The Great Gatsby and Critical Theory

Created by: Kristen Rauch


Prefatory Statement:

This unit is based around F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  It is geared toward teaching students ethical values through the literature as well as showing students the different ways literature can be viewed.  This unit will cover different “lenses” of critical theory including historical, economic, gender, and reader response.  Students will begin to think of how they can apply these ideas to real-world thinking and concepts.  If you have read The Great Gatsby and are contemplating teaching it, you most likely can already see its value in teaching critical literacy. 


In this unit, students will navigate a WebQuest which will familiarize them with the Roaring 20’s as they start to read the novel.  They will create double entry journals in which they will summarize the text, show examples of critical theory applied to the text, and write personal reactions to the text.  Students will be expected to participate in different forms of discussion including think-pair-share, small group, and large group discussions to demonstrate knowledge and gain a better understanding of the text and concepts within the text.  They will be expected to write a short essay on one aspect of critical theory, which will help guide them in their final unit project: a multi-genre project based on critical theory in The Great Gatsby.

Class Specification:

This unit is based on the MN standards for grades 11-12.  Since it was geared toward those standards, it is most appropriate for 11th and 12th grades but could be simplified for 9th-10th grades.  Students must be mature enough to understand other perspectives, even if it’s not what they agree with.  This unit can be taught without modifications or accommodations to any social class or culture.


Significant Assumptions:

For this unit, I am assuming that…

-Students will be able to read at a 10th grade level or higher.

-Students will have a solid background in using technology.

-Students enjoy working in groups and learning from their peers.

-Students are capable of seeing through diverse perspectives, even if the represented point of view does not agree with their own opinion.


Desired Outcomes/Standards/Objectives to be Met:

- Students will gain understanding of critical theory and how to apply it to real-world thinking (MN Standard

- Students will gain experience in participating in and contributing to a variety of collaborative discussions (MN Standard

- Students will demonstrate their skills in presenting what they’ve learned in multiple modes including the use of technology (MN Standard

- Students will gain a better understanding of the text and concepts within the text (such as critical theory), as well as how those concepts are applied in that text through double entry journaling (MN Standard

- Students will gain knowledge in United States history, particularly of the 1920’s (scaffolds historical aspect of critical theory).

- Students will see the importance of being responsible citizens and see that there are consequences for their actions (scaffolds with social-class aspect of critical theory).


Possible Whole-Class Activities:

- Read alouds

- Group Discussion

- 1920’s dress-up day

- Music exposure/learning 1920’s dances to perform for younger grades

- Viewing The Great Gatsby film


Possible Small-Group Activities:

- Group Discussion

- WebQuest

- Analyze the cover of The Great Gatsby

- Reading in small groups

- Create a 1920’s artifact

- Re-enacting important scenes

- Create a movie trailer for the book


Possible Individual Activities:

- Double Entry Journals

- Multi-Genre project

- Short Essay on critical theory

- Silent Sustained Reading/Audio-book option

- Write an alternate ending to The Great Gatsby


Ongoing Activities:

- Double Entry Journals- Students will create journal entries for each chapter of The Great Gatsby.  They will be expected to summarize the chapter on one side of the page. On the other, they can write a reaction to the text, give examples of critical theory, note valuable passages in the text, or write anything else that may prove useful at a later time.

-Writing Workshops- Students will use these in-class writing workshops to create and edit pieces for their multi-genre projects.  Students will ideally be assigned writing groups of three, but four if necessary.


Student Resources:

- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald text

- Computers with Internet access

- Google Docs accounts

- Notebook strictly for journal entries

- Art supplies for multi-genre project

- Handouts

- Flash drives (optional)

- Video camera (optional)


Unit Launch/Set Induction: The unit launch would take place over a two-day time span. 


On the first day, the students will establish a connection between their world and the 1920’s.  This lesson will have music from today and the 1920’s, and students will generate ideas individually about upper-class society in both times.  (These will probably be stereotypes…)  They will form small groups and compare and contrast their ideas which will then lead to an entire class discussion of the big ideas discussed in groups.  Students may be given an Anticipation Guide as homework, or the teacher may choose to distribute it at the beginning of the next class. (See attached lesson plan for this day for greater detail.)


On the second day, students would complete and discuss an Anticipation Guide (see handout) consisting of controversial questions linked in some way to The Great Gatsby.  (This may have been assigned as homework from the previous day, or students can be given about 5 minutes in class to fill it out individually.)  Students may be given a few minutes to think-pair-share their ideas with a partner.  Then, as a whole, the class will discuss the answers and why students arrived at such answers.  This debate should take almost the entire class period as students should feel strongly about their answers.  In the last 5 minutes of class, the teacher will inform students that they will be starting a new unit focused around The Great Gatsby and Multiple Perspectives (aka: critical theory).


