Imagining and Constructing the Future

Download 51.24 Kb.
Date conversion03.05.2016
Size51.24 Kb.
Inquiry 6: The Great Depression
Part One

Topic and Rationale

A. Unit Theme: Great Depression

Content Focus: Social Condition of Children during the Great Depression

B. Key Perspectives:

  • Imagining and Constructing the Future

As a result of the Great Depression, all aspects of society went through major upheaval. Old systems had to be rethought and sometimes replaced by new ones (e.g., economics and government intervention) which changed the way people lived and thought about their world. Students can take away from the Great Depression, lessons about what went wrong and what seemed to work to bring about a renewal in the political and economic systems and apply this to the future. They can build a capacity to play an active role in constructing the future by becoming educated in the past.

  • The Global Society

The Great Depression affected almost every nation. It caused a sharp decrease in world trade because each country tried to help its own industries by raising tariffs on imports. The Depression caused some nations to change their leader and their type of government. The poor economic conditions led to the rise of the German dictator Adolf Hitler and to the Japanese invasion of China. The German people supported Hitler because his plans to make Germany a world leader gave them hope for improved conditions. The Japanese developed industries and mines in Manchuria, a region of China, and claimed this economic growth would relieve the depression in Japan. The militarism of Germany and Japan helped bring on World War II.

Students will partake in classroom activities and simulations that portray the cause and effect of an event which will stem off from the discussion of the global impact of the Great Depression.

  • Individual Potential

The Stock Market Crash of 1929 spun the nation into economic frenzy. Soon, unemployment was commonplace throughout the nation. At this time, children were living a life full of turmoil and grief. Children were under-nourished and rarely had food for each day. Though this period of uncertainty seemed a hopeless situation, laws were enacted to provide basic support for children during this time. Students will be able to compare and contrast living conditions in the past and today. Students will read journals and diaries of other children and learn how individual potential remains even during hard times.

  • Justice, Rights, and Responsibilities

The Great Depression was an era of political and national change. The president was doing his best to provide hope and bring stability to a nation fallen apart. Students are able to learn the role of citizen during the Great Depression. It will also be an interesting connection to discuss the responsibilities children had during this time.

  • Changing lifestyles, work and leisure

Children were not able to be children. This is a statement that will be used throughout the unit. What does it mean to “be a child”? The Great Depression changed roles, rules, and relationships in the family structure. Children were encouraged to attend school but working and helping out provided food on the table at night. Students will research life’s pleasure for children back then.

C. Background information - Perspectives from schools:

After speaking with the cooperating teacher at Booker T. Washington, it was established that the great depression wasn’t heavily dealt with. It was stated that Social Studies was taught directly from the textbook which did have a fair amount of information that went over the Great Depression. The topic of the Great Depression was a reasonable topic to expand upon, however, according to the cooperating teacher; she acknowledged that she could not elaborate as much as she wanted to because she was following a chronological order of the Champaign Social studies Curriculum. -Tony
“I cover the Great Depression as a transition between studying WWI and WWI,” commented an eighth grade teacher from Edison Middle School. He replied that the curriculum for social science is completely packed with other events; there is little room for other areas to be covered. When I mentioned that I remembered learning about the Great Depression only in high school, he agreed that that was the case for many students. After extensively going through WWI, the main topics of the Great Depression is discussed in class but he goes straight into the beginning of WWII. I was interested in getting his opinion about studying the Great Depression in middle school. He believed that this topic could be effective if taught at a higher level. He believed that his students were not capable of fully understanding the complex details of the Great Depression. I was surprised to hear that many of the students in his class were reading and writing at a 4th grade level. He believed that other students may understand the information, but his students were not able to comprehend the concepts. -Lily
Both fifth grade teachers at Unity East Elementary School explained that the Great Depression is a valuable topic to learn about. However, they explained that there is not enough time in the year to cover the Great Depression. Students only get as far as the Civil War in fifth grade. - Esther
D. Background information – Perspectives from academic readings:

Essential Questions:

What caused the Great Depression?

What were its effects on society?

