Social History, the 1920s & Gatsby: Making it all relevant

1920 gatsby_1925_jacket

Before teaching The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, I try to put my class in the mindset of the 1920s. I want them to understand it for the rebellious, “riotous,” risqué time that it was. In that vein, I assign them, in small groups, social topics to research.

1920s topics

Once they’ve researched both of their topics, students are to choose the five most interesting facts they’ve found for each.

1920s Model T

1920s Charleston dance






The next step is to identify what these look like now. What modern-day equivalent/like fact could they find to help students understand what life was like in the 1920s?



Here are some of their responses:

1920s chart

These examples only scratch the surface of what they found. One student was so ambivalent about even asking me if “twerking” would be an appropriate modern-day connection to the Charleston. I pointed out that her reluctance to ask me about it and write it down should give her an indication of what a risqué time it was.

1920s the-great-gatsby-party

I think they’re ready to grasp and appreciate this novel, now.

This is a two-day lesson. For the first, students are researching their topics & coming up with modern-day equivalents. The next, they are putting their information down on paper in a chart like the one above. Some choose to embellish their charts with photos in order to provide a visual for their audience, the rest of the class, when they share information.

Then & Now serves as a quick, grounding lesson for any time period.





Model “T”:



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