Organization of the Unit:

Week One- Week one will start with the two-day set induction as noted above.  Students will be introduced to critical theory and will start with the reader response lens.  They will start their double entry journals by responding/reacting to what they’ve learned about critical theory.  They will also learn about the historical lens by reading ­­­­“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin.    Lastly, students will start the WebQuest, which will help them use the historical lens of critical theory to serve as scaffolding for The Great Gatsby.


Week Two- Students will finish the WebQuest, complete their showcase presentation, and present it to the class.  Students will also read and discuss “On the Subway” by Sharon Olds in class to focus on the gender lens of critical theory.  They will read, discuss, and journal about “Oranges” by Gary Soto to learn about the social-class lens of critical theory. Use exit slips to check understanding.


Week Three- Students will be informed of the two large writing projects they will be required to complete: a Multi-Genre Project and a short essay on a lens of critical theory (see handouts).  They will be told to note examples from the text as they read. Double entry journaling expectations will also be discussed.  Students will read and journal for chapters 1 & 2 of The Great Gatsby.  They will be given a day in class to work on their short essay and ask questions about the projects.  They will read chapter three and journal as homework for Monday of week 4. 


Week Four- Students will read chapters four, five, and six of The Great Gatsby. They will be journaling after each chapter, and there will be discussions for chapters 3 & 4 and chapters 5 & 6.  Students will be expected to be working on their multi-genre projects as homework and bring in rough drafts of at least two pieces. They will have a peer review day for the short essay project; the final essay will be due on Friday.  As homework for Monday, they will need to create three pieces of multi-genre and bring them to class.


Week Five- Students will continue to work on their multi-genre projects, and will provided with two in class days to work on them.  Students will read, journal, and discuss chapters 7 & 8 of The Great Gatsby


Week Six- Students will finish The Great Gatsby (chapter 9).  They will create journals and discuss the chapter as well as the book as a whole.  There will be a test on the material covered in the unit.  The multi-genre project will be due this week, and students will watch the film version of The Great Gatsby.  Students will also turn in their journals for grading.



Supporting Materials for Teachers Who Teach the Unit:

- The Great Gatsby novel

- The Great Gatsby film

- Critical Encounters in High School English Second Edition by Deborah Appleman (2009) –

General Info Websites:



WebQuest Site:

kristenjrauch.weebly.com – this site also includes more resource links



- “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

- “On the Subway” by Sharon Olds

- “Oranges” by Gary Soto

- Anticipation Guide

- Literary Perspectives Tool Kit (pages 141-144 Appleman, 2009 - Also available online: http://apps.carleton.edu/people/appleman/talksworkshops/workshop_handouts/critical_theories/)

- Double Entry Journal Guidelines

- Multi-Genre Project Guidelines with Rubric

- Short Essay Guidelines

- Writing Workshop/Peer Editing Guidelines

- Discussion Questions

-2 Detailed Lesson Plans- “Frontloading the Great Gatsby” and “The Gender Lens of Critical Theory”



This unit is worth a total of 280 points plus in-class participation is factored in toward their semester grades.  In my classroom, in-class participation can mean the difference between a B+ and an A- and is not necessarily given a point value.  Points are converted into a percentage, and the grading scale is as follows:


A = 90-100%

B = 80-89.9%

C = 70-79.9%

D = 65-69.9 %

F = below 65%




Great Gatsby Unit









-Set Induction- compare and contrast 20’s upper class with today’s


Optional HW- complete ant. guide

Set Induction- Anticipation Guide and Discussion



HW-bring a new notebook for journaling

-Intro to Critical Theory and the reader response lens

-Start double entry journals


HW- journal entry- summarize/respond to critical theory

-Critical Theory and the historical lens




HW-journal entry on historical lens






WebQuest Presentations

Critical Theory and gender lens


HW- journal on gender lens

Critical Theory and social-class lens


HW- journal on social-class lens


-Great Gatsby unit expectations for journals, multi-genre proj, short essay


HW- create/draw an artifact from the 1920’s- this will count as a piece in the MGP

Read Chapter 1 aloud in class






HW-double entry journal on chapter 1

Read Chapter 2 in small groups in class






HW-double entry journal on chapter 2

Discussion on chapters 1 & 2






HW-rough draft of one piece for MG, prepare to start writing short essay on Friday

-In-class time for drafting short essay

-questions on MG and short essay.




HW- read chapter 3 and journal- due Monday


Read chapter 4 aloud in class




HW-journal on chapter 4

Discussion on chapters 3 & 4




HW-one rough draft piece of MG

-Peer review of short essay- final draft due Friday

-In-class time to work on MG/essay


Read chapter 5 in pairs or silently in class



HW-journal chapter 5, read and journal 6

-Discussion  on chapters 5 & 6

-Short Essay Final Draft Due


HW-three rough draft pieces of MG due Mon.




