for those clues.

We begin with a familiar situation, rather than the novel itself, in order to build students' confidence when tackling Fitzgerald's writing. Addressing a scenario with which many, but not all, students are familiar both creates reliability in the reader and/or challenges them to empathize with the text.  By building a foundation related to their own experience, students prepare to tackle the highly descriptive style of the author, the way he structures the text, orders events within it, and manipulates time via flashback and secondary narrators in order to create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise in the reader (RL.9-10.5). We will be looking deeply into Fitzgerald's style as we read the text closely and compare it to visual, film portrayals. Additionally, students will be asked to identify and decipher Fitzgerald's style on the unit test. Students will be called upon to annotate the novel as we read, and on their unit test, and this activity continues developing their skills by modeling annotation/close reading.    

*Fitzgerald style activity written by Geneva High School English Department, Geneva, IL. Please give credit when using. 

The Life and Times of...: A "Biography" Look at F. Scott Fitzgerald

30 minutes

As a class, we read the biographical sketch of F. Scott Fitzgerald published in their textbook (A&E Biography has a detailed version that can be adapted to meet classroom needs).Our look consists of Fitzgerald's early life, education, career, and romance with Zelda, leading up to the publication of "The Great Gatsby." As students read, they are asked to analyze the development of the details of Fitzgerald's life, and how money and love motivate and affect his actions and his writing (RI.9-10.3). As a class, we discuss this motivation, and through questioning and answers, I ensure students have a basic understanding of what the text says on those four biographical items listed above, and that they can draw inferences regarding love and money (RI.9-10.1).

To supplement this reading, and to introduce the critical viewing that will run though our look at "The Great Gatsby," students are asked to view and compare details as told in the A&E Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Two clips from the video are viewable on the Biography.com webpage, and the entire video is available in parts on YouTube.) While viewing, students are asked to again focus on the author's early life, education, career and romance, and to track the portrayal of love and money motivating Fitzgerald (RI.9-10.7). In our brief debrief discussion following the film, I especially ask for students' reactions to:

1. Fitzgerald's "first love," Ginevra King--who is not mentioned in the biographical reading

2. the line, ""Poor boys shouldn't think of marrying rich girls," echoed in the 1974 film of "The Great Gatsby," (as "Rich girls don't marry poor boys), highlighting the character Daisy Buchannan's views of Jay Gatsby.

3.The style of Fitzgerald's writing, as described in the information on "This Side of Paradise"

This discussion integrates information presented in diverse media formats (video, textual), and asks students to begin evaluating the reasons for information being addressed in each (SL.9-10.2).

By looking at two differing (one cursory, one detailed) looks at Fitzgerald's life, students are beginning to "see" how different adaptations portray the same idea. This concept will drive our look at the novel, as we compare and contrast the text with three film versions of the story. By reviewing in class, I can guide the students to the critical thinking they will need to do in our study of the novel. 

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

2 minutes

To wrap up class, students are asked to begin reading chapters 1 and 2 of "The Great Gatsby" (they have four days, including a weekend, to complete these readings), and use the study guides for each chapter to guide their reading: Ch 1 Review GuideCh 2 Review Guide. These questions are content-based, to help students find strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of the plot and characters; (RL.9-10.1) we will build on these level one/knowledge and recall concepts as we discuss and draw meaning from the novel. 

For tomorrow, students are asked to complete the Gatsby Pre-Reading/Anticipation Set questions that we will discuss in class, giving them and introduction and opportunity to react to the themes we will be studying in the novel.