Thursday, March 12, 2015


Great Gatsby house of cards

I love how their deck ended up mimicking the book cover colors
I'm sure you've noticed that I referred to a website called teachers pay teachers a lot. This is a great website because when I start to teach a new story or a new book. It lets me see what other teachers are doing and in many cases teachers will offer freebies.

In this case I found an great activity where students make a House of Cards for The Great Gatsby. This awesome activity comes from Brynn, who is a teacher in Kansas.

I have students do this in groups so it provides natural scaffolding.  My groups are hand selected and I take great pride in my groups right now. My juniors as a class started out not speaking a lot of English, constantly going with their own clique, and straying off task. It was difficult but I finally got them in small groups of 3 to 4 and they really work with each other. They get things done their productive it's amazing.

That being said, while I love them in their small groups, you could do it in pairs or on their own.


  • Prepping Students: 
    • Symbols: We have prepped for this activity in a way since we started reading. Basically, they were reall familiar with sybols. We had talked about the eyes on the billboard and we talked about the greenlight. We also did an activity where students got to "Beauty and the Beast" it/ Where they turned the characters of the great Gatsby into nonhuman figures (e.g. sports, coffee, etc). 
    • The American Dream: I teach many non-native students, so we usually have a journal entry, and mini class discussion about what they think the American Dream is, what they think that other people think the American Dream is, and what they think Gatsby's version is.
    • Text: This could be done at many points, but I like to do it right after chapter 5.
  • Teacher Prep:  I went to Target to buy a deck of cards, but one deck costs $3.00 and two decks costs $5.00. I am all for spending money on my students when I need to, but I knew the Dollar Tree had them as well, so to the Dollar Tree (two packs for one dollar!). I have eight groups in my class. Each group needs 7 cards, but I gave them nine in case they made mistakes. That means two decks was perfect for my class. 

I draw this on the board to help my students
Materials: I used glue, paper, scissors, and markers. However, you could use sharpies, magazines, etc. Really anything as long as each "house" has seven cards.

Before I give them this assignment I show them a clip from the movie so they can see Gatsby's house. If you don't want to or can't show the movie, find a mansion for sale and show that. The key point is to make sure that they understand the opulence.

Finally, pass out the assignment, to create a House of Cards symbolizing Gatsby's house, where each card symbolizes something.I permitted the use of cell phones to pull up samples (e.g. one student wanted a specific rose to symbolize Daisy and she wanted to see a picture), but I emphasized that the explanation would be graded more than artistic ability.

My students did struggle a bit understanding which cards were supposed to go where, so I made this diagram and numbered the cards. This is an optional step, but it made their lives' easier and let me focus on helping people dig deeper into the text (instead of answering questions about directions).

The original assignment was to create a house of cards. I made this optional (for extra credit). After students had made the cards, and explained it, they could create a house of cards and send me a picture to receive extra credit (about half of a homework assignment)

I love this assignment because it works on a higher level of understanding. Not only are they really grasping the ideas of symbols and metaphors. The coolest about this is that we're really working the metaphor figuratively and literally. 

After the assignment, their homework is to read Chapter 6 and answer the following questions:

1. Why are Gatsby's attributes the base of the house?

2. Why is Daisy's card between Gatsby and his dreams?

3. Now that you've read Chapter 6, how do you feel Gatsby's life like a house of cards?

4. Have your idea of Gatsby's version of the American dream changed? Why or Why not?

Answers will vary, but most of them show that they actually understood the project (which is the goal after all).

So there it is, I linked the product earlier, but again you can check out her freebie here It is free to sign up if you don't already have an account, just go here and get started on finding lots of great stuff!

Finally, I leave you with some pictures of my students who completed the house of cards. I swear they had fun, and there was learning going on as well.

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