-Peer review for MG in lab


Start reading chapter 7 in class



HW-finish ch 7 and journal

-Discussion on chapter 7

-class time for MG projects


HW- read chapter 8 and journal

-Discussion on Chapter 8

-class time for MG projects

Lab time to work on MG- final project due Wednesday



Read chapter 9 in class

Discussion on chapter 9 / entire book

Unit Exam on critical theory and The Great Gatsby

Watch Film Version of The Great Gatsby

Watch Film Version of The Great Gatsby

-Multi-Genre Project Due





Type of Assessment

How Graded

Assessment Task

Students will learn and understand the time and culture of the 1920’s, when The Great Gatsby takes place.  This will also serve as scaffolding for the Historical lens of critical literacy.

-WebQuest is Formative to the unit as a whole.

-Showcase Presentation is Summative to WebQuest.

25 Points Total

- Notes 5 pts

- Group evals 5 pts

- Use of class time 5 pts

- Showcase Presentation 10 pts



and Showcase Presentation (Showcase Presentation to be built with knowledge gained from the WebQuest.)

Students will gain a better understanding of the text and the concepts within the text (such as critical theory), as well as how those concepts are applied within that text.

Formative Assessment

65 Points Total

- 5 points per entry, 1 entry per chapter  or lens of critical theory

- Grading will be based effort and completeness of entries

Double Entry Journals after each chapter of The Great Gatsby.

Students will better understand the text by learning from group member perspectives of the material presented in each chapter. 

Formative Assessment

Students will obtain in-class participation points for actively participating in discussion for the day.

In Class Discussions

Students will demonstrate understanding of the material covered in class.

Formative Assessment

Students will obtain in-class participation points for turning in an exit slip for the day.

Exit Slips

Students will demonstrate the knowledge they have gained about one lens of critical theory and support their knowledge with examples from the text.

Summative Assessment

40 Points Total

- Grammar/Conventions -10 pts

- Understands concept

and accurately supports it with examples in text - 20 pts

- Copy of literature and rough draft - 10 pts

Short Essay on Critical Theory

Students will demonstrate what they have learned about critical theory throughout the unit by creating a quality multi-genre project.

Summative Assessment

100 Points Total

-Grading based on rubric

Multi-Genre Project

Students will demonstrate their understanding of critical theory and the text as a whole with an exam including short essay, multiple choice, and short answer questions.

Summative Assessment

50 Points Total

- 15 pts multiple choice

- 20 pts short answer

- 15 pts essay questions

Cumulative Exam


Great Gatsby WebQuest


Welcome to The Great Gatsby WebQuest!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in another time? How would everyday life be different? How would you dress? What would your views and beliefs be? Where would you fit in social hierarchy? What would it be like to live in the 1920's - around about the time The Great Gatsby was written?

As we start to read The Great Gatsby, we will delve into this WebQuest to get a sense of what life was like in the Roaring 20's. In your journey, you will research the culture and times to experience a small piece of American history. I hope you have fun in your quest!

Task and Purpose-

In groups of 3-4, you will be searching the web for information to build your presentations; thus, creating a history and foundation for reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  You will all take the role of reporters who work for the same company, but each of you has a specialization that will help guide you in your research.  You may choose to do the research individually, but you will need to collaborate with your group members so everyone can benefit from your research.  In the end, your group will come together to build an extraordinary showcase to display what you’ve learned.  Your group may choose to do this in the form of a digital newspaper, magazine, journal, or other format approved by the teacher.

Project Guidelines and Assessment-

Your showcase can be in any format based on teacher discretion.  Showcases should be creative, well-thought out, and they should show that you’ve done the research and know what you are presenting.  They should also be presented digitally in the form of a digital newspaper, magazine, journal, or other format approved by the teacher.  Please run your showcase ideas by the teacher before you start your project if it is not on the list above.

Your showcase should include a minimum of:


Here is what you will be graded on:

Here is a breakdown of the process:


Groups should create a collaborative document on Google Docs, and each reporter should take notes and save any pictures, text, etc. that your group may find useful in your presentations.  Each group will need to share their document with the teacher so group work can be evaluated.

Use the following websites to aid in your research:



Congratulations! You have completed the WebQuest!  Look how far we’ve come- we have learned so much about 1920’s culture!  Hopefully you have had some fun in the process! For more information on The Great Gatsby or F. Scott Fitzgerald, I suggest the following websites:




Teacher Page:

This page is for you. It explains a little bit about the WebQuest and how you may apply it to your classroom. It was designed for the beginning of a unit on The Great Gatsby and Critcal Theory for 11th and 12th graders.