How was the problem solved?

How do events on a national and global scale affect the individual lives of people, especially children?

How can students learn from past mistakes?

Enduring understandings:

    • Priorities change in response to difficult times.

Life is unpredictable. Thus, students will learn that people have to constantly reorder their priorities to live successfully in the world.

    • Children began to enjoy the simple things in life because they had to grow up faster.

Children joined the workforce during the Great Depression and as a result, many lost their childhood. These children learned to enjoy the simple pleasures in life rather than living lives filled with leisure and entertainment as many children do today. In fact, children today grow up faster differently – their values and morals become like their elders faster through exposure to the media and the lowering of morals and values of society as a whole.

    • Be responsible with what you have.

Perhaps the source of what led to the Great Depression was pure human greed. People spent more than they could afford in an effort to live beyond their means.
Background academic information:

Old economic theory:

  • The Great Depression brought about a huge paradigm shift in economics. Before World War I, the economy had been run under “economic liberalism,” whose three central principals were as follows:

1) Basic capitalist laws of supply and demand make the world economy self-regulating (the greater the supply, the less the demand would be). Thus, recovery would follow recession naturally.

2) Task of government was to maintain a “level playing field” on which capitalist business could compete. If it entered the market, it would cause more problems because it would break the laws of supply and demand (e.g., subsidizing the railroad).

3) Way to tackle unemployment is to cut wages so that more workers could be hired.
The new theory (based on John Maynard Keynes’ theory):

1) Unchecked capitalism, operating through the laws of supply and demand, did not guarantee growth. The Great Depression was the perfect example of that.

2) Therefore governments needed to do more than just prepare the right conditions for business. In some circumstances, they needed to intervene.

3) Unemployment was not necessarily reduced by cutting wages: this might reduce demand for goods and services further and lead to even higher unemployment. The way out of the cycle was to put money into the economy to increase demand for goods and services.

(Causes and Consequences of the Great Depression, Stewart Ross)
With the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932, a new approach to the problems of economic depression was initiated. The most significant programs created and implemented by the President’s administration were carried out by the “alphabet agencies”

  1. Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) – Brought aid to helpless farmers and provided a means by which prices of crops could be supported by the federal government. The government paid farmers to reduce production so that prices for goods could rise.

  2. Farm Credit Administration (FCA) – The FCA enhanced the goals of the AAA by creating a bank for American farmers.

  3. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – It provided hundreds of thousands of jobs to the unemployed. The CCC worked on land clearing, forestry, dam construction, and improvement of the national parks. 2.5 million Americans were employed just through the CCC.

  4. National Recovery Administration (NRA) – It brought American Business an American government into a partnership.

(The Crash of ’29 and the New Deal, Bruce Glassman)
Zinn emphasizes making parallels between the past and present. He places emphasis on going back and forth by finding similarities and analogies in history, not on concentrating on the chronological order of history. He suggests that students should learn about strikes and demonstrations all over the country, concerning the Great Depression. It was in this atmosphere that Roosevelt and Congress passed Social Security, unemployment insurance, and housing subsidies and so on. (Why Students Should Study History; an Interview with Howard Zinn)

E. Rationale: All three of us vaguely remember learning about the Great Depression during our history class in high school. Events, dates, and prominent people that we had to memorize for the unit test have long been forgotten. It was never realized that the Great Depression was a historical event that nationally and locally changed the lives of real people in the United States.

This semester, we have been learning how important it is to look back and learn through the achievements and mistakes of the past. This unit takes an important look into the lessons we can learn through the Great Depression. By learning about the richness of history, students can come to appreciate the value of their present day circumstances. As we look into the lives of families during the Great Depression, there is much to be thankful for in the present. Though the nation was hit with one of the worst economic crises in history, they survived to tell their tales.

We were not able to retain information about the Great Depression because we did not make the connection between the event and the human facet of the Great Depression. Though we knew the figures and dates, we did not encounter faces, hopes, and dreams. By examining the changing social conditions of children, students will be able to gain a glimpse into the human aspect of the Great Depression.

