Gatsby Facebook Project

Yes, I’m trying this template again. Let me know what you think.

I’ve blogged already about my writing process, but not as much about my teaching process, how I figure out how I want to teach, what kinds of plans I make or assignments I design. I did an assignment recently with my high school juniors that I thought would be an interesting example– a project where the students assumed characters in The Great Gatsby and interacted with each other via a Facebook-style interface on my own faculty webpage.

First, I read an online lesson plan from the NEH about Gatsby’s “secret society”, which I used as a launching pad when I discussed the book with my students last year. Then I saw AustenBook, a clever retelling of Pride and Prejudice in Facebook status updates, events, groups and notes. I thought it was a genius idea, but I don’t teach P&P, so I tried to think about the text I do teach that could work. The NEH lesson plan floated to the top of my brain and I had a flash– how about Gatsby on Facebook? So much of the book is about secrets kept and spilled, about what is said and cannot be said, about the social connections that overlap and conceal so much in the world the novel creates.

Once I had jotted down some notes and tried to work out what the students could do, I went to see our tech coordinator, who used to teach English, and we brainstormed about what the project could look like and how the tech aspects could go. I decided that each student would be responsible for choosing a character and designing a profile for that character. They also had to choose a chapter and reconstruct it through Facebook-style events, updates, and more, including writing on each other’s walls in their chosen voice. Finally, they each had to write two notes, approx 250 words each, that fit into their selected chapter or character. We did one session with the tech coordinator to help them see how they would be using the functions and options on Sharepoint, which is what we use at our school. They also had one class period to work on their projects.

Overall, I was really happy with how the projects went. Some characters went unselected, like Myrtle and Jordan, and I wish I had assigned them to make sure they got covered. I also wish I had required a bit more use of pictures and images. I think it was an interesting experiment with reader-response criticism, and I’ve really been trying to think carefully about integrating technology in a way that would be useful to enhancing student understanding. The students themselves really enjoyed it. At first, I think they thought it would be easy, but once they really tried to think about the voices they were using, and how to stay within character and what would be appropriate in the modern framework, it was more difficult. I’ve been wondering too if I could assign them characters at the beginning of the novel, and they could act on GatsbyBook as the book progresses, in real-time almost. Maybe next year. I also think it gave some struggling students a bit of a break from essay writing, and allowed them to show their understanding of the text, hopefully building their confidence a bit along the way.

If you’d like to see the assignment sheet or rubric, drop me a comment and let me know!

UPDATE: if you are interested in this project, PLEASE see this entry also, where I have updated my thoughts here, added the documents for downloading, and also added more current and useful links. Thanks!

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43 thoughts on “Gatsby Facebook Project

  1. Jackie, that sounds amazing! Did you see the Facebook Haggadah? Now I’m thinking on what kind of assignment you could devise based on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or whatever it’s called…

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  2. I did see it! We teach the Bible as Literature in the ninth grade fall semester, so I’m going to try and bring it up then as a fun example. Also, I’ve been trying to think about a fun way to incorporate a zombified writing too…..

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  4. Would you send me a copy of your assignment and your rubric? The assignment looks very interesting (and yes, I thought the same thing after the P & P note, as well as the first 100 days project)

    B

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  5. Hi!

    I love the idea! I am trying to formulate a similar activity with The House on Mango Street! I would appreciate receiving your assignment and rubric!

    Thanks!

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  6. Hi!

    I love your assignment. I’m trying to create a similar assignment for my students in the fall. Can you send me your rubric?

    Thanks! Great Idea!

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  7. Hi everyone– I’d be happy to send it to you, but I need a valid email address! Or you can email me– click on my name for this comment or check the “About Me” page.

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  8. Hi!
    I too tried a Facebook project with The Great Gatsby, but I wasn’t sure how to evaluate the end product. Please send me the assignment and rubric.

    P.S. Very interesting site!

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  9. I’ve heard about this project, but have never seen it in action. Our school is behind technologically, but my students are not. I would really appreciate it if you would share your assignment sheet/rubric. I recently acquired a Facebook page and am not completely savvy of all its functions/operations. As I was reading I was thinking about each character’s wall, messages, notes, etc. I’d like them to do it in partners as I have large numbers. Have you tried it as well?

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    • Martha, I have never had to try it in large numbers, but I think it could easily work out. You might have to think about how you assign chapters or characters–one student can be Nick earlier in the book, and another be Nick towards the end, for example. My project took place in a simulated Facebook environment on our school server, but if you are allowed to use Facebook with your students, I think it could very easily be set up. Good luck!

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  10. Hi everyone– I’m glad there has been such interest in this project! I am working on a new entry, which I will link back here, that would have images and documents linked from it so that anyone could see them. Stay tuned!

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  11. An English teacher in my building wants to have students do a Facebook page for a character from their independent book study… did you make a rubric for the Gatsby Facebook page? If so, would you be willing to share it?

    Thanks!
    Lisa Schartiger
    Library Media Specialist
    Gahanna MIddle School South
    Gahanna OH

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  12. I would love to see a copy of your directions to the kids. This is very cool. Unfortunately, in my county, there is little wiggle room for fun stuff like this but I just may try. Thanks Anne Kelley

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  13. HI!

    This is a great idea! I’m about to begin student teaching and the juniors are having a Gatsby unit soon. I thought about something similar, but not the technology part. I would love to see a copy and a rubric! Thanks, look forward to reading more of your blog! email: gmazade11@gmail.com

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      • Interesting, I was just having a conivrsateon with my year 12s today about taking risks with their writing; instead of playing it safe and writing an analytical essay in their exams, choosing a different form or style.Of course, if I used the planking analogy, I’m sure they would come back with the point that it is easier to crash and burn when you take a risk. (But far more amusing and interesting.)

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  15. Hi! I am a School Based Technology Specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. When I was in the classroom, I taught English. I am currently working with a teacher in creating a Facebook project for the 4th quarter Independent Reading Project. I would love to see your assignment and rubric.
    Thank you,
    Sarah

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  16. Thanks for sharing your Facebook idea! We’re finishing up the year with The Great Gatsby, and I would love to see your assignment and rubric. Do you think students could do this with three days of computer time?
    Thanks and have a good end of the year!
    Julia

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    • Julia– I think it’s do-able, if the kids are willing to do some of the writing at home and you don’t have a steep learning curve with whatever online system you end up using–I think this could work well on a Ning, for example. Leave me an email address, or email me at patchworkjackie (at) gmail (dot) com and I’d be happy to send them along! Enjoy the rest of the school year!

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  18. Hi! I just created a similar assignment for my Grade 12 college English class (but based on characters from The Kite Runner). I’d love a peek at your rubric…as I’m having a difficult time coming up with that aspect of the assignment! Thanks!
    -Heather

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  20. I am interested in learning more about the Gatsby Facebook project and rubric. If possible, please share the project and rubric.

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  21. I’d love to see your assignment and rubric. I’m teaching Gatsby for the first time and I’m trying to gather some ideas, and this project sounds awesome. Thanks!

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    • Kristy–check the updated entry, linked at the end of this one, for the documents–let me know via email if you have trouble opening or downloading them, and I can send them to you!

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  23. I’ve been teaching Gatsby for many years, and was trying to think of something to spice it up for me again, never mind the children! Thank you for posting this project. I’d really appreciate it if you’d send me the rubrics etc so that I can adjust it for Grade 11 students in a South African school. Thanks again. Lisa

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