Purpose: To familiarize students with the history and culture of the 1920’s before they read or as they start to read the first couple chapters of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This WebQuest will also be used as a building block toward applying the Historical Lens of Critical Theory to The Great Gatsby.

This WebQuest will comply with the following of the most recent (2010) Minnesota Academic Standards for English Language Arts for grades 11-12:
- Write narratives and other creative texts to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
- Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.


Materials needed for this WebQuest:


Timeline for this WebQuest: 1-2 weeks


Great Gatsby Discussion Questions

Chapter 1

1. Explain what Fitzgerald achieved by using Nick’s point of view to tell Gatsby’s story?


2. What do we learn about Nick Carraway in the introductory section of the novel?


3. In discussing East Egg and West Egg, Nick states: “To the wingless a more arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except shape and size.” Indicate what the “dissimilarities” might be.


4. Compare the homes of Nick, Gatsby, and the Buchanans. How does each home reflect the personality of its owner?


5. Fitzgerald’s description of Tom, Daisy, and Jordan creates not only an impression of physical appearance, but also contains added information. What do you learn about their history and interests, and from their gestures and mannerisms?

6. What is it that we find out about Tom and Daisy’s relationship?  What is it about Daisy that she stays with Tom?

7. When Nick leaves the Buchanan’s house, he is “confused and a little disgusted.” Why? What does this suggest about his values?

8. Though we do not meet Gatsby until Chapter 3, we hear references to him in the conversations of others. Note each reference. What impressions do you get?


Chapter 2

9. In what way is the description in the opening paragraphs of Chapter 2 appropriate to the total atmosphere of this chapter? What is symbolic about the “valley of ashes,” and “the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg”?


10. Evaluate Myrtle’s talk of her unhappy marriage. What does she seem to be trying to justify?


11. How does Myrtle’s speech reveal her character?


12. What does the scene in this New York apartment reveal about Tom? About Myrtle?


13. Does Nick enjoy the afternoon at the apartment in New York? Why or why not?


Chapter 3

1. Chapter 3 describes Gatsby’s “little party.” Enumerate details about the party itself, about the guests and about their conversation and behavior.


2. Describe the meeting between Nick and Gatsby. Comment on Fitzgerald’s skill in preparing for Gatsby’s entrance into the story.


3. In what way are Nick and Gatsby similar at this point? Why are they paradoxical?


4. What is the reason for Nick’s breaking the story at this point? Read the section beginning with “Reading over what I have written so far…”


5. At the end of Chapter 3, Nick meets Jordan again. The author includes several episodes that emphasize her carelessness and basic dishonesty. Discuss these instances. What do they reveal about Jordan? About Nick?


6. Notice the last paragraph in Chapter 3. Is Nick being overly proud here? Discuss.


Chapter 4

7. The introductory section of Chapter 4 gives a long roster of those who attended Gatsby’s parties. How do they behave toward their host? Why, then, do they accept his hospitality?


8. Describe Gatsby’s car.


9. Discuss the details that Gatsby shares with Nick about his past.


10. Does Nick believe Gatsby’s story? Why or why not?


11. Who is Meyer Wolfsheim? What seems to be his connection with Gatsby?


12. Jordan Baker tells Nick about Daisy, Gatsby, and Tom. Summarize the story.


13. Explain the epigraph on the title page of the novel (“it’s the quote”). What does it reveal about Gatsby and his love for Daisy?


14. Do we know why Gatsby has so many parties? Why did he buy the house? Explain.


15. What new meaning do you see in the last two paragraphs of Chapter 1? What does Nick mean when he says, “Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had aspired on the June night”?


16. When Gatsby spoke to Jordan in his library in Chapter 3, he had devised a plan involving Nick. What was it? Why did he not ask Nick directly?

Chapter 5

1. Gatsby’s actions in preparing for Daisy’s arrival seem both flamboyant and absurd. What does he do? Why?


2. Discuss Gatsby’s actions once Daisy arrives. How do we know he is nervous? How does he try to impress her?


3. Toward the end of the chapter, Nick attempts to explain “the expression of bewilderment that had come back into Gatsby’s face.” What explanation does Nick give? Why, in his opinion, is Daisy not at fault?


4. Describe Daisy’s reactions during the course of her meeting with Gatsby.


5. Has Nick been affected by the meeting between Gatsby and Daisy? In what way?


Chapter 6

6. What was Gatsby’s real name? Why and when had he changed it?


7. In what way was Dan Cody involved in Gatsby’s destiny?


8. Why does Tom attend Gatsby’s party? How does this scene reveal the contrast between Gatsby and Tom?


9. What is deeply ironic in Tom’s statement, “…I may be old-fashioned in my ideas, but women run around too much these days to suit me”?