"My parents said that they would be back for me. They said they were going to look for work and they would be back soon. I was six weeks old when they left. They never came back."
This unit will unpack the stories, faces, and names of the Great Depression, but will also teach important economic, political, and social principles the United States have been built upon. Along those lines, students will understand how to become a responsible citizen and the importance of civil rights for all people.
"In the third grade, my teacher announced a spelling bee. I was very excited because if you won, you received a prize of twenty-five cents. This was a lot of money. I studied very hard and was nervous, but I did win. My mother took my twenty-five cents to buy food."


*Quotes found on:

Part Two

Instructional Strategies:

  1. Integrating the arts (movie and music): we will be watching the movie “Annie,” and listening to two songs.

  2. We felt that using media would be an effective way of immersing students into living conditions during the Great Depression. Rather than merely reading about the Great Depression, students could benefit from the visual nature of the strategy as well as the emotions that are displayed through the words, music and acting. The movie, “Annie” also deals with children during the Great Depression, which is one of our focus topics.

  3. Information from teachers: the teachers from our placements said that in an ideal setting, teachers could utilize different media, such as movies, and music effectively, but there can be problems with obtaining the equipment and the media. Also, sometimes, students do not respond to the media in the way you expect them to (i.e., they are uninterested by the activity).

  4. Academic information:

According to the Council for Exceptional Students, when integrating the arts into the curriculum, teachers can design experiences that are tied to the unique needs, interests and abilities of the students. This can challenge them to perform sophisticated tasks such as analyzing lyrics to songs. (

According to the Arizona Department of Education, integrating the arts into education benefits the students in the following ways:

  • Education in the arts benefits students by cultivating the whole child by building multiple literacies into unique forms of expression and communication.

  • Helps them to enhance understanding of themselves and others.

  • Fosters a life long appreciation for and support of the arts.

  • Initiates them into a variety of ways of perceiving and thinking.


Part Three

Literacy Link

  1. Learning logs: students will write about their opinions and feelings about the activity. This is a good tool to assess students’ feelings about the topic and activity, their understandings and attitudes of the topic.

  2. Information from teachers: the teachers from our placements explained that they do not use learning logs. In fact, most of our teachers did not know what learning logs were. The closest activities to learning logs that they use are reflective journals, typically during and after reading novels. During these activities, the teacher usually gives students a focus question to write about.

  3. Academic information:

Logs are a means of reflection and self-reflection. They give students responsibility and control over their own learning. They allow students to interpret everyday events in terms of academic reading and learning and also encourage them to use meaningful context. It gives them insight into their ability to analyze and learn from their reflection. On the other hand, students can find learning logs too personal and individualistic as a tool for learning. Students may feel uncomfortable about revealing personal observations and feelings. Some students may also find it a chore. They see them sometimes as opinions and events without support or details. (

Part Four

Unit Sketch

  1. Essential questions

  • What cause GD

  • What were its effects on society

  • How can student’s learn from past mistakes

  • How do national and global affect individual lives of people.

  • How do people respond to hardships?

  1. Enduring understandings

    • Priorities change in response to difficult times

    • Children began to enjoy the simple things in life.

    • Be responsible with what you have.


Tuning in:

“Snap shots”

Description and Purpose: In this lesson, students will be given photographs of scenes from the Great Depression. They will be encouraged to pick out specific details they find interesting in the photographs. This will encourage interest and questions about the Great Depression. Students will be encouraged to make inferences from the photographs. Students should also be prompted with questions for deeper reflection. They will cover who, what, when, where, how and why, and have them guess what was going on at the time the photograph was taken.

Instructional strategy: Using documents/primary source materials

Assessment: informally assess their responses during class discussion. They will also be informally assessed in their learning logs and formally assessed for their brain maps.
Preparing to find out:


Description and Purpose: Students will generate a list of ideas, phrases and concepts they know about the Great Depression. They will get into groups and discuss what kind of lessons they want to learn and know about the Great Depression. The K-W-L will be referred to during the course of the unit.

