Title: The Roaring 20's: The Era of Wonderful Fun

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Mr. Redding – American Literature

The Roaring 20's: Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age

Title: The Roaring 20's: The Era of Wonderful Fun

Description: A Preparation for reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
Grade Level: 9-12
Curriculum: English / Language Arts
Keywords: Prohibition, "flappers," "speakeasy," "roaring 20's," Jazz Age, bootlegger, rum runner

You have been time warped back into the year 1927.  You are experiencing first hand the "Era of Wonderful Fun."  You are a reporter for an up and coming magazine called "The Speakeasy Spectator."  Your job is to research the culture of the 1920's.  What is the music scene like?  What is prohibition?  What is the economy like during this time?  What is fashionable during the 1920's?  What were automobiles like at this time?  How was technology advancing during this time in post World War I America? 

Your assignment at the end of this quest is to design a magazine cover with an appropriate theme of the 1920's based on what you have learned through your research. 

This will prepare you to read Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.


Your task is to create a magazine cover for the magazine "The Speakeasy Spectator."  The magazine cover should reflect an aspect of the roaring 20's culture that you uncovered in your research.  Be creative.  Think of what might capture the attention of the reader during this time.  Questions to ask yourself:  Who is my audience?  What are they interested in seeing/reading during this time?  How do I make the cover relevant to this time in history?  Which aspect so I want to focus on?

Resource: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNAOHtmy4j0


Day 1: Getting to know F. Scott Fitzgerald

This Webquest is a preparation exercise for reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  In order to have a better understanding of the plot of the novel, it is imperative that you have an understanding of the culture of 1920s America.  This includes the aftermath of WWI, prohibition, advances in technology, automobiles, sports, fashion and music.  This quest will guide you step by step through the aspects of 1920s culture.

The roaring 20's was a time of many changes in American society.  Technology was advancing, WWI was coming to an end, prohibition was in effect, music and fashion were transforming with the times.  We will have a brief brainstorming session concerning the roaring 20's.  We will use this class discussion to find out what you know and do not know about the 1920s.  This will help us to gear our research and class time going forward in the lesson.

As a class we will watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SclJ94h2oyQ&feature=related

Let's start with some background on F. Scott Fitzgerald and his motivation for writing The Great Gatsby.

We will split into groups of 4 or 5 and watch:




After you watch these short videos, have a group discussion about what you learned.  Did the videos validate some of the ideas you had during the brainstorming session?  What new ideas came up that were not already discussed?  What topics do you want to focus on for your final assignment, the magazine cover?  Start to compile resources for your final assignment.

As homework, please read:


Your assignment:

You are preparing to interview F. Scott Fitgerald for your magazine "The Speakeasy Spectator."  Based on the videos you watched and the article you read about his life, what questions would you ask him?  Remember we are preparing to read The Great Gatsby, therefore your questions should be geared towards the novel and what you want to uncover in reading the novel.  Your interview must be at least 10 questions in length.


Day 2: The Economic Boom

During the 1920s, America was experiencing an economic boom as the post World War I recession was forgotten and consumers felt confident in spending money again.  The 1920s were referred to as "The New Era", marked by prosperity and growth.  People saw opportunity on the horizon, and there was a general boost in morale.  People were beginning to use credit instead of all cash for purchases, a new concept for Americans.  There was a business boom fueled by the use of factories, innovative machinery, and the Process of Standardized Mass Production. 

Let's split into small groups again.  As a group, please read:



These articles will give you general information on the effects of WWI on the economy, and an idea of what the business world was like in the 1920s.  This will further your understanding of the culture during this time, and the morale boost that was created by the invention of credit vs. cash.




Your assignment is to create an advertisement for a "new product" of the 1920's.  Use the video clips and articles as reference.  Think about the product that you are advertising and ask yourself these questions:  What is my target audience?  How can I reach this audience using what I have learned about 1920s culture thus far?  What innovative ideas can I use to sell this product? 

Remember that this is a time of prosperity and spending.  You want your consumer to "buy into" your approach.  Be creative.

 Here are some sample advertisements from the 1920s:





Day 3: 1920's Fashion and the Jazz Age

The 1920s is when fashion entered a modern era.  During this time women were liberating themselves from the uncomfortable fashions of the past and donning more comfortable attire such as short skirts and trousers.  This was a far cry from previous fashions, quite fashion forward.  The "flapper" was the fashionable female, wearing a shorter than average skirt, sporting a sleek bob and smoking a cigarette.  Men were wearing more sport casual clothing and the "gangster" suit was often seen accompanying the flapper.  As we go through this part of the quest, think about how fashion defines a generation.  How can fashion be representative of a time in history and what does the evolving fashion mean to society?

Let's watch as a class:


This short clip will give you an accurate visual representation of the flapper fashion trends of the 1920s as well as some of the mens attire.

Let's break into groups once again and view some pictures of the 1920s fashion trends.  Have a discussion addressing the following questions:  What was so innovative about these trends?  Why would fashion trends be so important to the defining of a decade?  What does the fashion of this time have to do with the changes occurring in society following WWI? 

Please view:


The Jazz Age

The decade of the 1920s is marked by huge advances in music.  Phonograph record became the primary method of listening to music.  Jazz music began to spread throughout the country.  The 1920s are commonly referred to as "The Jazz Age."  Americans were going crazy for dances such as the Charleston and the Black Bottom.  Music was played by 7 to 12 piece orchestras.  Names such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were beginning to surface. 

