This week, I am tackling this activity for the Mooc sponsored by the Blended Schools Network:
The “When Will We Ever Use This?” Blog Post
Students often ask us, “When will I ever use this in the real world?” Consider a handful of standards taught in your class.
- How are these concepts used in the real world?
- How might you use those applications as inspiration for projects in your classroom?
- How well do your current practices reflect the real-world applications of the standards you teach?
- Consider offering a full lesson plan based on these reflections
Returning to The Great Gatsby
One of the issues with teaching this novel is that it is hard to establish relevancy for today’s learners. We want them to take away some sort of information or philosophy from the novel, but often (I think) students feel that they cannot connect to the characters and story Fitzgerald produced. As part of a unit on the novel, I’d like to introduce some Essential Questions or Driving Questions that would put the reading in perspective. I sort of did that the first time that I tried to teach this novel, but not to my liking.
The anticipatory set or advance organizer would include a frank discussion about the lost generation of the ’20s and Fitzgerald’s biography. There is a terrific quote from A Moveable Feast by Hemingway (1996) that introduces us to the term ‘lost generation,’ which was coined by Gertrude Stein. Stein told Hemingway that folks who served in the war (World War I) were all a ‘lost generation’; she cited their drinking habits as an example of how the veterans have disconnected themselves from every day life. Hemingway responded in the text by saying that he decided upon reflection that all generations are lost in one way or another. He added at the end of that reflection: “But to hell with her lost-generation talk and all the dirty, easy labels” (pp. 30-31). Still, he later used the term in The Sun Also Rises.
I would ask the students the following questions.
- “Do you agree that every generation is lost in some way or another? What are the characteristics of a generation that is lost? Extend your answer beyond alcoholism; consider other characteristics.”
- “How might the term ‘lost generation’ apply to the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan?”
- “How can we help and support those who are lost?”
Then, we could watch a video I found about Fitzgerald. The students really enjoyed it when I showed it during pre-service (Vanderveen, 2005). Afterward, I would ask the following question.
- “Although Fitzgerald did not serve in the war, in what ways did he demonstrate inclusion in the lost generation?”
- “Do you know someone like Fitzgerald? How might you help that person?”
These questions, I would explain, should put this novel into context. I would post them in the classroom and online in a prominent place.
The Pennsylvania standards that I used before would still apply (“Clear Standards”, 2010)
Standard – 1.1.12.A: Apply appropriate strategies to construct meaning through interpretation and to analyze and evaluate author’s use of techniques and elements of fiction and non-fiction for rhetorical and aesthetic purposes.
Standard – 1.3.12.A: Interpret significant works from various forms of literature to make deeper and subtler interpretations of the meaning of text. Analyze the way in which a work of literature is related to the themes and issues of its historical period.
Standard – 1.3.12.C:
- Analyze the effectiveness of literary elements used by authors in various genres.
- Analyze the author’s development of complex characters as well as their roles and functions in a variety of texts.
- Determine the effectiveness of setting as related to character, plot, theme, and other key literary elements.
- Determine the effectiveness of the author’s use of point of view as related to content and specific types of genre.
- Analyze how the author structures plot to advance the action.
- Identify major themes in literature, comparing and contrasting how they are developed across and variety of genres.
- Explain how voice and choice of speaker affect the mood, tone, and meaning of text.
- Describe how an author, through the use of diction, syntax, figurative language, sentence variety, etc., achieves style.
1.5.12.C: Write with controlled and/or subtle organization.
- Establish coherence within and among paragraphs through effective transitions, parallel structures, and similar writing techniques.
The Common Core Standards would also be helpful here as I develop the unit plan, specifically:
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).
Keeping the questions in mind during our reading will help us to segue to the culmination of the unit. After a summative assessment of the text, I would like the students to collaborate on a project in which the result is a web site of resources (not just links, but articles, case studies, surveys, self-assessments, etc.) for those of a ‘lost generation.’ It would be something like what Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have tried to do for veterans. One of the blog posts they would write (independently) would be about why they are doing this and how it relates to their study of Gatsby.
- Grouping: Heterogeneous grouping of 3-4 students
- Method: Jigsaw approach with clearly defined roles and responsibilities
- Where to publish the website: Google sites could work
What do you think?