Instructional strategy: K-W-L

Assessment: Informal group assessment from the KWL. Things to look for are students’ participation, complexity and quality of the questions they are asking.

Finding out:

“Time Warp”:

Description and Purpose: The lesson will consist of characters from the Great Depression visiting the classroom. Visitors will include a businessman who invested in the stock market, and a young boy working the factory. After giving a brief presentation, students will be encouraged to ask questions to the visitor about the Great Depression. From the businessman students should learn how the Great Depression affected him personally and not to spend money they don’t have. From the boy, we want students to learn how his roles changed during the Great Depression and how he overcame hardships.

Instructional strategy: Role Play

Assessment: Students will write a response to the portrayals of the different people interviewed.
Sorting Out:

“Then and Now”

Description and Purpose: Students will produce a presentation or a skit and represent what life was like in the Great Depression. They will use this information to compare and contrast life then and now and organize it in a Venn diagram.

Instructional strategy: Venn Diagram, integrating the arts(drama)

Assessment: The skits willl be assessed under rubric that will assess the content of the skit.

Going Further:

“Sing that Song”

Description and Purpose: Students will watch a movie (“Annie”) about the Great Depression. Teacher will print out lyrics to the some of the songs that were played during the movie.

Students will analyze and make conclusions as to what life was like in the Great Depression. Students will make text-to-self connections through their journal logs. Students will learn how events that happen on a national scale affect their own lives.

Instructional strategy: Integrating the arts, connections charts, learning logs

Assessment: Students will create a “brain map” of what they learned about the Great Depression through the lyrics. There will be a rubric that will be provided to asses the depth of analysis of the lyrics.

Making Connections:

“Officer Tru Ancy”

Description and Purpose: Students will role play truancy officers that will go back into the Great Depression. They will research and answer questions such as: Can the government enforce laws to force children to go to school? What are some issues that come up? How do rules and laws help us presently?

Instructional strategy: Role Play, Venn Diagram of the Laws that were implemented back then and now dealing with Child Labor laws.

Assessment: Teacher will evaluate the Venn diagrams

Taking action:

“Letters that Matter”

Description and Purpose: Students will participate in writing a letter to a congressman. Teachers will teach a mini-lesson on writing a letter to a congressman. Obtain sample letters written to political figures. Students will pretend to be children during the Great Depression. Students will pick a topic dealing with child labor laws, and then write it to the congressman. This will encourage students to take action to respond to social injustice.

Instructional strategy: Using documents and community resources.

Assessment: Students will be assessed by the mechanics of the letter that is written to the congressman.
E. Unit Assessment Plan:

Students will be assessed either informally, formally, or both, after each activity (see activity descriptions for specific assessments). As a summative assessment, students will do a research project on the life of children during the Great Depression, which will include comparisons to children now.

F. Unit Bibliography:

Internet Resources
Photographs of the Great Depression:

No Author. (2004). About: Photographs of the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. Retrieved December 11, 2004, from

No Author. (1998). American from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA-OWL, 1935-1945. The Library of Congress. Retrieved December 11, 2004 from
No Author. (n.d.) Archival Resources on the Great Depression. Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives. Retrieved on December 11, 2004 from,
No Author. (2001). Gallery Six: The Great Depression. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Retrieved on December 11, 2004 from
Sample Letters to Congress:

No Author. (2004). Issues and Action: Rise to the Challenge: End World Hunger. Bread for the World. Retrieved on December 11, 2004 from

No Author. (n.d.) Sample Letters to Congress. Parkinson’s Action Network. Retrieved on December 11, 2004 from
Child Labor Laws:

No Author. (n.d.) Child Labor in the US. Child Labor Coalition. Retrieved on December 11, 2004 from

No Author. (2001) Youth and Labor. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved on December 11, 2004 from

Layton, J. (Producer), & Huston, J. (Director). (1982). Annie [Motion picture]. United States of America: TriStar.

Children Resources
Lasky, K. (2001). Dear America: Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Wormser, R. (1994). Growing up in the Great Depression. New York: Atheneum.

