As students begin reading “The Great Gatsby" present a mini-lesson on the methods of characterization. A fun way to introduce this topic is to arrange for a student from another class (preferably one that your students don’t know very well) to role-play a predetermined script. For example, ask the student to come in at the beginning of the period to ask about a homework assignment. You could have him dressed sloppily and wearing a backwards baseball cap. He can speak rudely, shuffle across the room and roll his eyes at anything you say. Students will undoubtedly have a strong reaction to this exchange and wonder what is going on.
When the student leaves, ask your class what they know about the person who just left the room. Guide the discussion to how they inferred what they think. They will mention the things he did and said and how he looked. They may even talk about how they reacted to his rudeness and disrespect. Point out to them that all of these ways in which we learn about people in real life are the same ways in which we learn about characters in a book. Notes should be given on the acronym, S.T.E.A.L. and a guided practice on what they know about the “character" who just left should be done. Point out that in books, authors have the advantage of letting us know about a character’s thoughts, unlike real life situations.
Once you are confident that the students understand the concept of characterization, give them a graphic organizer that lists the main characters of Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Jordan baker, George Wilson, and Myrtle Wilson. Have them fill in the methods that they notice as they are reading. You can determine the number of required examples, direct quotes, and page citations based on the level of your students. You can easily adapt these expectations for special education and gifted and talented students.