The Life of Bon: How to put a corpse in your classroom and other teaching weirdness.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

How to put a corpse in your classroom and other teaching weirdness.

Today was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was Gatsby's funeral!  Every year after we finish reading The Great Gatsby we go all out and throw that poor man a funeral.  No one came to his funeral in the book, so we figure what better place than West Jordan, Utah to throw the old sport a bonafide, prim and proper funeral! Show him the love he deserves! (In case you missed it, the book club discussion for The Great Gatsby is here.)

This is one of the few teaching ideas I have that is 100% mine.  It was not begged, borrowed or stolen from anyone!  Just my little brain working over time.  The kids absolutely love it and I can't help but think that it could be adapted to be used for a myriad of different things.  For English teachers the obvious idea is to throw a funeral any time a character in a book dies.  For other teachers, moms, entertainers of the masses, ETC., I would still think it could be a pretty useful trick to have up your sleeve.  The possibilities, my friends, are endless.


You will need:   
  • Blankets/old clothes/ something bulky.
  • Some kind of ball
  • Men's dress shoes
  • Sheet
  • Picture frames
  • Fake flowers.

STEP TWO:  Put three or four desks together.

STEP THREE:  Arrange the blankets and clothes together so that they look like some kind of mass lump.

STEP FOUR:  Put the soccer ball on top of one end of the clothes.

STEP FIVE:  Drape sheet over blankets and soccer ball.

STEP SIX:  Place shoes at the foot of the "body".

STEP SEVEN:  Add feminine touches, like flowers and picture frames.

FINISHED.  It now legitimately looks like you have a corpse in your classroom.  Congratulations, you will scare the crap out of anyone who enters.

The kids rocked their funeral speeches and I was so proud of them and their love for Jay Gatsby.  In a totally weird creepy English teacher way, I felt like Jay Gatsby was there with us.  It's as if his character is so strong that in some way he has become part of the class.  The literature we study lives and breathes, and as we mourned his loss I felt a real sadness.  Sadness at a fictional character who never was nor ever will be, but who represents pain and sadness and the loss of dreams all the same.

The kids wore black to show their respect.

Farewell, old sport.  We will miss you!

UNTIL NEXT YEAR!  Fingers crossed and double crossed and triple crossed that I will find a school in California that will let me teach The Great Gatsby until my dying days!

I wrote about last year's funeral here.  It involved me hiding a real kid under the sheet and using him to jump out and scare the other kids in the middle of class.  My best teaching experience to date.


  1. this is a great idea! i totally want to use it someday

  2. Love this! You seem like such an amazing teacher, and The Great Gatsby is my ALLTIMEFOREVERFAVORITE book! I also sorta love that you went with Leo as Gatsby rather than Robert Redford as Gatsby...hilarious!

  3. that is such a great idea! I loved reading the Great Gatsby. But it is so sad that no one goes to his funeral. I can't imagine living a life surrounded by so many people but known and loved by no one. I bet your students LOVE this!

  4. Loved your post, but had to say CUTE HAIR!

  5. Okay the kid dabbing his tears in the first group picture is my fav. Kudos to him.

  6. I cry at the end of this book every. single. time. I feel like I have found a kindred spirit in you, for loving this book so much. I can't imagine NO ONE going to Gatsby's funeral... and yet, I get it. It's heartbreaking and so real at the same time.

    I wish you had been the person to teach this book to me the first time. I learned to love it on my own, not becaue of the education I got. The world needs more teachers like you.

  7. What an awesome idea!
    P.S. LOVE your hair! :)

  8. Oh wow, this is awesome. So creative, and you really pull your students into actually wanting to learn. How could they not with stuff like this?! And yay for Leo! The world seriously needs more teachers like you. :) Now I'm inspired to read this book again. Haha~

  9. This is such a cute idea! I'm sure your students love it.

  10. Anonymous7:28 AM

    This is perfect. And the pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio, even better.

  11. I love the kissy face one of your students is making! Too funny!!

  12. OH MAH! I loveeee this. You sound like the most fun teacher that ever walked the earth.

  13. Okay... dude, this is what an English and Lit nerd I am - I just teared up. haha!

    You are exactly what I wanted to be when I set out at 18 to become an English teacher. Unfortunately, I made a lot of right and wrong decisions that led me down a different path. I pretty much always regret not becoming an English teacher.

  14. That is pretty darn clever! When are you moving to Cali?


  15. This will happen in my future classroom, just so you know.

    And you're right, the possibilities are endless: Lennie, Tom Robinson…etc etc etc

    And when I had my kids make predictions about the ending of Gatsby, I got several responses that said, "A main character will die because this is Mrs. Irwin's class and main characters die in all the books she makes us read." If only I could have busted out this funeral!

  16. What a great idea! And I went and watched last year's video. Awesome. Just awesome.

  17. Great Gatsby was one of my favorite books to discuss in high school English class - our class would've had a HOOT doing this! Must send to my junior year English teacher asap :)

  18. What a wonderful idea! My HS English teacher used the lantern, but we never threw him a funeral. You are awesome! Your students will remember you forever. :)

  19. K, I know I comment on your blog all the time, but I seriously LOVE this idea. So brilliant! No wonder your students love you so much :) I'm always looking for ways to spice up my teaching too, so maybe when I actually have a say in what I'm teaching (which isn't at this school), I'll have to try this idea out. Thanks for the inspiration!

  20. I love this idea. Please let me steal it!

  21. Haha that's a brilliant idea - but the best part is the real kid jumping out to scare them! Made me laugh...

    Anna x

  22. K, couple things.... first of all, cute hair :) And second of all, I went back to your post from last year and watched that hilarious video. Your voice took me by surprise! You know how you picture how a person sounds based soley on their writing? Yours is much throatier than I imagined. Anyway, great post. English was my favorite subject, mostly because I had teachers like you :)

  23. OH MY GOODNESS, I wish you were my English teacher back when I was in high school. Absolutely HILARIOUS and brilliant!

  24. This. is. AWESOME. You're such a cool teacher! I would have loved you in high school :)

  25. Agh why weren't my teachers in high school this cool!? Awesome way to get them involved and shoutout to all the dapper dressers!