Skill focus: Reflecting on the plot, quotations, characters, and symbols in The Great Gatsby
EAP Level: Advanced
Overview: First, students order key events and quotations chronologically. Later, they brainstorm characters, places, and symbols.
Materials needed: Events & Quotations from the storyline (below) cut into strips of paper. Each group will need a set.
Worksheet Download: gatsby-quotes-storyline.docx
Time Required: 1 hour
This is a lesson plan you can do after your students have read The Great Gatsby. It’s a good activity for getting the students working in groups. My main purpose in designing this was to get students prepared to write a literary essay on the topic, hence the focus on quotations.
Part 1: Plotting Events in the Story (20 Minutes)
For this activity, each group of four students need the following events cut into strips of paper.
Nick gets a new job and rents a small house in West Egg. Nick parties with Tom and his mistress, Myrtle Wilson.
Nick meets his neighbour, Jay Gatsby.
Nick meets Meyer Wolfshiem.
Gatsby tells nick his plan.
Daisy and Gatsby start having an affair.
Tom becomes suspicious of Gatsby and decides to investigate him.
Nick, Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom all have lunch together.
Tom learns that Myrtle is leaving him and that his wife is having an affair.
Nick, Daisy and Jordan learn the truth about Gatsby’s business activities.
Gatsby’s dream is crushed.
Myrtle is killed.
Gatsby takes finally uses his pool.
Tom and Daisy disappear.
Nick breaks up with Jordan because of her insensitivity to the accident.
Gatsby’s father proudly shows Nick a book.
Nick decides that he’s done with the East, and moves back to the Midwest.
Activity Execution (20 minutes) – Storyline
- Put students into groups of four.
- Designate a leader in each group.
- Give a set of the cards (strips of paper) to the leader of the group. Be sure they are mixed up.
- Ask the leader to ‘deal’ out the cards to group-mates like in poker.
- Each member should then read out a card. Their groupmates then discuss when it occurred in the book and lay it on the table in chronological order.
- Students continue until all events are laid out.
- Check answers as a whole class. Discuss together.
Part 2: Plotting Quotations from the Story (20 Minutes)
This is the same activity except that students order key quotations chronologically. If they have space, encourage them to lay the quotations alongside the storyline for reference.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
- “I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”
- “Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
“Your wife doesn’t love you,” said Gatsby. “She’s never loved you. She loves me.”
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
“They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”
She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
“They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such—such beautiful shirts before.”
“And what’s more, I love Daisy too. Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all the time.”
- “Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!” shouted Mrs. Wilson. “I’ll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai——”
- Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.
“I spoke to her,” he muttered, after a long silence. “I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God. I took her to the window and I said ‘God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me but you can’t fool God!’ “
As we crossed Blackwell’s Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish Negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry. “Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,” I thought; “anything at all. . . .”
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
Conduct the activity in the same manner as the previous. Encourage students to engage with the quotations — what is their significance? If the students are writing an essay on the book, ask them if any of the quotations can support their thesis.
At this point, the students will want a change in activity type. Cue the game below.
The Great Gatsby – Brainstorming Unique Ideas Game (15 minutes)
The students are already in groups. To make the next activity more fun, I have them give their group a team name and I put it on the board.
Next, I explain the game.
- I will give the class a category, like ‘Vegetables’, but related to The Great Gatsby.
- Groups then have 1 minute (or two) to brainstorm (and write down) ideas that match the category (‘zucchini’). One student per group, the writer, records the ideas on paper.
- Afterwards, I ask the students to read me their word lists (or take them and read them out-loud).
Groups are awarded one point for each unique response. In other words, if the category is characters in the novel, a group cannot get a point for ‘Tom’ if another group says it. However, if a group says ‘Wolfsheim’, and no one else says his name, then they earn a point.
(As a teacher, the points don’t matter — the purpose is to get students engaged with the material.)
Possible categories for the the game:
- Characters in The Great Gatsby
- Places in The Great Gatsby
- Symbols in The Great Gatsby
- Themes in The Great Gatsby
- Add a ‘Challenge‘ rule where other groups can challenge words on another group’s list if they feel they aren’t accurately related to the category.
- If you use symbols or themes, you could ask some of the higher-level students to identify which themes/symbols are stronger/weaker/suitable/unsuitable for a literary analysis thesis.
I hope that these activities are useful for your EAP/English Literature classes.
— Matthew Barton / Creator of Englishcurrent.com