Word file. 12 pages. Build context and prior knowledge for The Great Gatsby with the first 45 minutes of “Cosmopolis” (Season 1 Episode 5) from New York: A Documentary Film by director Ric Burns. (It’s available on or you can stream from PBS.
I LOVE THIS DOCUMENTARY! Chills ran down my spine the first time I watched it as I was trying to locate a video to build context for Gatsby. Best of all, the documentary opens and closes with the words from the last pages of The Great Gatsby.
“Cosmopolis” is as close to perfect as I’ve found, so I made this viewing guide for the first 45 minutes of the episode, which covers the return of World War One soldiers up to 1927. (The entire “Cosmopolis” episode runs more than two hours in full.)
The guide is broken into the nine scenes of the 45 minutes. Start and stop times are indicated at the top of each section. INCLUDES KEY.
See product images for two representative pages of the student handout and two representative pages of the key. The entire document is twelve pages long.
PLEASE NOTE: The final ten minutes of the first 45 minutes includes a spoiler. If you do not want to reveal Gatsby’s death to your students, use the first four pages of this viewing guide, which covers the first 35 minutes of the video. If the spoiler doesn’t bother you, then use the additional page for the entire 45 minutes.
There are 43 questions in this viewing guide. Some of the questions are basic comprehension (including T/F and fill-in-the-blank) and some are deeper critical thinking questions that may require pausing the film to discuss with students. (Another idea: Before viewing, have students circle the critical thinking questions (such as 2, 7, 12, 16, 26, 34, 39, 43) to save these questions for later. After viewing, have small groups or partners think through those questions and share out their ideas to the class.
THANK YOU! You and your students will love “Cosmopolis” and will learn awesome context for reading The Great Gatsby.
And one more thing… For a cumulative project for The Great Gatsby, try my Hexagonal Thinking resource. I tried hexagonal thinking for the first time with Gatsby and created this very basic hexagonal thinking project for students to do independently. It would work great with small groups as well. Check it out by clicking here: