Lesson PlansBack to lesson plans archive August 8, 2013
The Great Gatsby Curve
By Katie Gould, Teacher Resource Producer for NewsHour Extra
Economics, Government, Social Issues
One hour and 30 minutes
If students have not read or seen “The Great Gatsby” have them find an online plot overview of the novel so they will have context for the lesson. For example Spark Notes has a good plot overview available in both written and video form:
Warm up activity
In this activity students will authentically experience how having (or not having) resources contributes to their ability to produce materials that are in demand and as well as sustain themselves as a society through a resource simulation.
Materials needed for warm up activity
- 3 pens (or pencils)
- 3 pairs of scissors
- 1 glue stick or bottle of glue
- 20 paper clips
- paper ruler (provided)
- patterned paper (on pdf) - 2 stripe sheets, 2 wood sheets, 2 wave sheets, 2 white sheets, 1 polka-dot sheet
- 4 large manila envelopes
- Print off the envelope pages, fill the envelopes with the following items (see instruction for each group on envelope pages), and staple a copy of items list onto a manila envelope. (Example here)
- Divide the students into four groups (of four or five). *Note, if you have enough students to fill 8 groups simply divide the class in half and create two separate simulation groups (you will need to double the number of envelopes and materials as well.)
- Explain to the class that each group will be getting a different set of resources but to win you will have to complete the s tasks of creating “food”, “minerals”, “education” and “shelter” in the shortest amount of time. Each item they must make with their materials is an important part of basic human needs as well as some items that contribute to a successful economy.
- Students will have 25 minutes to complete their items
- Students may trade with each other to get the materials they don’t have but need to complete the task.
- Students may only use the materials from their envelope and will be disqualified for using other materials not directly from the envelope.
- Students caught stealing will be sent to “jail” and their team will have to work without their help for five minutes.
- Items will be measured by the teacher with a ruler and they must be exactly the size required in the directions.
After the students have accomplished the task and a winner is declared, debrief them by asking them the questions below
- Discuss what happened in their groups, and in the class as a whole.
- How did the amount of your resources affect your ability to complete your task?
- How does a person’s financial resource situation affect their ability to lead their lives?
- What did you learn from the simulation?
In this part of the lesson student will gain an understanding economic inequality in the United States and other countries. They will be given a glossary to scaffold their understanding of economic terms, view a short video on economic inequality, and read an article about the new economic concept “The Great Gatsby Curve”. Questions for each section can be found on the questions and responses sheet.
Materials needed for main activity
- Computer, internet access, and a projector or SmartBoard
- “The Great Gatsby Curve: Inequality and the End of Upward Mobility” glossary
- “The Great Gatsby Curve: Inequality and the End of Upward Mobility” questions and responses sheet
- Washington Post article
- “The Great Gatsby Curve: Inequality and the End of Upward Mobility” repurposed article
- Infographic from the White House
- Pass out “The Great Gatsby Curve” glossary for students to use throughout the lesson.
- On the “The Great Gatsby Curve” questions and responses sheet have students respond individually to the following questions:
- Do you believe that there is financial inequality in the United States? Why or why not?
- Why do you think that there are certain people who have not been able to become rich? How can someone become wealthy?
- Play the first 1:40 from the “The Great Gatsby” trailer and have students watch to re-familiarize themselves with the story
- Explain to the students that they are now going to see one perspective on “Wealth Inequality in America”. Let them know to expect that this film supports the belief that things are not equal between the poor, the middle class and the wealthy, and that this is not the only perspective. However, the facts in the video have been checked and are supported by research done at the Washington Post. Pass the Washington Post article out to students so they can use it later to assess and support the validity of the video.
- Play the animated short film “Wealth Inequality in America”, stopping when appropriate to answer questions. Ask students to write down anything that surprised them while they are watching the video.
- First have them write down their own answer on the questions and responses sheet, then discuss with the class what they thought about the video- Did it seem true? What surprised you? Did your answers from the questions before change after watching the video?
- Now pass out the repurposed article, “The Great Gatsby Curve” and read together using the glossary to promote understanding of the economic vocabulary. An infographic that may be helpful for understanding is from the White House’s website.
- Discuss the article with students and then have them answer the following questions about the article on their questions and response sheet:
- Is having an economic system with inequality a good thing that reflects the hard work, skills and ambition of some, and the laziness, and lack of desire to be successful in others?
- Does inequality limit opportunities for the poor to create a better future for their children, and place unfair barriers to success on them regardless of their talent?
- For homework as the students to write an essay answering the following question found on their questions and response sheet:
- In your own words explain the “Great Gatsby Curve” and why it may play a key role in our understanding of how the American economic system works? Make sure to include an explanation of the graph, use terminology from the Glossary, and provide specific examples from the article. Please write or type on a separate sheet of paper.
Special thanks to Brian Dunnell for sharing his “Resource” simulation that has been adapted for this lesson.
The Materials You Need
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Common Core Standards
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Relevant National Standards:
McRel Compendium of K-12 Standards Addressed:
- CCSS.Math.Content.8.SP.A.1 Construct and interpret scatter plots for bivariate measurement data to investigate patterns of association between two quantities. Describe patterns such as clustering, outliers, positive or negative association, linear association, and nonlinear association.
- CCSS.Math.Content.8.SP.A.2 Know that straight lines are widely used to model relationships between two quantitative variables. For scatter plots that suggest a linear association, informally fit a straight line, and informally assess the model fit by judging the closeness of the data points to the line.
- CCSS.Math.Content.HSS-ID.C.9 Distinguish between correlation and causation.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.3 Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.8 Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.7 Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence 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.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.2 Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.3 Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
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