Teacher Resource
Cordier, M. H. and Perez-Stable, M. A. (1994). Understanding American History though Children’s Literature: Instructional Units and Activities for Grades K-8. Phoenix: The Oryx Press.
Fremon, D. K. (1997). The Great Depression in American History. New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, Inc.
Glassman, B. The Crash of ’29 and the New Deal. New Jersey: Silver Burdett, 1986
McElvaine, R. S. (2000). The Depression and New Deal: A History in Documents. New York: Oxford University Press.
Ross, S. (1988). Causes and Consequences of the Great Depression. Austin: Steck-Vaughn Co.

Sing That Song!

Essential question: Students will learn how people lived as a result of the Great Depression.

Enduring understandings: Priorities change in response to difficult times.

Key Concepts: Peoples’ lifestyles changed dramatically as a result of the Great Depression.


18B Understand the roles and responsibilities of individuals and groups in society.


  • VCR, T.V.

  • Cassette player and copy of the song, “We’d like to thank you Herbert Hoover,” and “Where is the love?” by the Black Eyed Peas, on cassette

  • “Annie”

  • journals

  • The following song lyrics from “Annie”

We’d like to thank you Herbert Hoover”
Today we're living in a shanty
Today we're scrounding for a meal

Today I'm stealing coal for fires

Who knew I could steal?

I used to winter in the tropics

I spent my summers at the shore

I used to throw away the papers

We'd like to thank you: Herber Hoover
For really showing us the way
We'd like to thank you: Herbert Hoover
You made us what we are today

Prosperity was 'round the corner

The cozy cottage built for two
In this blue heaven
That you
Gave us
Yes! We're turning blue!

They offered us Al Smith and Hoover

We paid attention and we chose
Not only did we pay attention
We paid through the nose.

In ev'ry pt he said "a chicken"

But Herbert Hoover he forgot
Not only don't we have the chicken
We ain't got the pot!

Hey Herbie

You left behind a greatful nation

So, Herb, our hats are off to you

We're up to here with admiration

Come down and have a little stew

Come down and share some Christmas dinner
Be sure to bring the missus too
We got no turkey for our stuffing
Why don't we stuff you!

We'd like to thank you, Herbert Hoover

For really showing us the way
You dirty rat, you
Bureaucrat, you
Made us what we are today

Come and get it, Herb!


Opening: Ask students why they think people write songs. Discuss. Explain that people write songs to send a message. Also, songs can tell you a lot about life and the world the song-writers live in. Ask them if they know any songs that send messages (e.g., songs on the radio, or watch, such as music videos). Then, explain that they will listen to a song and that you would like them to keep their ears open for things that tell you about the world they live in. [Play “Where is the love?” by the Black Eyed Peas.] After listening to the song, talk about the different things the song tells them about the world the artists live in [discuss: terrorism, racism/discrimination, famine, war, hate, children suffering, and so forth]. Then, explain that you students will watch a movie about the Great Depression and then they will be examining one of the songs in the movie that talk about living conditions during the Great Depression.

  1. Watch the movie. [Stop the movie just before the song and ask students to listen carefully and jot down in their journals things the song says about life during the Great Depression.]

  2. After the movie, pass out copies of the lyrics of the song and listen to the song once again (on tape).

  3. Give students the following graphic organizer to write down some things the songs says about the Great Depression and give them some time to work on it alone:

  1. Call the student’s attention back to the class and discuss what life was like during the Great Depression, based on the song.

  2. Then, have students write in their journals to write about how the Great Depression affected people’s lives. Ask them: “Do you think that it was okay to get mad at the president (Herbert Hoover)?”

Closing Activity: have students write in their learning logs to respond to the following focus questions:

Write about something new that you learned today.

How did you feel about this activity?

What questions do you have about the Great Depression at this moment?


Students will be informally assessed on their learning logs and will be assessed using the following rubric for their brain webs:







Has 8 or more examples from the song.

Has 6-8 examples from the song.

Has 4-6 examples from the song.

Has less than 4 examples from the song.


The database is protected by copyright © 2016
send message

    Main page