Lesson Plans

Early Twentieth Century

The Great Depression

Author: Alice Arnold, Beth Burgstaller, and Danylle Kavanagh

School: Belmont Ridge Middle

Grade Level: 7th

Time Estimated: 2-3 days

Historical Background

The Great Depression had devastating effects on the United States beginning with the crash of the stock market on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929. The depression was marked by high levels of unemployment combined with low economic activity. Too many Americans bought stock on margin and were unable to repay the loans. The Federal Reserve failed to ensure that banks had sufficient funds. The U.S. government imposed high tariffs which caused European markets to limit trading with the United States.

The depression would last until 1941 when the U.S. entered into WWII. The depression had lasting effects in all areas of the economy including jobs, housing and prices on consumer products. The Dust Bowl had a significant impact of farmers incomes through out the Great Plains. Over 9,000 banks and 86,000 businesses failed. Many Americans lost their savings forcing many to lose their homes or farms. Unemployment rates rose quickly as wages declined by 60%. To try and solve the problems that America was facing, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced new public assistance programs. The “New Deal” provided jobs, housing and business and bank reforms. The lasting legacy of the "New Deal" is social security.


Objectives

It is essential for students to understand the widespread, severe impact that the Great Depression had on the lives of all Americans. Through this two day activity, students will investigate primary sources and photographs in order to understand the causes and effects of the Great Depression as well as its impact on Americans. In the initial visual discovery, the students will be exposed to the general facts and statistics regarding the impact of the Great Depression. Students will extend their knowledge by working cooperatively with their peers to investigate primary sources and discover the difficulties that social groups experienced during the Great Depression.

Students will understand:

  1. The widespread, severe impact the Great Depression had on the lives of all Americans.
  2. Through his "New Deal," Franklin Roosevelt expanded the role of the federal government and the legislation enacted during his tenure continues to impact our lives today.

Students will know:

  1. Key facts and statistics: Large numbers of banks (over 9,000) and businesses (86,000) failed, Americans lost their life savings, One out of four people were unemployed, Wages decreased by 60%, over 55 million acres of farmland were affected by the “Dust Bowl,” many Americans were hungry and homeless.
  2. Specific hardships that various social groups experienced during the Great Depression
  3. Key terms and figures: Hooverville, Dust Bowl, FDR
  4. The major features and organizations created by the New Deal

Students will be able to:

  1. Analyze primary resources and photographs regarding the impact of the Great Depression on the lives of Americans
  2. Identify cause/effect relationships

SOL Skills

USII.1a: Analyze and interpret primary sources to increase understanding of events and life in U.S. history from 1877-present

USII.1d: Interpret ideas and events from different historical perspectives

SOL Content

USII.5d: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the social, economic, and technological changes of early twentieth century by identifying the causes of the Great Depression, its impact on Americans, and the major features of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.


Materials

Day 1: Intro Great Depression/ Cause and Effects of Depression

Day 2: The New Deal


Procedures

Day 1

Today's Essential Questions: What was the Great Depression? What were the Causes and Effects of the Great Depression?

  1. Anticipatory Set: Primary Source Activity, photo analysis. “Think Aloud”
    • Ask for a student volunteer and have them sit in the front of the room facing the class.
    • Hand student the Primary Source 1 bank panic photograph (display using LCD or overhead behind student for the rest of the class to view.
    • Have student volunteer talk through his/her analysis of the picture out loud.
      • Student will verbalize his/her thought process
      • Allow student to formulate his thoughts to show how he/she put the pieces together to understand the purpose of the picture.
      • Questions to pose to student/then to entire class:
        What do you see?
        What do you know?
        What questions do you have?
  2. Before the Lesson: Assess students' prior knowledge. Set the stage for students to review what was happening in the United States during the "Roaring '20s."
    • Industrial Revolution
    • Mass production
    • Labor saving devices, leisure time
    • The economy of the 1920s
  3. Direct instruction: Read and discuss Handout 1: Defining the Depression. This gives students a introduction to the Great Depression.
    • As students are reading, the teacher will guide them to the pertinent information that should be highlighted.
    • Ask embedded questions from the reading such as:
      What had become of the carefree prosperity of the 1920s?
    • Ask other questions such as:

