The Great Gatsby TV News Project: High School Project Based Lesson Plan

The Great Gatsby TV News Project: High School Project Based Lesson Plan
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The allure of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s timeless look at ennui born of excess is once again titillating students in American Literature classrooms. With the release of the new cinematic adaptation of The Great Gatsby, student interest in the classic novel is swingin’, so to speak. Why not capitalize on the novelty of the film to introduce students to one of the richest periods in American cultural and literary history.

In this lesson, student groups pose as news teams to create video segments that give them a glimpse into the social, political, literary, and musical climate of the Roaring Twenties. They gain experience manipulating iMovie as they produce “live” anchoring, embed video and sound footage, and work collaboratively to cover their specific topic. Each group is assigned a different topic so that the backdrop for The Great Gatsby is woven together by student research rather than teacher talk. Using iMovie as the vehicle for the presentations creates excitement and my students reach levels of understanding about the Roaring Twenties that far surpasses what they would glean sitting through a lecture or a video on the time period.

Lesson Plan

LEVEL: 11th grade (honors level)

Place students in groups of 3-5, depending on class size/dynamics and have a representative from each group select a topic. I do the “luck of the draw” method.


  1. Prohibition
  2. Immigration
  3. Scopes Trial
  4. KKK
  5. Jazz musicians
  6. Dance
  7. Jazz Age authors (lead with F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  8. Art Scene in the Jazz Age
  9. Lindbergh
  10. Harlem Renaissance

Here is a terrific resource:

iMovie: The Roaring Twenties

You are a television news crew covering the Roaring Twenties. Your group will produce a 3-5 minute news segment on your selected topic using iMovie software. Your segment must include the following elements:

  1. Video of students role-playing news anchors.
  2. A “live” report.
  3. Embedded video (that you gleaned from your research) from the time period.
  4. A voice over
  5. Appropriate background music for transitions
  6. A title sequence
  7. A credits sequence (This contains your citations for net sources)

You may report/record/embed your news as you wish, keeping in mind appropriate tones for the subject matter. You may dress in period costume for your self-filmed portions or take a retrospective approach. Part of this assignment is for your group to have fun putting together your iMovie formatting while at the same time giving the rest of the class valuable background info about the Roaring Twenties.

Duration: I plan for 3 class meetings for working on the project as well as one for the presentations.

Evaluation: A portion of the grade comes from my assessment of the group’s coverage of the topic. Peer evaluation also plays a role in the final grade as classmates evaluate and rank the presentations for technical quality, originality, etc. The students also select a “Best in Show” presentation. Those group members enjoy a special treat.

Each time I facilitate this activity, I am impressed by the depth and enthusiasm with which my students plunge into this research work. Not surprisingly, I get asked by students each term if they’re going to get to do “that Gatsby TV news thing.”