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Summary and "The Fallacy of Success"

Main Core Tie

English Language Arts Grade 11-12
Reading: Informational Text Standard 2

Additional Core Ties

English Language Arts Grade 11-12
Writing Standard 2

English Language Arts Grade 11-12
Writing Standard 4

English Language Arts Grade 11-12
Speaking and Listening Standard 1 a.

English Language Arts Grade 11-12
Language Standard 1

English Language Arts Grade 11-12
Language Standard 2

Group Size





This set of lessons extends over several days. Students work with a partner to read and annotate G.K. Chesterton's "The Fallacy of Success." Students take notes which summarize each section of the text. Students write an objective summary of the text, identifying two claims and determining how those claims are developed in the text.




Background for Teachers

  • Students will need a little background on Vanderbilt. A quick class discussion (with some photos emphasizing Vanderbilt's great wealth) will give students the background knowledge they need.
  • This lesson would work as an informational text companion piece for The Great Gatsby.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will determine two central ideas of G.K. Chesterton's "The Fallacy of Success" and analyze the development of those two ideas over the course of the text. Students will write an objective summary of the Chesterton passage.

Instructional Procedures

Vanderbilt Background

  1. As a whole class, discuss what students know about Vanderbilt.
  2. Supplement student background with basic information and online photos emphasizing Vanderbilt's wealth.
PART ONE - "The Fallacy of Success"
  1. Pass out student copies of G.K. Chesterton's "The Fallacy of Success" and the Summary Notes handout.
  2. Put students in pairs.
  3. One student will read, think aloud and annotate the first section/paragraph of the text. The other student will follow along and annotate that section. Students discuss the text and help one another make meaning.
  4. Partners stop and write two or three summary notes which summarize what Chesterton is saying in that section.
  5. Students switch roles - the listener is now the reader - repeat the process for the remaining sections.
  1. Put students into new groups of four (students should not be with their old partners).
  2. Each student in the group shares out his or her summary notes for the first section. All students add additional notes to their handouts.
  3. Repeat this process for the remaining sections of the text.
  1. Pull the class together and discuss each section of the passage.
  2. As a class, brainstorm possible claims made by Chesterton. Remind students there may be more than one "correct" claim and that there are multiple ways to word the same claim.
  3. Choose one of the brainstormed claims and, as a class, look through the summary notes, highlight notes that deal with that claim, and discuss how that claim is developed in the passage.
  1. Pass out or project the summary assignment and rubric.
  2. Explain the assignment:
    • Choose two claims that G.K. Chesterton makes in the passage.
    • Look through the passage and look at your summary notes to determine how Chesterton develops those two claims. You may want to highlight the summary notes.
    • Write a paragraph in which you identify two claims and summarize how Chesterton develops those claims.
  3. Discuss the rubric.
  4. Students work independently to write the summary paragraph.

Assessment Plan

A rubric is included in the handouts and the instructional procedures sections.

Created: 08/11/2012
Updated: 02/05/2018