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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Great Gatsby

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By the time you read this, you might have to clarify that we're talking about the Roaring nineteen 20s. The world is a different place now, and students need help picturing things as they were to understand the complex relationships between the characters in The Great Gatsby.

In this guide you will find

  • pop culture connections to modern Gatsby figures (Sean "Puffy" Combs, Bill Gates, and the like) and info on how the novel is still relevant today.
  • essay questions about Gatsby, Wilson, and Daisy, oh my!
  • a glossary of important terms, so students won't be distraught, but will instead have a garrulous discussion.

You can speak easy with this teaching guide.

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  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: These days it seems like everything's coming up graphic. From Austen to Oz, graphic novels abound, and Gatsby is no exception. Artist Nicki Greenberg has adapted Gatsby to a graphic format using (are you ready?) aliens and sea creatures instead of humans. But it works! Beautifully! And it will inspire your students to come up with their own take on the novel. 

In this activity, students will adapt a scene or a chapter from the novel through the medium of a comic strip/graphic novel. In doing so, they will engage in close analysis of the text while also thinking about how different genres and media can create different stories.

Length of Lesson: One day to introduce and assign the project and let students start working in pairs. A week or so later, part of another class (15-20 minutes) to let students to view one another's work.

*You could give students another day (or part of a class) to work together on their strips if it seems like they might have difficulty getting together outside of class.

Materials Needed:

  • Nicki Greenberg's graphic adaptation of The Great Gatsby or images from the book (see the links below)
  • Computer software/apps for creating coming strips 
    • OR 
  • Drawing/illustrating materials and paper

Step 1: Get ready for some fun. Show your students some sample pages from Nicki Greenberg's graphic novel while leading a discussion about how the genre of graphic novels differs from the more traditional novel.

If possible, get a copy of the book to share with your class. If you can't find one, use these:

Here are some guiding questions to help get the discussion rolling:

  1. How does Greenberg's use of alien/sea creatures in place of human characters alter our way of reading The Great Gatsby?
  2. What can pictures tell us that a written text cannot?
  3. What does a graphic novel leave out or leave to a reader's imagination?
  4. What parts of the novel do you think best lend themselves to graphic representation?

Step 2: Introduce the assignment and divide the students into pairs. Each pair will decide what scene or chapter to adapt into a comic strip. This assignment can be used in tandem with Mac computers that support the application Comic Life or any other app or program you may have access to. 

If school computers do not have any such applications available, students can use basic drawing or collage materials. Each pair will also need to give a written explanation of the relationship between the graphic adaptation and the novel. This assignment could take a week to complete.

Here are some key questions your students should consider while writing their explanation:

  1. Why did you choose this scene/chapter as the inspiration for your adaptation?
  2. What changes did you make in the adaptation? Why did you make those changes?

Step 3: Collect the final comic strip adaptations and written explanations from your students and (once you've had a chance to assess/evaluate/grade and whatnot) find a way to present them to the class. A few possibilities include: compiling them into a class book or magazine; posting them on a bulletin board; or scanning them and posting them on a class webpage. 

(Standards Met: CA English Language Arts 9th & 10th grade reading standards 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.8, 3.9; writing standards 1.8, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4; CA ELA 11th & 12th grade reading standards 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4; writing standards 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.5, 2.2, 2.3, 2.6)

TEKS Standards: §110.31. English Language Arts and Reading, English I b2A, b7, b12A, b14C, b17C, b18A, b18B, b19, b24B, b26 §110.32. English Language Arts and Reading, English II b7, b12A, b12B, b14C, b17C, b18A, b18B, b19, b24B, b26

Instructions for Your Students

Would the novel The Great Gatsby be different if Jay Gatsby were, say, a seahorse? 

Um ... what?

Yes, you read that right, and no, we're not completely delusional. There is actually an adaptation of the novel in which, instead of being human, Gatsby is a walking, talking, humanoid seahorse. Really

It's a graphic novel by Nicki Greenberg, and you're going to get a look at some of her artwork in class. And then? You guessed it. You'll try your hand at illustrating a scene from the novel in your own unique style. 

Step 1: Look at Nicki Greenberg's graphic novel adaptation of The Great Gatsby in class. You, your mates, and your teacher will be discussing Greenberg's adaptation, so while you're checking out some of the art, think about how the graphic novel version of Gatsby is different from the novel version.

Here are some things you may consider (and discuss):

  1. How does Greenberg's use of alien/sea creatures in place of human characters affect our way of reading The Great Gatsby?
  2. What can pictures tell us that a written text cannot?
  3. What does a graphic novel leave out or leave to a reader's imagination?
  4. What parts of the novel might lend itself to graphic representation?

Step 2: Next, you'll divide into pairs, and each pair will pick a scene from The Great Gatsby to turn into a comic strip. 

You'll really want to think this through before you start illustrating, so don't just jump at the first scene that comes to mind. Be sure to read any scenes you're considering closely and think about how you could represent each of them in a graphic format. 

  • How will you depict the characters? 
  • What parts of the text will you use? 
  • What will you leave out? 
  • What might you change? 

When you're ready, get to it. You can draw freehand or use an app or some kind of software to create your strip—both options are fine. But regardless of how you decide to work, keep this in mind: 

In addition to creating the comic strip, you need to write up an explanation of the relationship between your graphic adaptation and the novel. And when you do, be sure you answer these questions:

  1. Why did you choose this scene/chapter as the inspiration for your adaptation?
  2. What changes did you make in the adaptation? Why did you make those changes?

Step 3: Hand in your work, and make sure it's in final copy format. Why? Because your teacher is going to want to share your work—and everyone else's—with the class. Hmmm. We wonder if there will be any seahorses ...

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.6

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