If you are looking to create a richer and more diverse Great Gatsby unit plan, here is a list of my favorite pairing activities for The Great Gatsby! These cross-curricular Great Gatsby ideas will help you make teaching The Great Gatsby more relevant and exciting for your multi-interest students.
Art Pairing Activities for The Great Gatsby
Let’s begin by tying Art into English Language Arts. First, The Great Gatsby is full of color symbolism which pairs well with artistic analysis, but even more compelling is the role that the cover art showpiece plays in the literary masterpiece.
The original book cover for The Great Gatsby is one of the most haunting and recognizable book covers in all of literature. Interestingly, it is one of the few book covers that was designed before the book was finished. To add even more intrigue, there is evidence that it influenced Fitzgerald’s writing.
In the Smithsonian article “When F. Scott Fitzgerald Judged a Book by its Cover,” the author reveals that Fitzgerald requested that the art be held for him: “For Christ’s sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.”
Using color symbolism and other artistic elements in the original book cover design, have students analyze how this book cover could have influenced Fitzgerald’s story. If you want to continue tracking color symbolism as you read, check out the bar graph idea in this post: The Great Gatsby classroom transformation ideas
Math Pairing Activities for The Great Gatsby
Look, math is not most English teachers’ cup of tea, but adding in a cross curricular approach to teaching The Great Gatsby is worth it for the connections students will make. Giving students opportunities to see how the ideas presented in literature connect with other disciplines only enhances their experience while studying a text. Don’t worry, no equations necessary!
It’s no secret that The Great Gatsby is known for its representation of the glitz and glam of the Roaring 20’s, but have you ever wondered what all of that extravagance would cost today? Sometimes it’s hard for students to grasp just how much money Gatsby threw around, so putting those numbers into today’s standards shows just how lavish his lifestyle was. After reading chapter 3, have students complete a Gatsby Lifestyle activity to get a feel for what “rich” really meant back then compared to today. You can view Fitzgerald’s personal ledger online, and students can calculate how much his lifestyle would cost in today’s economy.
Still not convinced? Try ELA bar graphs! This is a versatile tool that can be used for symbol tracking, character growth, repeated word tracking, and even for documenting figurative language. Fitzgerald’s use of color symbolism (hello infamous green light!) is probably one of the most common approaches to teaching this text, and ELA bar graphs help students keep track of not only each color’s appearance throughout the novel but also how that use affects the plot at different points.
Diverse Pairings for The Great Gatsby
One of the biggest pushes in ELA curriculum is the need for more diverse voices in the texts we share with students. But, how can we make that happen AND have time for the core texts we are expected to teach? There is a way!
For The Great Gatsby paired texts, start with the least engaging section: the dreaded first chapter. If you’ve ever taught The Great Gatsby, you know how tedious the first chapter is for students. Fitzgerald really shows off his stylistic prowess, but it can be a bit long-winded for many. Why not throw in a little Gatsby Remix to shake things up?
Instead of reading the full first chapter of the novel, have students view the graphic novel version. You can show students through the “look inside” feature on Amazon, and this short depiction of chapter 1 gives students enough of the main plot points to get the gist of the whole chapter. This is great for struggling readers or English Language Learners.
By cutting out the lengthy study of the book’s first chapter, you have more time for additional text pairings. Nghi Vo’s modern retelling of the story from Jordan Baker’s perspective, The Chosen and the Beautiful, is a captivating text to pair with chapter 1 as she writes in a lyrical magical realism style. Students can compare and contrast each author’s writing style and use of figurative language.
Beyond Gatsby-specific texts, you can also venture into the world of poetry for a Gatsby paired poem activity. In chapter 1, we receive one of the most iconic lines from the novel in Daisy’s “beautiful little fool” quote. Show students the clip from the 2013 film and pay close attention to Carrie Mulligan’s rendition of this gut-wrenching line. Then, have students read Georgia Douglas Johnson’s Harlem Renaissance poem, “The Heart of a Woman,” and focus on the feminist tone of each piece. Harlem Renaissance literature is rich with beautiful language, and this poem provides a glimpse into a woman’s perspective during the Roaring 20s.
Informational Text Pairings for The Great Gatsby
Having a few informational texts to pair with The Great Gatsby helps students see the real-life connections between texts and the real world, especially texts from before they were even born. I’m sure we can all hear the question, “But what does this have to do with me?” in that ONE student’s voice (you know the one).
When teaching chapter 6, talk to students about the idea of “faking it until you make it,” a concept well presented by Gatsby’s character. Chapter 6 is where we learn of Gatsby’s true past and the role he plays to win favor with the uber-rich. Fitzgerald uses this narrative to depict the concept of old money versus new money and whether or not money can truly buy happiness.
We’ve all had to fake it at some point, and I’m sure students can relate to this idea. Have students read this article about when people should, and shouldn’t, adopt this “fake it” mentality. Then have them analyze how this concept correlates with Fitzgerald’s representation of Gatsby and the pitfalls of the American Dream.
Another way to pair informational text with your study of the novel is to teach students about “The Gatsby Curve”. The Great Gatsby Curve, a term coined by economist Alan Kreuger, describes how one’s economic standing as a child often dictates that person’s ability to move up, or down, in wealth. Warning: the linked article contains spoilers, so save this one for the end of your study!
STEM ACTIVITY FOR THE GREAT GATSBY
This last unique Gatsby pairing idea from an older blog post of mine from 2015. Though I no longer offer the worksheet in my Great Gatsby unit plan, I wanted to leave this information for those who incorporate STEM or STEAM in ELA.
This past summer I had the opportunity to take a two-week science and English integration class for teachers. It was an eye-opening experience to learn just how differently science and English brains work. As a fun way to wrap up our first Friday of this class, we did an easy oil and water experiment. As I watched the mesmerizing colors seep down through the oil, I immediately thought of how I could use this fun experiment with my Gatsby Color Symbolism Unit. Five months later, I finally got to test out this lesson, and my students thought it was SO cool. It was a hit for sure!