Thursday, October 25, 2012

Family Fortunes

Rockefeller.  Guggenheim.  Vanderbilt.  Kellogg.  Hershey.  Ilitch.  These names may bring to mind empires and vast fortunes as well as chocolate, Frosted Flakes, and the Detroit Red Wings.  Family names and their fortunes have a rich history in America and in the spirit of The Great Gatsby, we've begun to investigate some of them.

Students received the research project plan today and will choose their subjects tomorrow.  Then we'll spend the month of November discovering the families' history, industry, money, and legacy.  Kids will eventually display their findings for others to see.  Initial interest level seems pretty high and I'm anxious to see how this goes. 

As I was putting this project together I stumbled upon a website that absolutely stunned me.  Click here to see true lifestyles of the rich and famous.  Though most of the items are incredibly, ridiculously extravagent, the $1,010 gold-leafed edible cupcake is by far my favorite...and the diamond encrusted heels...and the private island...

So as the days go by kids are getting more and more involved in the lives of Nick, Jay, Tom, Daisy, and Myrtle, sometimes loathing the story and sometimes hating the characters.  Can't wait to see all 3 movies!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Green Lights

We've only just begun reading Gatsby but today's class was pretty good if I do say so myself.  I came across this article from The New York Times.  Kids read through it after a pretty insightful discussion of the American Dream, which, by the way, is still in their consciousness.  I wasn't sure, to be honest, what their concepts would be about this elusive element but it boiled down to money, family, home, and education.  A pretty good list for today's teens.

Once we read the article and discussed its relevance, kids made quick lists of their dreams and goals - anything from passing a test in class today to career plans in the future.  Then they wrote one on a green lightbulb and posted it on our bulletin board.  I must say I was impressed with the variety of dreams and aspirations. The idea is that the green light, in the novel, symbolizes Jay Gatsby's dream of having Daisy and her lavish lifestyle and for the students symbolizes a dream as well.  Maybe a little cheesy but I think it worked!

Friday, October 12, 2012


In the spirit of trying new things this year, I've dusted off my copy of The Great Gatsby and am finally putting into the curriculum.  I've wanted, after a 7 year absence, to get to it in the spring but the year just gets away from me.  So I've rearranged our novels a bit and am determined to share this one with the class. 

We started with a great discussion of social classes in a society, beginning with Janie and Joe from Hurston's novel.  Kids were really insightful about how Janie did not fit in the lifestyle Joe created and did not want to be set apart from her peers and the townspeople.  Then we looked at the different groups of students evident in the building and listed a good dozen or so, deciding where each of them fits and how fluid one's movement among groups can be.  And it is safe to say that the list kids created today has many of the same groups as it did 20 years ago!  Finally I shared with them Ruby Payne's framework for the classes in today's world - poverty, middle class, and wealthy.  It was enlightening to all of us to see the different survivial skills and lifestyle elements present in each of the classes.  Looking at the hidden rules Payne laid out, the middle class seems to be the one to which the majority of us identify. 

So students now have books and reading schedules in their hands.  I'm excited to work through this novel.  There is some great symbolism and an intriguing plot.  Plus a new movie version, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, will be released in December!  Can't wait!