11th Grade ELA : Unit #6 - The Great Gatsby : Lesson #15

The Reliable/Unreliable Narrator

Objective: SWBAT analyze the point of view and provide strong and thorough textual evidence to determine whether Nick is a reliable narrator.
Standards: RL.11-12.1 RL.11-12.6 W.11-12.1 W.11-12.9 SL.11-12.1 L.11-12.2 L.11-12.6
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 Overview - 0 minutes

In this lesson, I would like students to stop and consider whether they believe Nick is a reliable or unreliable narrator.  Students have a tendency to automatically believe that the narrator's portrayal of events is always accurate.  This lesson is aimed at allowing students to critque Nick's rendition of events and decide whether they believe they are true or clouded with an overabundance of subjectivity.  For example, in Chapter 2, Nick recounts most of the chapter in a drunken haze.  I ask students to consider whether we can believe everything he relays from the events in Myrtle and Tom's apartment.

To help students relate to the assignment, I ask them to truthfully consider how many times they may have stretched the truth when telling a friend a story about an event or happening that they were involved in.  In a whole-class discussion, we talk about whether they have ever stretched the truth about themselves to impress a friend.

2 Daily Language Practice - 10 minutes

In this short section of the lesson, we do some grammatical review.  I call it the Daily Language Practice.  I put two sentences with grammatical mistakes on the projector or overhead.  The class writes the sentences on paper.  I then solicit the class to volunteer which errors they see.  This is a great activity to begin class.  It allows for a smooth segue to English class, and it offers a great review of grammar for the SATs.

This activity is CCSS aligned as it demonstrates command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

3 SAT Question of the Day - 10 minutes

Teacher uses the attached link to show the SAT Question of the Day on the projector.  Teacher engages students in a whole-class discussion on finding strategies to answer the question.



4 Gatsby Vocabulary Test II - 20 minutes

The attached is the second vocabulary test related to The Great Gatsby.  The test was developed to utilize the same skills needed on the verbal portion of the SATS.  On this test, students should look for clues in the sentences that match up to the appropriate vocabulary word.  Essentially, the test requires students to use the same thought process needed for the SATS.  All words from the initial list are include.  Most questions are sentence fill-ins.  I did include a few matching to assist struggling students.

As students take the test, I circulate to answer questions are or ensure that everyone is on task.  After completing the test, students may begin reviewing the new set of words. 

Each student is assigned a vocabulary word from an assigned list (Unit 1 Vocabulary).  Students will look up their word in the dictionary and create a flashcard.  Teacher explains the difference between connotation (meaning associated with the word) and denotation (the exact meaning of the word.)  Students will create a flashcard with the following information:

  • One side: Visual representing the meaning of the word
  • Second side: 

                     Latin and Greek Roots

                     part of speech

                     Connotation: "What does word sound like?"

                     Denotation: exact meaning of word

                     Write the word in a sentence demonstrating proper usage.

Students will present their flashcard to the class, noting all the listed information.  Flashcards will be reviewed each day in a whole-class activities.  Students will be asked to recall information on flashcard.

Additionally, students should learn a few words a night as an on-going homework assignment.





5 The Reliable/Unreliable Narrator - 30 minutes

Before we begin digging into whether Nick is a reliable narrator, I ask students to truthfully consider whether they have ever stretched the truth to make themselves look better in front of a peer.  To facilitate a whole-class discussion, I propose to the class the following scenarios and ask students to describe their response.  (The purpose is to consider whether Nick truly is the honest person he knows, considering that while he is scornful of everyone's actions, he is still participating in them.)

  • Your girlfriend/boyfriend breaks up with you.  Do you tell your friends she/she initiated the break-up or do you bend the truth to make it look like you broke up with him or her?
  • Everyone in the class gets a 95 or above on a test, you get a 55.  Do you go along with everyone and say you aced the test as well or do you admit that you were the only one to flunk the test?
  • You get in an altercation with an acquaintance who makes you look silly in front of others.  Do you re-tell the story to your friends making yourself look like the dominant figure in the argument, or do you admit the truth?

I randomly pick popsicle sticks and ask students their responses.  This is to ensure that all students are engaged.

I then hand out the attached worksheet in which students look at Nick's relationships to the other characters and examine his likes and dislikes.  Finally, students provide evidence as to whether they believe he is a reliable narrator in a written response.  I have developed the worksheet to help students breakdown the information that they have learned about Nick and work through a bit of scaffold to arrive at a well-thought out conclusion.  The CCSS alignment occurs as students must examine text evidence in calculating their response (RL 11-12 1).  Additionally, they must analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (RL 11-12 6).