      According to the reading, what is an economic depression?
      According to the reading, what were the causes of the depression?
      Why do you think people not like Hoover?
      What did the bonus army want?
      What was the purpose of the bank holiday?
      What is Social Security?
  4. Guided Practice: Have students complete Handout 2: "Defining the Depression" questions. Circulate to provide formative feedback while students are working.
  5. Primary source activity: Cause/Effect Visual Discovery
    • As teacher lectures, students will take notes on The Causes & Effects of the Great Depression while viewing photographs from the time period. The Primary Source 2: “The Great Depression through Pictures” slideshow will combine the photographs and the notes.
    • Teacher will lead class discussion while analyzing the photographs on the three causes of the depression. One picture supports each cause:
      • Cause 1: After students write note on Handout 3, discuss Primary Source photograph of people gathered outside New York Stock Exchange on 10/24/29. Ask such questions as: What do you see? Whose point of view is the photo taken from? Who will see this photograph? Where would this be published? How might Americans feel when they see this picture? How does being in debt slow down the economy?
      • Cause 2: After students write note on Handout 3, discuss Primary Source photograph of large crowd standing outside American Union Bank in New York, 1929. Ask such questions as: What do you see? Whose point of view is the photo taken from? Who will see this photograph? Where would this be published? How might Americans feel when they see this picture? How does losing all your savings when your bank closes affect American families? How does a bank that is no longer to give loans slow down the economy?
      • Cause 3: After students write note on Handout 3, discuss Primary Source photograph of Black River port in Ohio showing trading barges. Ask questions such as: What do you see? What do all these barges at port indicate about the status of trade in the United States? Why would it matter if Americans were not trading with Europe? How does that slow down the economy? (Should arrive at an answer that slowing European business makes Europe unable to pay back WWI debts, buyer surplus, incomes down, etc.)
    • Teacher will lead class discussion while analyzing the photographs on the four effects of the depression. One or more pictures support each effect:
      • Effect 1: After students write note on Handout 3, discuss Primary Source photograph of closed bank in Iowa, 1939. Ask such questions as: What do you see? How long after the depression started is this picture taken? What does this closed bank in 1939 indicate about the state of the economy 10 years after the start of the depression?
      • Effect 2: After students write note on Handout 3, discuss two Primary Source photographs of workers gathered at employment bureaus. For the first picture that features black men in the unemployment line, ask questions such as: What do you see? Where is this photograph taken? North or South? Teacher should provide a scenario of a white shop owner with a black and white employee, then ask who would likely be the first to lose their job during tough times?
      • Effect 3: After students write note on Handout 3, discuss four Primary Source photographs of various scenes of hunger and homelessness. Ask questions such as: What do you see? What would you do if you were starving? Where might this hooverville be located in NYC? (near the docks)
      • Effect 4: After students write note on Handout 3, discuss two Primary Source photographs of Dust Bowl as well as video clip of dust storm. Ask questions such as: What do you see? What do you hear? What might it feel like to experience this kind of storm? Would you stay in this area or would you try to leave? What factors might influence your decision?
  6. Independent Practice: Illustrated Notes Handout 4
      Processing Cause/Effect: After students have completed taking notes on Causes/Effects, they will process the information by turning the causes/effects into images using Handout 4: Illustrated Notes.
  7. Assessment: Illustrated Notes
      Formative Assessment: As students are drawing illustrations, Teacher will review illustrations and provide immediate feedback to discern whether or not students understand.

Day 2

Today’s Essential Question: What were the major features of the New Deal?

