Reviewing "Winter Dreams" & Embarking on The Great Gatsby

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SWBAT discuss the theme and debate characterization in "Winter Dreams" in preparation for our analysis of Fitzgerald's novel using visual character maps.

Big Idea

If only Fitzgerald’s leading men had “bros” to sit them down to say, “Hey man, don’t be a psycho & lose yourself--she’s crazy.” #golddiggers


15 minutes

At the end of last hour, students were asked to complete the "Winter Dreams" module in Actively Learn and review F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald's biography website.  Today we'll open the hour by sharing the cool things we learned from the website.  I will have students share out one neat thing they learned about Scott and Zelda or one thing they liked from the organization of the website.  In cases where a visual aid is helpful, students may use the projector to present their item or explain to the class how to navigate to the desired feature.


Building Knowledge

45 minutes

Next, students will pull up their Actively Learn accounts to view their discussion question responses posted for their reading of "Winter Dreams." Year after year, students have STRONG reactions to this story, so I want to give them plenty of time to discuss and debate the story.  We will use the questions attached in the Resources section (with complete student responses) to guide this activity if student-generated discussion is not enough.  Typically students get to all of these questions eventually, but I prefer to make sure we cover the sequence of events questions before jumping into making judgments about encounters just to make sure we're all still talking from the text, rather than personal experience.  Especially in relationship stories, students can sometimes fall away from getting their information out of the text unless you take active steps to prevent them from making those mistakes.

After discussing the section, I will ask students two final questions:  Do you feel bad for Judy?  Do you feel bad for Dexter?  Both of these questions were in their Actively Learn homework, but today's discussion will help them better form solid answers to these questions.  Ultimately, I will look for students to justify their statements with evidence and thoughtfully support diverse perspectives on the idea.  Like our discussion about Curley's wife, I don't want students to make a blanket statement about Judy being a horrible person.  In reality, she's probably broken from the system, just like Dexter is broken from the system.  How has her tremendous wealth served her?  Where are her parents?  How does she get power if not through men?  Furthermore, she was COMPLETELY transparent about her intentions, and Dexter is the one who decided to accept her corruption and become obsessed anyway.  That's got to count for something, right?  I also will try to make students think about Dexter at a deeper level, since many students have this knee-jerk reaction to feel sorry for him.  This feeling is also misplaced and unsupported by the text, as Dexter was completely aware that he was being manipulated, treated Irene with the same carelessness that Judy treated him with, and sought to become this persona of wealth that was not consistent with who he was.  Also, we can't let students forget that his "love" for her developed almost instantaneously and never existed for more than 3 days!  I want students to see that in this story, there are no clear "heroes."  No one is perfect.  Everyone is broken.  That's going to be a very important idea to get comfortable with as we move forward with The Great Gastby!


25 minutes

Next, we will continue to explore Fitzgerald's themes by beginning to read Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby.  While we read, we will be creating a map of the area (with local characteristics, using the template to begin), and we will also be compiling visual character maps for Nick (sample one started here), Gatsby, Tom, Daisy, and Jordan.  The map and character maps will be created in Google Draw, and each separate visual map (which will be building throughout the novel) must be contained in each student's "Great Gatsby" folder within their shared Google folder.  Each entry on these maps must contain a characteristic, either as a direct quote or a summary, and a page number where the information can be found.  Since this is a new skill, I will model for students how to set up a Google Drawing, and we will work as a class to fill in characteristics as we see them for the part of Chapter 1 as we read.  Each character's visual character map must include:

  • A relevant background color that's symbolic in some way of the character.  For example, Nick's "gray" background was chosen because he's kind of "blah."  He easily conforms to whatever is around him and blends rather easily into any kind of background.
  • Physical characteristics as well as personality characteristics for assigned characteristics.  Ideally, we'll see these characters grow and change over the course of the text. 
  • The character's name in large letters in the center of the map.  I will encourage students to use text formatting choices (like colors and sizes) to help them highlight characteristics they see as REALLY important.
  • There is no set number of entries required, but students will have to demonstrate that they have a thorough understanding of the characters on these maps.  Each map will be graded on an overall 5 point scale, where "5" is outstanding and highly evidenced and "1" is weakly evidenced.  When you consider that this assignment will generate several character maps, it ends up being a very large assignment.  Furthermore, students will need to lean on this assignment to complete later summative assessments of the novel.  As I tell students, time and effort put in here in reading and analyzing will be well-rewarded later!
  • Images can be included (though they are optional) as students find them useful, but they must be picked from Creative Commons images!  I will show students how to do this in our modeling.  It's really easy when using Google Drawing, because when you insert images from the "Search" function, it will ONLY search appropriately-licensed images.  Students need to be highly aware of their responsibility as a digital citizen to appropriately use and cite all forms of work.  


Since some students will insist on finding images in Google (despite my copious objections), we will also view this short tutorial on finding fair use images within Google and other media outlets.   This video will be posted on my website for students to review for the rest of the year as needed.  Without this additional step, I can guarantee you that students will continue infringing copyright, so for me, it's 2.5 minutes well-spent!

For this group reading activity, I will again use the modified popcorn reading format where specific students volunteer to read all of the character dialogue and the remaining students will "popcorn read" the narrator parts of the text.  All students need follow along and stay on track, and we will pause frequently at the beginning to note characteristics on Nick's character map and on the Location Map (to describe East Egg & West Egg).  We will continue this reading activity through the end of the hour.  


5 minutes

In the final minutes of class, I will give students time to make Google Drawings for each of the remaining characters that they will have to keep visual character maps for throughout the novel.  In total, they will need a map for Nick, Daisy, Tom, Jordan, and Gatsby, in addition to the Location Map.  Students will need to finish reading whatever we did not cover in Chapter 1 and read all of Chapter 2 before they return to class from their long weekend.  While reading, they need to fill in their character maps, as we will not spend time in class working backwards to do this.  I will also stress that we will have a reading quiz when they return to class BEFORE we review the reading assignment, so all students need to continue reading with the same level of critical thinking and vigor that we've started this class period.  I want them reading for more than just plot, so this point cannot be stressed enough.


Next Steps

Next hour we will continue reading after our assessment (and discussion).  All of our snow days have cut this school year SO short, so unfortunately students will have to spend more time critically reading on their own.  We will focus our class time on assessing who has done their reading assignment and discussing the material under study.  The character maps that students are making along the way will be integral to moving this discussion along and keeping it text-focused.