10. Note the reactions of Tom and Daisy at different times during Gatsby’s part. Did they enjoy themselves? Explain.


11. What suspicions does Tom have about Gatsby? What does he vow to do?


12. What do Nick and Gatsby talk about after the party?


13. What is Gatsby expecting of Daisy that prompts Nick to warn him, “I wouldn’t ask too much of her… You can’t repeat the past”?


Chapter 7

1. Not the use Fitzgerald makes of the weather as a background for significant events. Point out examples in this chapter and in previous chapters.


2. Gatsby has made some changes in his lifestyle that so concerned Nick that he went to check on him. What changes do you note? Why did he make them?


3. Analyze Daisy’s attitude toward her child as evidenced in this chapter and in chapter 1. Is she a good mother? Explain why Gatsby looked “at the child with surprise.”


4. With whom does Tom talk on the telephone early in the chapter? About what?


5. What startling discovery does Tom make shortly after lunch?


6. What does Gatsby mean when he says that Daisy’s voice is “full of money”? Why does Fitzgerald put those words in Gatsby’s mouth and not Nick’s?


7. What arrangements are made regarding the passengers of each car on the trip to the city? Why?


8. Eyes play a significant role in this chapter. Explain.


9. Explain Nick’s statement paralleling Tom and Wilson, “…it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.” Refer to the text and explain what prompted Nick to say this.


10. What does Gatsby do that makes Nick want “to get up and slap him on the back”? Why does Nick feel this way?


11. Does Daisy know what love is? Whom does she really love?


12. In what way is each of the major characters involved in the tragedy that occurs at the end of the chapter?


13. Is there any significance in the fact that the day is Nick’s birthday?


14. Why is it necessary for the author to introduce a new character, Michaelis, at this point in the novel?


15. Explain what Nick means when he says, “…suddenly I guessed at the truth”?


16. At the end of Chapter 7 Nick observes Gatsby, Tom, and Daisy after the accident. What conclusions does he reach?


17. Explain the last paragraph of Chapter 7.


Chapter 8

1. At the beginning of the chapter, the story is interrupted at its most dramatic point. What is the author’s purpose in breaking the story here?


2. What had prompted Gatsby to talk freely to Nick now, when he was unwilling to do so in the past?


3. What further information do we learn about Gatsby?


4. As Nick leaves Gatsby the morning after the accident, he remarks, “They’re a rotten crowd.” Enumerate the people “they” refers to. Why are they “rotten”?


5. What is the compliment that Nick pays to Gatsby? Why does Nick feel compelled to commend Gatsby?


6. Explain Nick’s meaning when he balances Gatsby’s supposed “corruption” against his “incorruptible dream.”


7. How does Wilson view the “eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg”? Does Wilson’s statement have a symbolic level for the novel as a whole? Explain.


8. Trace the movements of Gatsby and Wilson at the end of Chapter 8. What is Nick’s meaning when he says, “…the holocaust was complete”?


Chapter 9

1. What makes Nick assume responsibility for the funeral arrangements? Specify the things he did.


2. What version of the tragedy appeared in the newspapers? How would you account for the fact that this version went unchallenged and uncorrected?


3. How had Gatsby’s father learned of the tragedy? To what extent does the father know his son?


4. Discuss the significance of Gatsby’s boyhood program for self-improvement.


5. What is the irony of Gatsby’s funeral?


6. What is the significance of the scene including Jordan Baker?


7. What moral judgment does Nick make about Tom and Daisy? Discuss.


8.  Explain the significance of the last page of the novel in relation to Gatsby’s dream and to the American Dream.



A majority of these questions were taken from the PDF @ http://rbvhs.vusd.k12.ca.us/teachers/villa/docs11/gatz/questions.pdf


Multi-Genre Paper Requirements

Throughout the course of this unit, we will be working on a multi-genre project to culminate what you’ve learned about The Great Gatsby and the Roaring 20’s.  In your project, you will need to incorporate at least 10-12 creative pieces in multiple modes of genre. You should not have more than 2 of the same modes in your project.  (You may include your short essay on critical theory as 1 piece IF it works with your topic.) 

Your project must include an abstract, or rather a walkthrough of each piece and why you created it.  This abstract can be in written, audio, or video format.  This is your opportunity as an artist to explain your motivations, thought processes, and anything else interesting you’d like to share about the process.  (Think about VH1’s Behind the Music…)  The abstract is worth 30 points, which is almost 1/3 of your grade for this project, so do well on this.