Please view: 


This clip gives you an audio representation of the jazz music of the decade as well as a great visual of that crazy dance they call the Charleston.  My how times have changed!

Your assignment:

You have been assigned to write an article for "The Speakeasy Spectator" on music and fashion in the 1920s.  You are reporting to tell your audience of the new and innovative fashion trends of the time as well as the effect of the jazz and dance craze that has taken over.   Think about how these two aspects define the decade. 

Day 4: Technology in the Roaring 20s

Technology played a vital role in the great economic prosperity that America experienced in the 1920s.  New advancements, discoveries and inventions improved American lives in every conceivable way.  Automobiles were becoming available and popular, and roads and highways were being constructed.  This made transportation readily available where it was not in the past.  Improvements were being made in sound recording technology and film, enhancing entertainment quality.  The radio became a means of broadcasting information and making information readily available to the public.  A demand for consumer goods led to a skyrocket in worker wages, which in turn caused factories to rely on mechanics to produce products.  Breakthroughs in medicine and science technology were changing the medical field and leading to new treatments for the sick. 

Split into groups of 4 or 5 and read:


This brief article will gove you a few examples of some of the inventions of the 1920s.  As you go through the list try and imagine life without these items.  Can you see how these "new" items had such a great impact on society?  These are things we take for granted every day.

Please watch:


This video will give you a visual representation of the automobiles of the 1920s.  Notice how much they have changed from modern day automobiles.


This video is comical, but notice how the minds were working during this time.  Machinery and innovative thinking were playing a role in the advancement of technology.

Read the following article:


This article will give you some key facts about the advancement of medicine and science during this time in history.  Can you imagine a time that if you went to the doctor for an ailment, penicillin was not an option?  How about being diabetic before the discovery of insulin? 

Your assignment:

Write a one page reflection on what you learned about technology and the 1920s.  Focus on one aspect, such as transportation or medicine, and write about how these advancements helped shape society.  Reflect on what life might be like had these ideas never been discovered.

Step 5: Prohibition

1920s’ Prohibition, restriction of the production, sale, transportation, importation, and exportation of alcoholic beverages, began when the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution went into effect on January 16, 1920. The Volstead Act, which was a popular name for the National Prohibition Enforcement Act, had been passed on October 28, 1919. This act was enacted to enforce the Eighteenth Amendment, which was ratified on January 16, 1919. The Volstead Act superceded existing prohibition legislation in 33 states. The Anti-Saloon League, the strong prohibition lobby group, was instrumental in securing the bill’s passage over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. Founded in Oberlin, Ohio by evangelical Protestant men in 1893, the Anti-Saloon League organized nationally in 1895.

During this time, as one might imagine, people were trying to get their hands on alcohol.  "Moonshine", a type of homemade alcohol, was being produced illegally.  "Bootleggers" and "Rum runners" were plentiful, attempting to sneak alcohol across state borders.  The "speak easy" became part of the 1920's culture.

Let's watch as a class:


Following the watching of the video clip, we will have a class discussion on how prohibition played a role in the culture of the 1920s. 

We will review the topics of the Roaring 20s that have been covered in the Webquest in preparation for the final assignment.  Students are welcome to ask questions at this point concerning anything that might be unclear.


Your final project for this Webquest on the Roaring 20s is to create a magazine cover for "The Speakeasy Spectator."  You will focus on one or more of the topics covered throughout the quest.  The cover must reflect accurate historical information, as researched in the quest.  Creativity is a must.  The cover should be illustrated, using free hand drawing or illustrations and photos from the internet.  I will be looking for authenticity, creativity and an understanding of material covered.  Please see the rubric in the evaluation section of the Webquest.  Good luck!

Standards Assessed:

ELAALRL1 The student demonstrates comprehension by identifying evidence (i.e., examples of diction, imagery, point of view, figurative language, symbolism, plot events and main ideas) in a variety of texts representative of different genres (i.e., poetry, prose [short story, novel, essay, editorial, biography], and drama) and using this evidence as the basis for interpretation.

The student identifies, analyzes, and applies knowledge of the structures and elements of American fiction and provides evidence from the text to support understanding; the student:

  1. a. Locates and analyzes such elements in fiction as language and style, character development, point of view, irony, and structures (i.e., chronological, in medias res, flashback, frame narrative, epistolary narrative) in works of American fiction from different time periods.

  2. b. Identifies and analyzes patterns of imagery or symbolism.

  3. c. Relates identified elements in fiction to theme or underlying meaning.

  4. d. Analyzes, evaluates, and applies knowledge of the ways authors use techniques and elements in fiction for rhetorical and aesthetic purposes.

  5. f. Traces the history of the development of American fiction.

ELAALRL2 The student identifies, analyzes, and applies knowledge of theme in a work of American literature and provides evidence from the work to support understanding. The student

  1. a. Applies knowledge of the concept that the theme or meaning of a selection represents a universal view or comment on life or society and provides support from the text for the identified theme.

  2. b. Evaluates the way an author’s choice of words advances the theme or purpose of the work.

  3. c. Applies knowledge of the concept that a text can contain more than one theme.

  4. d. Analyzes and compares texts that express universal themes characteristic of American literature across time and genre (i.e., American individualism, the American dream, cultural diversity, and tolerance) and provides support from the texts for the identified themes.

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