Savor every syllable of Fitzgerald’s luscious prose
Late fall is when many teachers choose to teach The Great Gatsby. After all, Fitzgerald’s masterpiece lends itself to this time of year. It’s short. It’s engaging. It’s full of parties. With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays fast approaching, those three features of the 1925 classic make Gatsby easy and fun to teach.
In fact, The Great Gatsby is my favorite novel to teach. When it comes time for Gatsby, I get excited for the plodding plot, the spot-on dialogue, the Jazz Age history, and last but not least, Fitzgerald’s luscious prose. There are SO MANY beautiful lines in this novel! Whenever I read one aloud to my classes, I usually stop right after, heave a big sigh, and read it again a little more slowly to savor every syllable.
Another thing I like when my Gatsby unit rolls around each year is to have something new to swoon over in my classroom. And even though I’m taking a year off from high school this year to teach freshmen college students as an adjunct instructor, I still have Gatsby on my mind.
What’s new this year, you ask?
How about this awesome pair of T.J. Eckleburg-inspired eyeglasses from Grandin Road catalog? I ordered them around Halloween and they’re going to look perfect in my next high school classroom. Measuring about 18″ across, the frames are slightly disturbing (just like that Valley of Ashes billboard) and should pique the curiosity of my American lit readers.
Also new this year:
I created a series of beautiful sentence posters for The Great Gatsby. (This $3 poster set is available here in my Site Shop and on TpT.) To create the posters, I chose ten beautiful sentences from the novel. (I already know I’ll likely be adding more pages to the set eventually because how can one limit oneself to only ten beautiful sentences from Gatsby?!) Heck, every chapter in the novel drips with spine-tingling strings of perfectly placed words.
Here’s a sneak peek at my Gatsby Beautiful Sentences resource:
There are three main ways these posters could work in your classroom:
- To decorate: Create a bulletin board or hang these posters around your room to surround your students with the ambience and language of Gatsby
- To create beautiful sentence writing lessons: Basically, I envision students reading these sentences from the posters, and then searching through the text to find more beautiful sentences. Then, we’ll discuss what we notice about these sentences. For example… 1) How do the connotations of the words used affect the idea of the sentence? 2) How does repetition (or other literary devices) Fitzgerald used affect the sentence? 3) How do the sentence structures contribute to the meaning of the sentences?
For ideas on how to use beautiful sentences in your writing instruction, read educator Karla Hilliard’s post on Moving Writers.org. Titled “A Lesson on Beautiful Sentences,” this article provides excellent and practical advice, plus a downloadable Google Slides presentation ready for an engaging beautiful sentences mini-lesson!
3. To help students keep track of main events of the novel: For example, the posters could create an interactive reading comprehension quiz of sorts on a bulletin board. Each poster in the set is followed by another sheet with the chapter number in which the sentence appears. Staple the sentences on a bulletin board with the chapter number sheet beneath each beautiful sentence. Students then read the sentences and guess the chapter it’s from to assess their overall comprehension of the novel’s events and plot. Hearing a sentence and thinking about when it appeared in the narrative will help students check their understanding.
One more idea:
Beautiful sentences can also make creative assessments. For instance, have students create a one-pager (copy your templates at 145% for best results) to analyze a beautiful sentence. Include these items in the one-pagers:
- The student’s chosen beautiful sentence.
- The literary devices used in the sentence.
- The sentence’s plot function within the chapter or scene of the novel
- A drawn representation of the sentence
- A definition of new vocabulary words in the sentence
- A brief description of the sentence. Is it a simple sentence? Compound? Complex? Compound-complex? Is it declarative, interrogative, or imperative? Does it utilize coordinate or subordinate conjunctions? How is the sentence punctuated? What are the effects of these choices?
No doubt about it. When we take special notice of an author’s beautiful sentences, we gain greater insight into his or her craft.
Sure, it’s easy to gulp and guzzle down all those beautiful sentences as we cruise through Gatsby. Only when we sip and savor those sentences do we enjoy a richer reading experience.
The Great Gatsby 2013 Film Chapter Breakdown updated Jan. 2022
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