Critical Viewing II:Seeing Past The Gray of The Valley of Ashes

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SWBAT cite strong and thorough evidence from text and film in order to support analysis of setting and symbolism through both independent reading and critical viewing.

Big Idea

Depression, loss, misery, poverty: the Valley of Ashes is shaded by the symbolism of the color gray. Today, we reflect on the portrayal of the "gray."

Introduction & Welcome: It's Alien Abduction Day!

3 minutes

We open class with a welcome to Alien Abduction Day, quickly asking the students if they have ever been abducted by aliens. Assuming no, I introduce today's focus: continuing our look at "The Great Gatsby" (2000), since we ran out of time yesterday, and a review of Chapters 6 and 7 of the novel. 

As with all Daily Holidays, my objective is to build a sense of community and trust in the classroom as they students share their ideas and react to each other

Critical Viewing: "The Great Gatsby" 2000

20 minutes

Continuing our look into the portrayal and interpretation of The Valley of Ashes, students view selections from the 2000 film version of "The Great Gatsby", specifically, the scene paralleling the opening of Chapter II and "The Valley of Ashes."

Students are asked to review their "Critical Viewing Worksheet" notes from yesterday (see the lesson, "Comparative Filmography: Close Reading & Closer Viewing of the Valley of Ashes"), on which they're asked to write their thoughts and reactions as they view the film. Students are taking notes to analyze the representation of the scene in different artistic media: text and three different film portrayals, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (RL.9-10.7).

I present today's clip to the students, sharing as much as was covered in the reading: the setting of the Valley of Ashes, The Eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg, Wilson's Garage, and George and Myrtle Wilson. I provide students a few minutes to organize their thoughts, before they are asked to explain and justify what they noticed, and why some things may be emphasized over others. As with yesterday, I am drawing attention to and directing students to the visual details given of the Valley of Ashes, the symbolism of the Eyes, and the representation of George and Myrtle Wilson. I focus our in-class discussion on how these ideas "fit" with or contrast the overall "gray," miserbale portrayal of the Valley. The discussion of the students' notes and their reactions continues to provide students a deeper understanding of F. Scott Fitzgerald's decisions in what is explicitly said in the text, what is implied (RL.9-10.1) and how the characters are representative of the setting and themes of the novel (RL.9-10.3). 

When conceptualizing this year's look at "The Great Gatsby," I decided very early on that I would be addressing critical viewing, for two reasons. For one, there are three much-loved and much-reviled film versions of the story, each bringing its own pluses and minuses to the table. For two, it addresses visual literacy, a skill that students are expected to have in the workplace and even in the classroom, but rarely are formally trained. The critical thinking skills needed to analyze film overlap with those needed to analyze literature--Standard 7 proves the value of these skills.

A Note: I personally own each copy of the film, and am showing small snippets for educational purposes. This lesson can be easily adapted/modified for teachers who only have access to one or two versions of the film:

"The Great Gatsby." Dir. Jack Clayton. Perf. Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Sam Watterston, Bruce Dern. Paramount Pictures. 1974. DVD.

"The Great Gatsby." Dir. Robert Markowitz. Perf. Toby Stephens, Mira Sorvino, Paul Rudd, Martin Donovan. A&E Television Networks. 2000. DVD. 

"The Great Gatsby." Dir. Baz Luhrmann. Perf. Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton. Warner Brothers. 2013. DVD.

Reading Review: Discussing Chapter 6 and 7

20 minutes

Similarly to our review of Chapters 1 and 2, 3 and 4, and 5 (see previous lessons), and in order to get students up and moving--there is a  strong connection between physical movement and learning--as well as giving the students a chance to take ownership of the material, I project the review guides to Chapter 6 (Chapter 5 is also included--they were assigned together) and Chapter 7 on the front board. Students write their responses to the study guides on the board. The questions on the study guide ask for textual evidence, which we then use to support the student's interpretation of the novel (RL.9-10.1). 

The use of prepared review guides helps students feel more comfortable participating because they (most likely) have the answers already completed in front of them.

Once the questions have been answered, we debrief and discuss their responses as a class as a collaborative, but teacher-led discussion giving students a chance to express their ideas (SL.9-10.1). Students explain (qualify) and/or justify their answers, making new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented by others (SL.9-10.1d).

Students receive participation credit for answering or developing at least two answers over the course of our study of "The Great Gatsby," ensuring each students gets multiple opportunities to share their answers, and motivating them to do so (with their grade). In addition providing movement and ownership for the students, this review provides me with an opportunity to gauge student comprehension, as well as motivation to get up, to share in class, and to complete their assignment


Two Minute Warning: Wrap-Up and Reminders

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, I also note Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 and the review guides for each are due tomorrow, in order for students to wrap up the novel, and locate strong and thorough textual evidence to support their analysis of the novel (RL.9-10.1)