Grade level:


Approximate Lesson Duration:

Unit/Lesson New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS):

RL.11-12.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence and make relevant connections to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RL.11-12.3. Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama

RL.11-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful.

RL.11-12.5. Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

RL.11-12.6. Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).

RL.11-12.7. Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (e.g., Shakespeare and other authors.)

RL.11-12.9. Demonstrate knowledge of and reflect on (e.g. practical knowledge, historical/cultural context, and background knowledge) eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century foundational works of literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.

Brief Summary of Cultural Competencies Related to the Unit/Lesson:

What makes this lesson culturally relevant?

Students will understand that because of societal constraints authors often had to hide information in their texts. In the 1920s, it would have been unacceptable for Fitzgerald to openly state that characters were gay or gender non-conforming. Instead, he included details that would have been easily recognized by readers who were members of the LGBTQ+ community or that could be found by careful close reading.

It is important for students to understand that LGBTQ+ people have not had representation in media until recently and for much of history were expected (and sometimes still are) to hide an essential piece of their identity.

Lesson Overview:

Essential Question(s)
  • Why is it important to consider the historical context of a novel?
  • Why is it important to evaluate literature through different lenses?
  • How does changing our lens alter or enhance our understanding of a novel?
Enduring Understanding(s)
  • Because of societal or cultural constraints, authors often “hid” messages in their works that would resonate with certain audiences while others would gloss over them.
  • Because art is a product of its time, we must not separate a work from its historical context.
  • Altering the lens we use to examine a piece of literature enhances our understanding of the author’s intent and makes us more careful readers.
Potential Misconceptions
  • Without giving students access to the research that supports the idea of Fitzgerald embedding gay or genderqueer characters into his work, students may believe the teacher is simply “making up” an interpretation of the work. Examples of such research are provided as links at the end of this document. 
  • Students may not understand why authors couldn’t simply announce a character was LGBTQ+ so it may become necessary for the teacher to give some additional historical context.

Learning plan, experiences, intstruction and learning activities:

What is Expected?
  • List the intentional learning objectives on the board.

Students will be able to:


  • Identify ways in which Jordan does not adhere to the standards prescribed for women of her time.
  • Identify clues in the text that Nick’s feelings for Gatsby may be more romantic than platonic.
  • Explain how rereading the text with a new lens enhances the reader’s understanding of the characters and their motivations.



Today we will be working on a close reading of The Great Gatsby using a historical perspective as our lens in order to understand how authors are bound by the societal constraints of the time period in which they are living.

What is expected?
How will we hook (Introduce this to) the students?
  • Activate thinking
  • Consider the language you will use to introduce the lesson (See example in the table)
  • Ask students to pair up and write/brainstorm ideas of what it means to be a “typical” male or female.
  • Have students share and compare their responses.
  • Discuss how societal norms have changed or evolved over time.
  • Ask students to consider whether or not a book containing openly gay or genderqueer characters would be widely accepted in the 1920s.
What equipment, resources, or materials are needed?
  • Copies of The Great Gatsby
  • Optional: Smartboard or document projector, articles referenced at the end of this lesson plan.
How will we rethink or revise our thinking throughout the lesson?
  • What learning is confirmed?
  • What misconceptions are uncovered?
  • What is your new thinking?

Students will learn to examine literature through social and emotional lenses and to look outside their own experience to see through the eyes of another.

How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning?

Students will work in groups to create characterization charts for both Nick and Jordan.

How will we tailor learning to varied needs, interests, and learning styles?

Teachers have the option of using this lesson as a whole class, small group, or individual lesson.

In a higher-level English class, the teacher may want to turn the characterization chart activity into a literary analysis essay.

How will we organize the sequence of learning during the lesson?

Begin by asking students to reread the end of chapter 2 (pages 37 -38 in the 2004 Scribner edition) from Tom’s breaking Myrtle’s nose to Nick waiting for the train.

Ask students what may be being implied by the double entendres in the elevator scene and the ellipses in the concluding scene.

Lead a short class discussion on why Fitzgerald may have included this scene and how it would be received by different audiences. (For example, a non-LGBTQ+ person may simply skim over this, while a member of the lGBTQ+ community would see this as a scene they can relate to).

Next, have students work together to create charts or graphic organizers that show how the characterization of Nick and Jordan hints at the fact that they are queer characters.

Discuss the students’ findings.

Check for understanding:

(Formative evidence such as conferencing, group Q/A, teacher observation, exit-slip, etc.)

Exit ticket: How does examining literature through different lenses help us more fully appreciate a text?

Quiz/Test (optional):
(attach copy of assessment)


Performance Task/Project:
(attach rubric)

Optional Extension Activity:
Literary Analysis Essay — a reading of Gatsby through an LGBTQ+ lens.


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