1. F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography
Start by familiarizing students with the life and work of F. Scott
Fitzgerald. Some options include:
- Have the students watch the American Masters film on F.
Scott Fitzgerald. Lead a discussion on the film, focusing on the
writer’s life and the Roaring Twenties (also known as the Jazz Age,
a term reportedly coined by Fitzgerald).
- Assign a biographical research paper. Students may use library
and Internet sources for information and should include a bibliography
and footnotes in the report.
2. Short Story Reading
Read the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story "The Camel’s Back."
Lead a discussion where students compare the story to facts of the
author’s autobiography. Where might he have used his own experiences
and feelings? Some examples:
- In the story, the main character is engaged to the most popular
and beautiful girl, but she has just broken off the engagement.
His relationship with Zelda was similar and at one point they broke
off their engagement.
- In the story, the main character gets drunk and makes an entrance
in costume at the wrong party. We don’t know if that happened to
Fitzgerald, but he is famous for his consumption of alcohol. Could
he have borrowed the "mistake" from something that happened
- Fitzgerald wrote: "The compensation of a very early success
is a conviction that life is a romantic matter." How does being
a "romantic" affect the way he writes the story?
Fitzgerald kept scrapbooks in which he documented his life through
pictures, drawings, and words. One of these scrapbooks is shown in
the American Masters film.
Students will create their own autobiographical scrapbooks. Have
them document the main events of their lives and other details, encouraging
them to be creative and express themselves. They can put together
a a book using construction paper and the scrapbook should have at
least 5 pages. An assignment sheet is included in Student
Assign this as homework. In the next class, look over each one and
make some suggestions for additions to the book. Have them revise
it if needed, then turn it in again.
In this activity, students write a short story based on the Fitzgerald
story they read. The assignment is for the students to use autobiographical
elements in constructing a character. The story will borrow plot structure
from Fitzgerald’s story and they will borrow details from their own
autobiography. Make it clear that the student is not the main
character — their job is to construct a character and give that character
some of their own traits, experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
This story will be about a kid who goes to a costume party. He or
she is not recognized in the costume and is mistaken for someone
else, perhaps a friend or a parent. The character sees people that
he or she knows and the people say and do things they normally wouldn’t
because they don’t know who is in the costume. The character sees
familiar people in unfamiliar ways. The character hides his or her
identity and a misunderstanding develops. At the end, his or her identity
The student’s job is to fill in the particulars with their own creative
- Whose party is it and where does it take place?
- What costume does the main character wear? How does it prevent
him or her from being recognized?
- Who do people think is in the costume?
- Who does the character see and what pleasant and unpleasant surprises
- What misunderstanding develops because of the mistaken identity?
- What happens when the character is revealed at the end?
Students can share their stories with the rest of the
class or exchange them in groups for evaluation.
Students will be assessed on the quality of their participation
in class discussions, the scrapbook, and short story. They should
not only complete the assignments, but demonstrate understanding of
autobiography and fiction, and the connections between the two. Students
can also assess one another.
- Students could create the scrapbook as a web page, and include
the story they write as well.
- Connect this lesson plan to other American Masters lessons to
develop the theme of "what makes an American Master."
- Connect this to a larger unit on literature of the Twenties.
- Fitzgerald reportedly coined the term "the Jazz Age",
and he and Zelda Fitzgerald were its toastmasters. Have students
develop a historical project on the Jazz Age (politics, society,
laws, historical events before and after, literature and other arts.)
- Precede or follow this lesson with a reading of Fitzgerald’s famous
novel, The Great Gatsby.