Hello there fellow ELA teacher! You’re probably reading this because at some point during the school year, you’ll find yourself teaching F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beautifully written novel, The Great Gatsby. I’ll be honest with you, this is my all-time favorite novel to teach. My students tend to begin the novel thinking they will despise the book, but by the end, they are begging for more. The tips below have helped my achieve high engagement levels while reading The Great Gatsby with my students.
The Roaring Twenties are significantly different from today, and our students may not fully realize that. If we expect teenagers to get as excited as we do about Gatsby, we’ll need to show them the lifestyle represented in the novel. You can do this several different ways. Start with music. Go to Pandora, type “Early Jazz” into the search engine, and your classroom will be consumed by the soothing work of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday. Then, show your students the tremendous fashion of flappers and gangsters from the 20’s. Prompt a discussion with this question: “What do you think people from the 1920’s would say about fashion today?” and you’re sure to get some great responses. Lastly, discuss roles of men and women during the time period. It’s important that they understand the different movements that took place during the Jazz Age, especially for women. TIP: use bell ringers with graphics that represent the themes of the time period. You can find mine here.
This is so important! Often times, my students found themselves lost in Fitzgerald’s complex language. Compare the intense drama that occurs in The Great Gatsby to reality television shows, music, ideas, or actual events that are happening in “their” world. Using this technique will help students connect with the characters in the novel, and appreciate their hardships a bit more. Common themes throughout the novel that absolutely still exist in today’s society are: jealousy, class, relationships, gender roles, morality, lies & deceit.
This unit is the cat’s meow! Would your students look at you like you were crazy? Yeah, mine too. That’s what makes it so fun, though! Last year, I required my students to use 1920’s slang for the entire unit. If they said, “that’s cool” I would ask them to rephrase that. It was fun to watch students get into the role of the characters. In addition, this helps further create the atmosphere in your classroom. You can find slang from the roaring twenties by clicking this link. BONUS: create bell ringers with common slang as reference piece!
I know, I know, you’re thinking “I don’t have time for that” but it is totally an essential piece and technically, you only have to do it once. Make a goal to complete the projects you do alongside reading The Great Gatsby WITH your students. Showing them the effort YOU put into the project will create high expectations and in return, you will receive quality final projects. I like to challenge my students by saying, “I want someone to out-do me” and students LOVE the competitive edge. Once you’ve created the project the first time, you don’t have to continue making it. Use that project the following years, too! Throughout the years, I’ve created a variety of 1920’s themed newspapers, scrapbooks, poetry journals, and more.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “I wish I had all of the resources needed to teach The Great Gatsby in a fun, beautifully designed interactive notebook” then I have the unit for you! I’ve created this comprehensive unit in an interactive workbook format to keep students focused and organized throughout the novel study. Seriously, it’s ALL here– anything you can think of! It has an internet scavenger hunt, bell ringers, vocabulary charts, comprehension questions, figurative language resources, literary elements resources, final projects, essays, tests, and more. If you want your students to truly appreciate Fitzgerald’s work, this is the best avenue. To learn more about the workbook, click here or on any of the pictures in this blog post. OH, and the best part? It’s also an adult coloring book with 1920’s fashion displayed throughout the workbook!
Thank you so much for reading and I hope your students enjoy reading The Great Gatsby as much as mine do! Stay tuned for more fun-filled blog posts with tips and tricks for novel studies!
Brittany– The SuperHERO Teacher