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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

Great Gatsby Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Great Gatsby Include:

Are you looking to inspire and engage your students during a unit on The Great Gatsby? Check out all of our The Great Gatsby student activities that include valuable ways to create visual storyboards that incorporate all four ELA Common Core standards with your unit.

The Great Gatsby Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Great Gatsby Plot Diagram


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Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a novel with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell have students create a scene that follows the novel in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example The Great Gatsby Plot Diagram

Exposition

The narrator, Nick Carraway, has moved east, to New York City, to pursue a career in bonds. When he arrives, he visits his wealthy cousin, Daisy, and her husband, Tom Buchanan, for dinner. At their home in East Egg, he meets Jordan Baker, a famous golfer, and friend of Daisy.


Conflict

The novel’s conflict is framed by Nick’s struggle to retell the events of his life as it relates to the mysterious Jay Gatsby. This is apparent in Chapter One:

This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability that is dignified under the name of the “creative temperament”. — It was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No — Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elation of men.

F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby

Rising Action

In this storyboard, two cells were used to show the rising action in different groups of characters. In the rising action, it’s revealed that Tom Buchanan is having an affair with a woman named Myrtle Wilson. She is relatively poor and lives in the Valley of Ashes with her husband, George, a repair station owner. The rising action also reveals the identity and background of Jay Gatsby, Nick’s illustrious neighbor and Daisy’s former lover. Nick later reunites them, and they begin an affair.


Climax

Daisy attempts to leave Tom for Gatsby. After a heated argument, Daisy grows confused, and ultimately changes her mind. Tom bitterly instructs Daisy to go home with Gatsby, despite that she is now scared of him. Meanwhile, Myrtle, who was locked in her room because her husband suspected her of having an affair, escapes. Daisy is driving down the road, but Myrtle thinks it is Tom. She rushes towards the car; it hits her and she is killed.


Falling Action and Resolution

George kills Gatsby and himself, believing Gatsby was having an affair with Myrtle, and was responsible for her death. In the end, Nick is dismayed by the lack of remorse shown by Daisy and Tom, and by the all the people who used Gatsby. This final quote from Chapter Nine reveals Nick’s feelings:

I couldn't forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. 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. . . .

F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of The Great Gatsby.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  3. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  4. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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The Great Gatsby Characters


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As students read, a storyboard can serves as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets, for your students to complete while reading, is a fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.

Create a Character Map with The Great Gatsby Characters

  • Nick Carroway
  • Jay Gatsby
  • Daisy Buchanan
  • Tom Buchanan
  • Myrtle Wilson
  • Jordan Baker

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the major characters in The Great Gatsby and type their names into the different title boxes.
  3. Choose a character from the "1900s" tab to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  4. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  5. Fill in the Textables for Physical Appearance, Traits, Relatives, and Love Interest.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



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Jay Gatsby as an Antihero


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Uncovering the motivations of a protagonist, and understanding different archetypes in fiction is an important part of literary appreciation. In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is considered an antihero. Students can create storyboards with cells tracking the protagonist's actions, and support categorizing him as an antihero.

For front-loading terms and a lesson plan, see our article on Antiheroes.

In the example board below, the top three cells introduce the novel, define an antihero, and explain how Jay Gatsby fits this archetype. An antihero is a central character who lacks conventional attributes that would make them “good”. Gatsby seems like a good person, but he achieved his wealth through illegal means, he has lied to Daisy about who he is, and he has an adulterous affair with her.

In the bottom cells, three specific quotes justify categorizing Gatsby as an antihero.

He smiled understandingly — much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in life. Chapter 3

...

So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end. Chapter 6

...

I found out what your ‘drug-stores’ were.” He turned to us and spoke rapidly. “He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn't far wrong. Chapter 7

F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby

The quote from Chapter 3 is used to represent how trusting Gatsby was, and how he appeared genuine.

From Chapter 6, the reader is lead through a flashback that shows Gatsby’s initial change

Then finally, in Chapter 7, during the Plaza Hotel fight between Gatsby and Tom, Tom reveals that Gatsby lied to everyone.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Jay Gatsby can be considered an antihero.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify events of the story or characteristics of Jay Gatsby that fit into attributes of an antihero.
  3. Illustrate examples for Definition, Characteristics, Examples and Non-Examples.
  4. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Jay Gatsby as an antihero.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



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The Great Gatsby Themes, Symbols, or Motifs


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Valuable aspects of any literary work are its themes, symbols, and motifs. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to anatomize without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

In the classroom, students can track the rich symbolism that Fitzgerald uses throughout the novel. In the example storyboard below, there are five archetypal symbols from the book. The most apparent are the green light, the overlooking eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, the Valley of Ashes, ominous weather, and the division of east vs. west.


The Great Gatsby Themes

The American Dream

The American dream is the idea that no matter a person's background, everyone can achieve their goals through hard work and determination. In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby's dream is to one day be with Daisy. Due to her social class, Gatsby is forced to make a drastic decisions in order to reach a level of prosperity where he can capture Daisy's affections.


Social Classes

Social class is an integral part of the novel. It is expounded upon at some length by Nick Carroway. It is expected that those in the upper class are to act with dignity, poise, grace, and propriety. Through the eyes of Nick, the reader can see that this is a sham, and those in the upper class are corrupt, deceitful, and carry no remorse for their actions.


Infidelity

Although usually confined to adultery, this can also mean a breach of trust and general disloyalty. Unfaithful and deceptive behavior can be seen from most characters over the course of the novel. Tom, Myrtle, and Daisy all commit adultery; Jordan Baker is a pathological liar and often cheats; Gatsby lies about his past, and about his assets to obtain Daisy; and those who once called Gatsby a friend, even Meyer Wolfshiem, his business partner, ultimately desert and disgrace him by not attending his funeral.