There is no minimum number of words or pages per piece.  Work on it until you believe it is done and meets or exceeds the expectations of 11th-12th grade work.  Projects should be creative, thoughtful, and accurate- it must demonstrate what you’ve learned in this unit.  Please see rubric below for specifics on grading.  I am giving a lot of choice in this project, but the end result must be of high standards.

You can choose base your project on:



0-3 points

4-7 points

8-10 points

Content Accuracy

(10 points total)

Content has multiple instances of inaccuracy (less than 85% accurate)

Content is mostly (85%) accurate

All content is 99-100% accurate

Meaningfulness and Continuity- each piece is integral to the project (x2 in point value=

20 points total)

Some (9 or less) pieces are integral parts of the project as a whole and contribute to the overall meaning and central idea

Most pieces (10+) are integral of the project as a whole and contribute to the overall meaning and central idea

All pieces are integral of the project as a whole and contribute to the overall meaning and central idea


(10 points total)

Some pieces (9 or less) are creative and well-thought out

Most pieces (10+) are creative and well-thought out

All pieces are creative and well-thought out



(10 points total)

Student used little class-time productively

Student used some class-time productively

Student used most class-time productively


(10 points total)

11+ errors in completed project

4-10 errors in completed project

Less than 3 errors in completed project

Project Length

(10 points total)

10 or less quality pieces

11-12 quality pieces

13+ quality pieces


(x3 in point value=

30 points total)

Some pieces (9 or less) are accurately explained in abstract

Most (10+) pieces are accurately explained in abstract

All pieces are thoroughly explained in abstract


Short Essay Guidelines

After learning about different lenses of critical theory, you will be writing an essay about one of them.  Your choices are limited to the lenses we’ve covered in class: historical, gender, and social class.  The reader response lens will be somewhat incorporated into everyone’s essay and is not an option to solely write about.  Your essay will include a summary about the lens itself as well as an analysis of a SHORT piece of literature with that lens.  Your essay should be somewhere around 2-3 pages in length, double spaced with 12 point Times New Roman font and standard margins.

Here is an overview of the project:

Checklist of what to turn in- please have them in this order:


This essay is worth a total of 40 points:


Double-Entry Journal Guidelines

Each student will be expected to bring a new notebook to class for the purpose of journaling throughout the semester.  This notebook should be used only for the purpose of journaling.


Most of your journal entries will be in the form of a double-entry journal.  In this form of journaling, writers are to divide the writing space into two separate columns.  In the first column, the writer will summarize the text and write down any key ideas from the text that may be worth noting.  In the second column, the writer will create a reaction to the text, question the text, give example of critical theory in the text, or write anything else that may pose value at a later time.


Students will be expected to create a journal entry for each chapter of the unit.  The purpose of this journaling is to summarize the text, reflect on it, and create new and meaningful ideas and interpretations through your writing.  Journals will be turned in periodically throughout the unit/semester, so please keep up with them.  All journal entries are worth 5 points each.  I will randomly choose some to read carefully and comment on, and others I will just skim and give full points if you follow the guidelines.  Please do quality work on all of them.  Students will receive full points for journal entries if:

1.) the summary is an accurate, overall portrayal of the text -and-

2.) the reflection piece is well-thought out and your effort reflects in your work.




Here is an example of the format of a double-entry journal:

This side of the paper is for:

  • Summary of the text
  • Notation of key passages w/ page #s
  • Quotable quotes w/ page #s




(What it is…)

This side of the paper is for:

  • Reaction to the text
  • Opinions on the text
  • Questions about the text
  • Examples of critical theory
  • Anything else noteworthy


(What you make of it…)



Lesson: The Gender Lens of Critical Theory

Time: 50 minutes

Grade Level: 11-12th grades

Stage 1 – Desired Results

Content Standard(s): Students will understand multiple perspectives (in literature).

Understanding (s)/goals:

  • Students will understand that there is no one way to look at literature and that the well-rounded reader will analyze it from many perspectives.


Essential Question(s):

  • How can changing the male or female perspective change reader’s take on the story?
  • How can using the gender lens affect real-world thinking?

Student objectives (outcomes):

  • Students will be able to apply the gender lens of critical theory to this and other texts as well as to real-world concepts and thinking.
  • Students will become analytical, informed, and well-rounded readers of text.

Stage 2 – Assessment Evidence

Performance Task(s):

  • Double entry journals- students will summarize and analyze the text by using the gender lens of critical theory.

