Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

It's My Party and I'll Hear What I Want To: Gatsby's Party Playlists

The Great Gatsby and the Sense of Sound

Jane Baber, Jane Fisher | Published: May 17th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course American Literature
  • Duration More 2-3 class periods


This lesson is to be taught after reading Chapter 6 where Gatsby throws another one of his famous parties, this time with Daisy in attendance. In this lesson, students will explore the essential question "How can music help establish mood and tone?" to create a playlist that explores the sense of sound in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Essential Question(s)

How can music help establish mood and tone?



Students are introduced to mood and tone by evaluating the differences between the two terms through viewing two versions of the same movie trailer. Students take notes on a handout over their reactions to the two movie trailers in order to inform a discussion that will establish definitions and explore examples of mood and tone.


After reading Chapter 6 of The Great Gatsby, students reflect on the party scenes in this chapter and in Chapter 3 and respond to the Party Playlists handout. Using the Why-Lighting strategy, students locate and identify elements of mood and tone throughout the short story.


Following the re-reading of the two party scenes and working with the Party Playlists handout, students reflect on and answer the short answer question on the same handout. To apply new learning about mood and tone, students construct a playlist for the two party scenes.


Students play their soundtracks for the whole class. As an extension activity, consider making a class playlist for these two parties by having students choose their favorite songs selected by their peers and combining them. As another extension activity, students can choose another scene from the novel to construct a soundtrack for.


This poem can be evaluated using the attached rubric in the Party Playlists handout.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Chapter 3 Excerpt handout (attached)

  • Chapter 6 Excerpt handout (attached)

  • Party Playlists handout (attached)

  • Highlighters of various colors

  • Speakers

  • Computer and internet to access Blendspace (optional)


Students will be introduced to mood and tone by evaluating the differences between the two terms through viewing two versions of the same movie trailer. First, the teacher should show the original trailer for the movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Slides 3-8 hold the instructions for this activity.

After viewing this trailer, use the Think-Pair-Share strategy and ask students to talk with their partners about 1) How did the trailer make you feel? What specific words would you use to describe how you felt and the atmosphere created by the trailer? and 2) What was the attitude of the maker of this trailer toward the film and content of Mrs. Doubtfire?

Next, the teacher should show a modified trailer for the movie. After viewing this modified trailer, use the Think-Pair-Share strategy again and ask students to discuss and share answers to the same questions over the modified trailer.


After analyzing the differences between the two Mrs. Doubtfire trailers, look again at the two columns you made labeled "Atmosphere" and "Attitude". Ask students if they know which literary terms correspond with atmosphere and attitude in a piece of literature.

Move to slide 10 to introduce that the responses recorded about atmosphere were describing the mood of the trailers. Use slide 10 to review the definition and examples of mood.

Move to slide 12 to introduce that the responses recorded about atmosphere were describing the tone of the maker of the trailers. Use slide 12 to review the definition and examples of tone.

Now that students have established (or reviewed) what mood and tone are in literature, as well as practiced coming up with mood and tone terms for photographs, they will now practice analyzing excerpts of The Great Gatsby for the two elements. Students will analyze the two primary party scenes in Chapters 3 and 6 for mood and tone using the Why-Lighting strategy. To use this strategy with the two party scenes, choose two colors of highlighters for students to use (one color for mood and one color for tone). As students re-read those scenes, they will highlight instances in the text where a certain mood is created and certain elements where F. Scott Fitzgerald's tone is clear. As students highlight, they will annotate in the margins about why they highlighted certain words and phrases; the annotations should make clear what mood is created and what tone is conveyed.

Although you can use the text for the Why-Lighting strategy, if you or your students are unable to highlight in books then consider using the attachments of Chapter 3 and Chapter 6 excerpts with the Project Gutenberg version of the text.

Once students have completed their Why-Lighting of the two passages, pass out copies of attached Party Playlists handout to each student. On the first page of this handout is a space for students to organize their thoughts about the two party scenes. In the three column chart, students are to record what they learned about 1) what happened/plot, 2) the mood of the parties, and 3) the tone communicated at each. Right now students may record broad or vague examples, with the expectation that they will get more specific soon.


Once students have Why-Lighted both passages describing the party scenes in Chapters 3 and 6 and completed the first part of the handout, they will now return to the essential question, "How can music help establish mood and tone?" on slide 14. After reading this question again, gather students' thoughts on this question. What ideas do they have? What examples can they provide?

Ask students to look at the second page of the Party Playlists handout. Inform students that they will be creating the playlists for Jay Gatsby's famous shindigs! The instructions on the handout are as follows: Consider the question: How can music help establish mood and tone? After you have completed the Why-Lighting of the party scenes in Chapters 3 and 6, choose from each scene: 1) 3 pieces of text evidence, 2) mood or tone identification, 3) a song to accompany this point in the plot that appropriately and effectively communicates the mood or tone found.

Here, students will get much more specific with their analysis of the two party scenes from the text. Since they are relating mood and tone to music, their next step will be to find songs to construct playlists for each of the parties. Ask students, "Now that you get the "vibe" of these parties through examining their mood and tone, what songs do you think would be appropriate to be playing?" and "Why would you choose certain songs to play at these parties of Gatsby's?" Slides 15 and 16 hold the directions for the playlist assignment.

Just as they did with the first page of the handout, ask students to fill out the second page with information to help them organize their thoughts about their playlists. These examples will be more specific though, and should be cited with page numbers. For each song chosen, there should also be a rationale included. Students can either plan using the page provided or on a separate sheet of paper if more room is needed.

Once all evidence and a strong song selection has been made, inform students that they will be creating their playlists using an online creation and presentation platform called Blendspace, which allows them to make interactive presentations. When creating their Blendspace playlist, students will create six squares to host their six chosen songs. For each square, they will then add text that includes: 1) Song title, 2) Party #1 or 2, 3) Brief description of scene, 4) Text Evidence, and 5) Mood/Tone conveyed.

As a final step after the playlists have been constructed, students will analyze the connection between music and mood and tone in which they will respond to the following questions: How can music help establish mood and tone? How did your two playlists differ and how did the songs convey mood and tone? As stated on the handout, this can be answered on another sheet of paper.


Consider having students play their playlists for one another, either in small groups or for the whole class. To take this a step further, have students present their Blendspaces and then construct a class playlist with the "hits" from different students' playlists.

As an additonal extension activity, students could add another row of squares to their Blendspace to add more songs or they could construct a playlist for another scene in the book.


On the Party Playlists handout, there is a simple rubric than be used to evaluate this project. Consider also using slide 17 as a reminder for students. The slide informs students that their final project will include the 1) completed handout with analysis question, 2) an accessible playlist printed or shared from Blendspace, and 3) the rubric.