  1. Anticipatory Set: Primary Source 3 - "Brother Can you Spare a Dime"
    • Teacher will display song lyrics to class and play the song.
    • When the song ends, ask students questions such as:

      Who is the audience? Who is the song about? What is the “dream” that the song is referring to? What has this person done for America? How does he feel the U.S. should help him because of his efforts? What problems are they experiencing? Who is “Brother” (The U.S. Government)? Is the song despairing or hopeful? How do you think the Government is going to help Americans ( The New Deal)
    • After analysis of song, teacher will ask students to analyze how the emotion changes within the song. At the beginning, the singer talks about the American Dream, but then moves to anger. Why were Americans so unhappy with Hoover? Would they elect Hoover again? Who would they elect?
    • To confirm student response, play Primary Source 4: Video footage of FDR campaign speech. Ask students to listen carefully to what FDR is promising Americans. Ask questions such as Has FDR been elected yet? How do you know? What is he asking Americans for? What is he promising Americans. (Students should respond about the New Deal) Ask students what the New Deal was.
    • To confirm student response or clarify, play Primary Source 5: Video footage of FDR inaugural speech. Ask students to listen carefully to what FDR says is American’s primary objective (to provide jobs). Ask questions such as: What is the other famous quote that FDR is known for? (fear itself...) What does this mean? How does he intend to get the country’s economy moving again? What is the first thing that needs to happen? Why do you think Americans liked FDR so much? (open communication ) If Congress does not act as FDR wants them to do, what does he say will be the last resort? (broad executive power) How is FDR’s approach to the depression already different from Hoover’s?
    • To preview FDR’s New Deal, have students look at Primary Source 6: Political Cartoon: FDR “Confidence in your doctor is half the battle.” Students should complete only the top three preview questions on Handout 6 at this point. What do you see? What do you know? What questions do you have? (further analysis will spiral back at the end of lesson)
  2. Review/Overview:
    • Whole Group response: Teacher will review the Causes/Effects with the students
    • Teacher will review the economic aspect of Great Depression
  3. Direct instruction: Reading about the New Deal
    • Teacher will lead the class in a reading from History Alive pages 408-414 about the major features of the New Deal.
    • After reading is finished, students will work to answer Handout 5 questions based on the reading.
    • Class will review the questions together.
  4. Assessment: Processing Activity: Primary Source 6: Political Cartoon: FDR "Confidence in your doctor is half the battle"
      Students will look at political cartoon again and answer questions on the bottom of Handout 6 answer questions such as: What is the overall metaphor? What is the problem the artist is depicting? Whose point of view is this? What type of remedy would you draw in (have students draw in their image) What was FDR's plan to solve the problem?


References: Web

American Memory, Library of Congress
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html

    The American memory collection has thousands of photographs that reflect American experiences.

Modern American Poetry, The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/index.htm

    This is a pre-created photo essay of primary sources from the Great Depression.

Primary Source 1: Photograph of Bank - Bank corner, Saturday morning, Laurel, Mississippi. Lee, Russell, photographer. Created 1939 Jan.
http://www.loc.gov/index.html LOC CALL NUMBER LC-USF33- 011928-M5

Primary Source 2: "The Great Depression through Pictures" (Cause and Effect slideshow) photographs from the Library of Congress, American Memory collection
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html

Primary Source 3: "Brother Can you Spare a Dime," lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Gorney Harburg (1931)

Primary Source 4: "Speeches from History," United Streaming: Discovery Education 1931
Video footage of FDR campaign speech.

Primary Source 5: "Speeches from History," United Streaming: Discovery Education 1932
Video footage of FDR Inaugural speech.

Primary Source 6: "Confidence in your doctor is half the battle," The New Deal Network
http://newdeal.feri.org/default.cfm

    The New Deal Network provides primary sources that chronicles FDR and the New Deal.

References: Books & Media

The American Journey, New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2003.

    This is a textbook used to give general background information on the Great Depression and the New Deal.

History Alive!, California: Teachers Curriculum Institute, 2002.

    This is a textbook that is more reader friendly and provides background information on the Great Depression and the New Deal. It also comes with transparencies and additional resources.

“The Market Goes Bust.” U.S. History Book 2, The Center for Learning, 2002 Adaptation.

    This provides students information regarding how the stock market works including the crash of the stock market in 1929. This reading breaks down the process in a way that allows middle school age students to comprehend the complexities.