Other Evidence:

  • Group Discussion
  • Notes from small group discussion worksheets

Stage 3 – Learning Plan

Learning Activities:

Materials Needed:

  • “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
  • Literary Perspectives Tool Kit (pages 141-144 Appleman, 2009)
  • Discussion Question Sheet (See questions in #3)

1.) Set Induction (5-7 Min): Welcome the students to class and introduce the day’s activities.  The teacher will introduce the gender lens and make a reference to a popular nursery rhyme (Little Miss Muffet), illustrating the stereotypes and inequalities of gender.  The teacher will then ask compelling questions of the students like:

  • What if Miss Muffet had been a boy? How would the story change?
  • Would the character still be portrayed the same way (as weak)? Or would the male character squash the spider and life goes on?

This will get students thinking about the concept of the gender lens and how it affects our views on literature, and it also ties in something they all can relate to: a childhood nursery rhyme.


2.) Students should take out their handout from the previous day (Appleman’s Literary Perspectives Tool Kit) while the teacher will pass out “The Story of an Hour” handout.  Students will read it silently.  As they read, they are to pick out examples of how the gender lens could be used in this piece of literature. They should write these ideas down, underline them in the text, etc. (15 Min)


3.) Students will break up into gender specific groups (all boys and all girls) of 3-4.  They will discuss their thoughts on how Mrs. Mallard passed from their gender’s perspective. Here are some example questions that can be distributed in the form of a worksheet- 1 per group:

  • How did Mrs. Mallard die? Support your answer with examples from the text.
  • Applying your groups’ gender lens to the previous question, does this make your answer different? Why or why not?
  • Using the opposite gender lens, can you think of how this might change the interpretation of the text? (So, if your group is all males, try to see from the female perspective and vice versa.)

They should be answering the questions and recording their answers on this question sheet, as it will be collected at the end of the day for evaluation of the group.  (Advise students to put all group members’ names on them.) During this discussion, the teacher should be walking around to verify group participation and that students remain on task. (10 Mins)


4.) The class will come together as a whole to discuss what the gender segregated groups have been talking about. Review the answers on the question sheet with inputs from all groups.  Also, raise the question about how the historical lens can affect a reader’s take on the literature.  (Perhaps students have already mentioned this…)  This will lead to the point of the lesson: literature and other real-world happenings can be viewed from different perspectives and it can change the way we view it. Open up the discussion, and make sure to make time for questions. (15 Min)

5.) Conclusion of the lesson.  Assign homework: Double entry journal using Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and the double entry journal guidelines previously handed out. (3 Min)


"The Story of An Hour"

Kate Chopin (1894)


Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband's friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard's name leading the list of "killed." He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which someone was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.

There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.

She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.

She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will--as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under hte breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.

Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhold, imploring for admission. "Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door--you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven's sake open the door."

"Go away. I am not making myself ill." No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.

Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

She arose at length and opened the door to her sister's importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister's waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.

Someone was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of the joy that kills.

Adapted from: http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/webtexts/hour/


Lesson Title: Social Class Exercise: Front-Loading The Great Gatsby

Time: 50 Min.

Grade Level: 11-12

Stage 1 – Desired Results

Content Standard(s):  N/A

Understanding (s)/goals:

  • Students will understand the stereotypes of social classes and how they depict different meanings in both today’s society and in the 1920’s.
  • The difference in historical context and that of modern-day society.

Essential Question(s):

  • How did upper class society live in the 1920’s? How is this different from today? How is it similar?



Student objectives (outcomes):

  • All students will be able to individually list stereotypes of upper-class society.
  • Most students will be able to compare and contrast those stereotypes in small group discussion.
  • Some students will continue to reflect on the societal differences as we collaboratively discuss them as a class.


Stage 2 – Assessment Evidence

Performance Task(s):

  • Multi-Genre Project on The Great Gatsby
  • Cumulative Exam on The Great Gatsby

Other Evidence:

  • Individual brainstorming lists
  • Small group discussion
  • Large group discussion


Stage 3 – Learning Plan

Learning Activities:

Materials Needed:

  • Sound Clips and Pictures of 2011 upper class and 1920’s upper class
  • Projector and laptop
  • Each student will need a blank sheet of paper and a writing utensil.
  • Worksheet with same questions as the projector for students to answer in groups. The worksheet will have 2 columns- one to answer about 2011 and the other for 1920’s.


1.) Set Induction: (5-7 Min) When students walk into the classroom and sit down at their desks, there will be an image or images of upper-class society in 2011. (Optionally, music could be playing as students walk in.  “Glamorous” by Fergie would be a great choice as it is about living the high-life and it is from today’s hit list.)  Once the bell rings, the instructor will stop the music, and students will be welcomed into the classroom.  They will be instructed to take out a sheet of paper and individually make a list of stereotypical attributes of the people they are seeing on the projector (modern-day upper class).  Instructor will then play more music in the background from 2011- I have chosen “Beverly Hills” by Weezer as it is a song about rich society in the 2000’s.  The students will brainstorm and jot down their ideas about the pictures for about 3 min- until the song ends. The instructor will then change the image (to a picture(s) of the upper class from the 1920’s) and switch the song to an up-beat song from the 1920’s.  Students will be instructed to again make a list of stereotypical attributes of the people in these pictures. They will have about 3 minutes and will end when the song ends.