The Great Gatsby Motifs and Symbols

Overlooking Eyes (Billboard of Dr. T.J. Eckelberg)

These all-seeing eyes watch the characters in the novel and ultimately act as a judge of their deeds.


Ominous Weather

Weather is a common symbol in literature. Throughout the novel, various types of weather are used to foreshadow important events. For example, in Chapter Seven, Nick describes a heat wave that has pushed temperatures to “broiling”. This portends the “tumultuous argument” which occurs between Tom and Gatsby in the Plaza Hotel.


Ashes and Dust (The Valley of Ashes)

The Valley of Ashes is a barren wasteland that separates the Eggs from New York City. It symbolizes the moral and social decay of America, portrayed through the working class.


East vs. West

The division of East Egg from West Egg separates the newly rich from the historically wealthy families. In a way, east and west divides the upper class in two, in a sort of rivalry. East vs. West also touches on Nick's Midwestern roots, as distinct from the other characters, dividing him from their way of life.


The Green Light

The green light symbolizes many things, principally, Gatsby's quest to obtain Daisy. The color of the light could be symbolic of the envy that Gatsby has over Tom, who has Daisy, or it could represent the green of a figurative Garden of Eden in the past.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Great Gatsby. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from The Great Gatsby you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for the example(s) that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Visual Vocabulary Boards


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Engage your students by creating a storyboard that uses vocabulary from The Great Gatsby! Here are a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the novel, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.


Example Gatsby Vocabulary

  • feign
  • supercilious
  • conscientious
  • infinitesimal
  • hauteur
  • repose
  • vestige
  • portentous
  • lethargic
  • magnanimous
  • succulent
  • permeate
  • cynical
  • affront
  • punctilious
  • jaunty
  • vacuous
  • retribution
  • innuendo
  • sporadic
  • deft
  • transpire
  • garrulous
  • pander

In the vocabulary board students can choose between coming up with their use of the vocabulary board, finding the specific example from the text, or depicting it without words.


Student-created sentence for supercilious:

“When Tom hit Myrtle, he was supercilious because he believed she had no right to say Daisy's name.”

The actual usage from the novel:

“Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward.”

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in The Great Gatsby by creating visualizations.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  3. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  4. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  5. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



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Depicting Literary Conflict in The Great Gatsby


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Literary conflicts are another major element often taught during ELA units. Building on prior knowledge to achieve mastery level with our students is important. An excellent way to focus on the various types of literary conflict is through storyboarding. Having students choose an example of each literary conflict and depict it using the storyboard creator is a great way to reinforce your lesson!

In the prototype storyboard below, each cell contains a particular type of conflict. For the example, the storyboard the kind of conflict is displayed and visually represented as well as an explanation of the scene and how it fits the particular category of conflict.


Example Literary Conflict in The Great Gatsby

MAN vs. MAN

Gatsby and Tom's fighting over Daisy


MAN vs. SELF

Nick's moral confusion at being an accessory to Tom’s infidelity.


MAN vs. SOCIETY

Nick is overwhelmed by grief and irritation when no one will attend Gatsby’s funeral.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows at least three forms of literary conflict in The Great Gatsby.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify conflicts in The Great Gatsby.
  3. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  4. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the story.
  5. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



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The Great Gatsby Summary

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald captures the ideals of a society obsessed with wealth and status. Set in the 1920s during prohibition, the story is narrated by a young man named Nick Carraway. Nick meets Gatsby, whose real name is James Gatz, at Gatsby's elaborate mansion in West Egg. The area is full of up and coming ‘new money.’ Young, handsome, and fabulously rich, Jay Gatsby appears to have it all, yet he yearns for the one thing that will always be out of his reach, the love of Daisy Buchanan. This absence renders his life of glittering parties and bright decorations empty and desolate.

Throughout the novel, Jay Gatsby attempts to get Daisy’s attention and eventually it is Nick, Daisy’s cousin, who brings them together. The two rekindle a romantic relationship from many years ago, before Daisy was married. One evening, Gatsby and Nick are invited to Daisy's house, and her husband, Tom Buchanan, notices how close the two have become. He learns of the affair, and sabotages their love by revealing how Gatsby made his money: illegal bootlegging. Despite Tom also having an affair, he convinces Daisy that her allegiance lies with him. Daisy drives home with Gatsby and hits Myrtle, Tom’s mistress, killing her. Since the two were in Gatsby’s car, he takes responsibility for the murder.

Gatsby's tragic pursuit of his dream ultimately leads to his death, when he is shot by the husband of Tom’s mistress. Nick's despair drives him to move back to the Midwest, disillusioned by the events of the novel.


Essential Questions For The Great Gatsby Unit

  1. Should wealth be the only factor in deciding social class?
  2. What are the repercussions of infidelity?
  3. What is the "American Dream" and is it realistic?

Other Lesson Plan Ideas

From Our Artists

From Stephanie (Head of Creativity)

I still remember reading this book during my junior year of High School, and I LOVED it! I found the Fitzgerald's style allowed me to visualize every detail in my head.


  • Personal Favorite: Art Deco has always been one of my favorite artistic styles, so making the wallpaper for Gatsby was incredibly fun.
  • Pro-Tip: We felt one of the most crucial plot points is when Daisy hits Myrtle while driving. We designed all of the Gatsby cars to accommodate cropped characters in them. Find the car you like in search, crop the character, and place them in the driver’s seat.
  • We make lots of art that isn't displayed on tabs in the storyboard creator. Check out the awesome 1920s and '30s cars we have in Search.

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