Comparative Literature I: Close Reading Chapter 1 in Detail

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SWBAT analyze a key scene in "The Great Gatsby" though close reading and preparing for comparing that scene to its portrayal in film.

Big Idea

Annotation and Analysis: Today, we dig deep into a single selection from Chapter 1 of "The Great Gatsby."

Introduction & Welcome: It's Girl Scout Day

3 minutes

I welcome students to "Girl Scout Day," asking if any of them were or Scouts, either Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts; two organizations that--any controversy aside--do a lot of good for young women and young men.

I foreshadow this week's "Friday Favorite," in honor of Girl Scout Cookie sales recently wrapping up, and in honor of March Madness, we will be voting on our own "Favorite Girl Scout Cookie" bracket, giving students a chance to  qualify or justify their own views (SL.9-10.1d).

As always, the Daily Holiday serves to draw students in, building student ownership and a sense of community in the class.

Character Casting Choices: A Carryover

15 minutes

Today, we continue yesterday's look at characterization and casting, giving students a deeper look at analyze how Fitzgerald's complex characters are introduced, how their motivations are established, and how they interact with other characters (RL.9-10.3). I call on students to students share their casting choices and justify their actors, responding to each other's perspectives and justifying their own choices, as well as making new connections to another student's response (SL.9-10.1d).

I take the time today to discuss this activity in order encourage students to share in class; many of the students are proud of their choices, and today's conversation provides me with an opportunity to recognize their ideas. In addition, it provides the opportunity for all students to grow in cultural literacy, as they listen and respond to each other's ideas. 

Close Reading: Annotating and Constructing Meaning

30 minutes

Students are asked to turn to Chapter 1 to annotate, and we return to the three steps to close reading they have used before. Students are asked to look closely at Chapter 1, from when Nick arrives at the Buchannans' home on East Egg ("The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon") to the description of Daisy's voice ("a singing compulsion, a whispered 'Listen,' a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour"). 

Students have been building to an understanding of overall textual evidence in order to comprehend the novel, but with this lesson, we are closely examining one passage. Students are close reading this chapter of "The Great Gatsby" in order to practice the process that goes in to writing an essay.  Writing usually begins with the close reading of a text. By observing facts and details about the text, students aim to notice striking features of the text and practice interpreting their observations. Students are developing inductive reasoning: moving from the observation of particular facts and details to a conclusion, or interpretation, based on those observations. As with inductive reasoning, close reading requires careful gathering of data (your observations) and careful thinking about what these data add up to (adapted from "How To Do a Close Reading," Harvard University).

This selection is used because it demonstrates Fitzgerald's descriptive style, which students will be analyzing as our study of the novel unfolds. This passage provides detailed description of the Buchannan home; and vividly characterizes Daisy, Jordan, and Tom. At the same time, it is a self-contained look at the world of Tom and Daisy, and can be contrasted with Nick's "weather-beaten cardboard bungalow" and Gatsby's "factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy." 

As students read this selection, they are asked to annotate what they notice: What is striking? What patterns do they notice? How and why do events in the story happen?

I especially direct students to analyze the language Fitzgerald uses to describe the setting, color symbolism, simile, and metaphor, and citing strong and thorough evidence (RL.9-10.1) to analyse the impact those descriptions have on the text (RL.9-10.4), as well as how the character portrayal is similar to or different from what we addressed in the casting activity (see the lesson, "'I’m Inclined To Reserve All Judgments': Understanding Characterization") (RL.9-10.3).

Students are given ten minutes to practice close reading and annotating independently, and then, as a class, I model annotating as we discuss what they noticed. An example of our collaborative annotation model can be seen in today's lesson image. As mentioned above, I emphasize students' notes on setting, color symbolism, figurative language, and characterization; I direct students back to these concepts if they get too far afield. Students propel this conversation by posing and responding to how the specific scenes relate to broader themes or larger ideas about "The Great Gatsby" (SL.9-10.1c), by responding thoughtfully to each others' perspectives, justifying their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented (SL.9-10.1d). 

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap Up and Reminders, Homework

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, with two minutes remaining, students are reminded that the reading and review guides for Chapter 3 and Chapter 4, are due tomorrow, when we will review the questions. By reading interdependently, students are challenged to come to their own conclusions about the novel, which we will address in class. These review guides ask students to cite thorough textual evidence in order to support their analysis of the novel (RL.9-10.1).