Social Sundays: Using the tools of the era for studying the Great Depression

The Great Depression is an important part of US history and from a policy point of view telling of the future.  We almost had one again in 2008.  So, when we take on the Great Depression we look at how we got there and how we got out.  

We also spend significant time on the effects on individual Americans.  One approach is through primary source analysis (what we do here) and a student-designed gallery walk (how to on student-designed gallery walks here).  I also like to use the vehicle that was popular of the era for sharing information.  In the case of the Great Depression, this is the newspaper.

How to:



  • Teams of reporters:  I divide students into teams of reporters.  Sometimes I play editor but other times there isn't an editor.  
  • Assigning stories:  students are given a list of potential Great Depression topics to report on if we are fairly early in the unit.  Alternatively, if we do the newspaper later in the unit, then students generate there own list based on what they think are the most salient topics for the era.  They divide up topics and plan stories each individual student or pairs of students will write.  Typically, each student has to do two stories - one purely investigative and one fun one such as a crossword, comic or opinion piece.
  • Investigation: students investigate their topics.  If we are early in the unit, I provide background information on each of the topics on the list.  If we are later in the unit, I expect students to know their topics. I encourage students to find additional information to strengthen their stories.
  • First pass:  students complete first passes on their stories.  I give a deadline for the first article.  When the articles are in, students peer review each other's articles.  I have students provide feedback on 2 articles each: one from a member of their own group and one from a member of another group.  
  • Rewrite:  Students rewrite based on their feedback and prep a final draft.  The second article is on their own.
  • Assembly: There are several ways to assemble the newspapers.  We have used online templates as well as just a couple of big pieces of butcher paper.  Students name the newspaper, add headlines, photos, etc. and glue articles to the large pieces of butcher paper in newspaper style.  Typically, it takes 2 pieces of butcher paper per group.  
  • Analysis:  the process of this project is the most important part, but there is real value in turning these newspapers into a gallery walk.  Students visit each display in small groups and reflect on the information and analysis.  This provides opportunity for deeper thinking about the impact of the Great Depression.
This is part of a series of posts for teaching 20th century U.S. History.  Topics in the series include:

The Progressive Era
World War I
The 1920s
The Harlem Renaissance
The Great Depression
World War II
The Cold War
The 1950s
The 1960s
The Civil Rights Movement



Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.   

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