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American Dream and the Great Gatsby

Utah Education Network

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Note that this resource was reviewed during the Spring 2013 review period. The resource may or may not have been updated since the review. Check with the content creator to see if there is a more recent version available.

Review

This resource was reviewed by OSPI in Spring 2013. Learn more about the review process and the data analysis approach.

The version reviewed was: 8/11/2012.

Background from OER Project Review Team
This unit is available on the Utah Education Network (UEN). UEN connects all Utah school districts, schools, and higher education institutions to a network and educational resources. The main curriculum tie in this unit was called out by developers as CCSS Reading Informational Text Standard 1.

Publishers' Criteria (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Strongly Disagree) to 3 (Strongly Agree). Quality of Text: 1.5, Quality of Questions and Tasks: 1.25, Writing: 2.25.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Not Recommended (1.0)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 2.0, Key Shifts in the CCSS: 1.25, Instructional Supports: 1.5, Assessment: 1.0.

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 1.5, Interactivity: 0.0, Exercises: 1.25, Deeper Learning: 2.0.

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Moderate (1.5)

The lesson identifies one CC standard (RI.11-12.1). I noted additional standards that should also be applied (RI.11-12.3), (RI.11-12.7), (W.11-12.4), (W.11-12.9) as the lesson explicitly states the intended outcomes of “examine how ideas develop”, “conduct short research”, and “write an argument.” The lesson provided adequate opportunities with clear direction on how to incorporate these standards in terms of the content.

The background knowledge and protocol familiarity required of this particular lesson could be problematic to the “average student.” It will take a significant amount of learning to establish the required culture and level of inquiry required for the scope of this lesson. RE: Toulmin Argumentation

Further – the assessments and interactivity of this lesson leave much to be desired. I saw little to no connection between the final writing assignment rubric and the aforementioned “standards” or learning outcomes. What does excellent, significant, sufficient, and weak look like? Maybe some type of online form to complete the argumentation notes could make it more interactive?

Final thought – upon initial review of this material, I expected to directly interact with Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby text/work. There is no tie (other than a thematic connection) to this book. With that said, this appears to be an extension activity following any work with the literature.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Agree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

The Utah Education Network’s American Dream/Gatsby unit makes use of The New York Times (NYT) articles that are models of text complexity. Through the three lessons, students must comprehend and apply critical reasoning in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the NYT's arguments. The research component forces a student to integrate and evaluate multiple sources in order to craft his/her position on the state of the American Dream for the on-demand essay assignment.

When the students are "critiquing the reasoning of others," and composing their own argumentative essays," they are “constructing viable arguments" so deeper learning skills are addressed. This unit requires students to read closely and examine the textual evidence to find the warrants, claims and data. It also provides for rigorous evidence-based discussion and writing activities.

On the negative side, there were no pre-reading and vocabulary activities apparent. The unit could use more targeted argumentative analysis and essay writing instruction. Teaching the Toulmin Model is confusing for many students. Also, the writing of an essay (especially an in-class one) needs much more scaffolding and formative assessment. Writing claims with grounds and the corresponding warrant(s) takes practice, both in analysis and in application, and to do it on-demand, under a set period of time, takes skill.

In evaluating the skills and subject matter (e.g. argumentative writing/American Dream), being taught, this unit expects students to apply the Toulmin Model effortlessly. In my experience with teaching argumentation analysis, most students struggle with the critical thinking required even after having worked with it. Since the objectives are "to examine how ideas develop over the course of a text" and "to cite textual evidence to support that analysis," students could use more scaffolding along the way. Taking each article paragraph by paragraph and looking closely at the support for the argument(s) and if the claim evolves through the essay would be more helpful for the learners. Working on crafting an on-demand argument, (e.g. introduction, claim, support, style), also needs to be addressed. Using exemplary student essay models and having students practice pieces of the assignment would yield more success. Therefore, this unit needs a fair amount of work for alignment because it assumes that students will perform the Toulmin analysis flawlessly and write an exemplary essay; unless one is working with third-year law students, this doesn't seem to be the case in the real world

I would use these materials in my classroom: Agree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

The American Dream Great Gatsby unit has a thematic tie to the Great Gatsby but no clear literary tie to The Great Gatsby. The standards that were being addressed in the lesson were not clearly tied to the learning objectives and assessments in a succinct and viable manner. In order the this lesson/unit to be used in connection with the great Gatsby and CCSS a great deal of work would need to be done. The links to the articles would be useful and some may find the Toulmin Argumentation format useful, however, in researching that I found multiple variations in language different than what was presented in this lesson.

Part of what would improve this lesson, would be text-based questions that would guide students toward discussions about the quality of the claims and warrants made in the articles and how that would translate into their own arguments about the American Dream. Students might make alternate arguments about the American Dream from the perspective a particular character in the Great Gatsby using evidence from the text, before making their own arguments. A larger variety of text and scaffolding needs to be present in this lesson to meet the needs of ELL and SPED students as well as those students who read below grade level.

The lesson needs to be seen as part of a full unit that addresses multiple standards in an integrated manner rather than addressing one standard at a time, this way it can fully address the intent of the CCSS instructional practice. As it currently sits, as an isolated lesson, it cannot address many of the instructional components required in the CCSS.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Strongly Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

While this lesson is titled The American Dream and The Great Gatsby, the lessons and final product can be done independent of the novel and, in fact, do not require any interaction with the novel at all. The essay prompt does not ask the students to pull text evidence from the novel only from the informational documents/articles that were assigned and independently found. Teachers could restate the prompt asking students to cite examples from their information texts and from the Great Gatsby; thus allowing literary Common Core standards to be met as well. As is, this lesson plan does not place any emphasis on the literary fiction that the title of the lesson reflects. Even though it doesn't specifically call for connections to be made with the novel, the current lesson's objectives do not call for the novel and informational text to be connected.

Specific non-fiction is included in the lesson to lead students through close reading of text and gathering of text evidence. Once this has been accomplished, the lesson asks students to research and find their own informational texts to close read, analyze and gather evidence from. Support systems are in place for students throughout this lesson. The writing prompt requires students to back up their claims and counterclaims using textual evidence that they found, evaluated and analyzed from within the informational text. As is, the lessons do not specifically lead students through the writing process (multiple drafts and revision) and asks simply for students to write a mini-essay using class time given. However, teachers can easily incorporate with minimal effort, directions for students to use the writing process if this was a desired objective.

There are no extension activities included in this lesson for high level students; however, teachers could include instructions for the students to use text evidence from The Great Gatsby in their essays to demonstrate how informational text and fiction treat similar topics.

While the instructions ask for the students to use the computer lab to research and find two additional pieces of informational text, no other technology is used in this lesson.

The essay's rubric does not have a category for grammar/spelling/mechanics, and the directions do not call for teachers to address these with their students; however, this could be incorporated with minimal effort. While a rubric exists that is focused on the criteria mentioned in student directions, it could include more specific, clear and concise expectations. It is a simple 3, 2, 1 scale (Excellent, Sufficient, Weak), but does not provide exact language to what Excellent, Sufficient and Weak mean. This is an easy fix for teachers so that students have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

Overall, this lesson meets a number of the Common Core Standards and meet even more with minimal changes. It is a strong lesson that focuses on a major theme (the American Dream) of an American classic novel.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Agree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.