  • Note for Step 1: Students can be advised to consider what these people did, where they went, how they dressed, what luxuries they had, their attitude, job, hobbies, who they hung around with, etc. 


2.) Now that students have individually thought about these concepts, they will be numbered off into small groups (3-4 is preferable, but less is ok depending on class size). The instructor will need to ensure that every group has at least one smart phone for Google searches as they will be allowed to use them to add to their lists. (This is optional depending on the region you are teaching and if there are enough kids in the class with this technology.) Students will be instructed to bring their lists with them to their groups.  Once the groups are established and sitting quietly, the instructor will explain the activity.  Instructor will hand out a sheet with key questions for discussion.  The instructor will also have a copy of the key questions on the projector.  The students are to fill these out and collaborate with their group members.  Some of the posed questions would be (see attached worksheet):

  • In terms of social class hierarchy, where do you classify yourself and why? (Upper, middle, lower, or somewhere in between?)
  • What might the appearance of these people tell us about them? Their attitudes? (These can be stereotypes…)
  • Based on their appearance, what are their potential: Occupations? Hobbies? Possessions? (Again, these can and will be stereotypes.)
  • What might their social life be like? What did they do for fun?
  • What might their family life be like?
  • Share one other interesting fact/tidbit you’ve inferred about these people:

The instructor will walk around from group to group monitoring the groups’ progression, productivity, and be available for questions if needed. (15-20 Min)


3.) Next, the class will be told that they are allowed to stay in their groups for the in-class discussion as long as they are not disruptive.  The instructor will be ask students to choose a “speaker” to represent their group in the class discussion.  Students will be reminded of the rules of classroom discussion (mostly respect), and then we will start open discussion as a class based on the questions on the worksheet.  In addition, students will be asked compare and contrast questions about the two groups to “bring it all together” in the end. (20-25 Min)


4.) Lastly, students will be asked to put the classroom back in order.  Once in their seats, students will be given an anticipation guide for The Great Gatsby to do as homework.  The instructor will explain that students are to use only the first column for this assignment, and that these are tough agree/disagree questions that will need to be turned in.  They will not be “graded,” but they will need to bring it back completed for points. The instructor will save these anticipation guides to hand back to students to complete the second column at the end of the unit. (3 Min)


Social Class Discussion Questions                                        Name:______________________


In your groups of 3-4, answer the following questions about the upper class.  Be sure to include answers for both modern-day and the 1920’s when it applies.  (Note: these may be stereotypical answers.)
































                     Anticipation Guide

Directions:  In the column on the left, write “yes” or “no” if you

agree or disagree with the statement.  Maybe is not an option. 

Be prepared to share your answer as well as why you chose that

answer.  Leave the column on the right blank, as we will re-visit

these questions after reading  The Great Gatsby.



Having money is the most important thing in life.




Looks can be deceiving.




In the end, people always get what they deserve.




I would marry for money.




Would you ever knowingly commit a crime?




A careless person is much more dangerous than one who intentionally does wrong.




Can money really buy happiness?




Is there ever a situation where adultery should be allowed?




Should we conform to the rules of society to fit in?




If you love someone, you will do anything for them.




Adapted from:

www.enotes.com/documents/anticipation-guide-great-gatsby-48205 and



Gary Soto- Oranges

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted -
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickel from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all

A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.


Sharon Olds

On The Subway


The boy and I face each other.
His feet are huge, in black sneakers
laced with white in a complex pattern like a
set of intentional scars. We are stuck on
opposite sides of the car, a couple of
molecules stuck in a rod of light
rapidly moving through darkness. He has the
casual cold look of a mugger,
alert under hooded lids. He is wearing
red, like the inside of the body
exposed. I am wearing dark fur, the
whole skin of an animal taken and
used. I look at his raw face,
he looks at my fur coat, and I don’t
know if I am in his power —
he could take my coat so easily, my
briefcase, my life —
or if he is in my power, the way I am
living off his life, eating the steak
he does not eat, as if I am taking
the food from his mouth. And he is black
and I am white, and without meaning or
trying to I must profit from his darkness,
the way he absorbs the murderous beams of the
nation’s head, as black cotton
absorbs the heat of the sun and holds it. There is
no way to know how easy this
white skin makes my life, this
life he could take so easily and
break across his knee like a stick the way his
own back is being broken, the
rod of his soul that at birth was dark and
fluid, rich as the head of a seedling
ready to thrust up into any available light.