Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

The Great Depression Essay
Cathy Ann Dickerson
U.S. History
Time Frame:
7 days
Great Depression

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

The students learn about the events that led to the stock market crash,the concerns of the Depression, and the effects of the New Deal programs on the American people and the American economy. While reading and discussing these important issues in American History, the students choose an original Depression photograph [primary source] and create a story using historical facts. The project is one week in duration. A scoring guide and handout are utilized.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Missouri Standards

Goal 1.2 Conduct research to answer questions and evaluate information and ideas.

Goal 1.4 Use technological tools and other resources to locate, select, and organize information.

Goal 2.1 Plan and make written, oral and visual presentations for a variety of purposes and audiences.

Kansas Standards

Benchmark 2: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Great Depression through World War II in United States history (1930-1945).

The student:

1. (A) analyzes the causes and impact of the Great Depression (e.g., overproduction, consumer debt, banking regulation, unequal distribution of wealth).

2. (A) analyzes the costs and benefits of New Deal programs. (e.g., budget deficits vs. creating employment, expanding government: CCC, WPA, Social Security, TVA, community infrastructure improved, dependence on subsides).

3. (A) analyzes the debate over expansion of federal government programs during the Depression (e.g., Herbert Hoover, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Alf Landon, Huey Long, Father Charles Coughlin).

Benchmark 3: The student writes technical text using the writing process.

1. Develops a technical text focused on one main purpose. (Ideas and Content: prewriting, drafting, revising: N,E,T,P)

2. Clearly defines the main idea with selection of concise, logical details that meet the reader’s informational needs. (Ideas and Content: prewriting, drafting, revising: N,E,T,P)

3. Analyzes and understands implications and consequences of plagiarism (e.g. ethical, legal, professional). (Ideas and Content: prewriting, drafting, revising: N,E,T,P)

4. Cites references for all sources of information and includes summarized and paraphrased ideas from other authors. (Ideas and Content: prewriting, drafting, revising: N,E,T,P)

5. Constructs a bibliography with a standard style of format (e.g. MLA, APA, etc.). (Ideas and Content: prewriting, drafting, revising: N,E,T,P)

6. Applies appropriate strategies to generate technical text (e.g. brainstorming, listing, webbing, working in pairs or cooperative groups, identifying information from print sources). (Organization:prewriting, drafting, revising: N,E,T,P)

7. Organizes information within each section, paragraph, list, or graphic in a logical and effective sequence to meet the reader’s informational needs. (Organization: prewriting, drafting, revising: N,E,T,P)

8. Composes a comprehensive piece with a constructive introduction, a relevant or sequential body, and a suitable conclusion. Organization: prewriting, drafting, revising: N,E,T,P)

9. Uses appropriate transitions to connect ideas within the piece (e.g. enumerated lists, bullets, headings, subheadings, complex outlining elements). (Organization: prewriting, drafting, revising: N,E,T,P

Technology Required:
  • http://www.infoplease.com/
  • http://www.trumanlibrary.org
  • http://www.yahoo.com
  • http://www.yahooligans.com
  • Images in the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection (Library of Congress)

    America at the Crossroads - Great Photographs From the Thirties, Edited by Jerome Prescott, Smithmark, New York, 1995.

    American Odyssey, Gary Nash, Glencoe, New York, 1994.

    Highlights in American History, Grace Kachaturoff, Schaffer Publications, Torrance, California, 1995.

    Life During the Great Depression, Dennis Nishi, Lucent Books, San Diego, 1998.
  • Full description of activity or assignment.

    The students will study the chapters on the Great Depression and Roosevelt's New Deal using the school text American Odyssey. The class will read the text, complete guided readings, and study these issues while reading articles from Roosevelt's Presidency and readings from Highlights in American History. The Depression Essay Project will be introduced during this unit. The use of primary sources and the need to access various Internet sources will enhance the learning process. Each student will choose a photograph from sources to include the KC Public Librarv Special Collection. The students can chose a photograph from the collections of Margaret Bourke-White or Dorothea Lange. Government archives have numerous photographs from the Depression. Additional historical information will be found by accessing Yahoo, Searchopolis, and Information Please Almanac. The students will gain additional knowledge about FDR by using the Project WhistleStop Web Site.

    After completing the research, the student will follow the format of the essay. The time frame will be distributed in order for the student to organize his/her time and information. A class period in the computer lab will be made available to the class. Each student will have the opportunity to share his/her insights in the form of an oral presentation.



    In this project students will describe the life of a person or persons who suffered hardship and desperation during the Great Depression. The students will choose an authentic photograph from the Great Depression, which can be found using various resources. Students will describe the picture and give an identity to the person(s) in the picture and explain how the depression affected their life/lives. If a photograph is chosen without people, the students will create a person or family who lives [had lived] at the site. [The teacher will show several examples.] In addition, the student will explain how FDR's New Deal helped restore, or did not restore, the lives of the individuals. A picture of the photograph must accompany the essay and its source documented.

    It is required that the students use proper mechanics and a five-paragraph essay format to tell this story.

    The format is as follows:

    Paragraph 1 This is a general paragraph that is interesting and captures the reader's attention.

    Paragraph 2 This is the time to introduce the person [sl in the photo. Who is this? Where do/did they live? What was their life[s] like before the Depression?

    Paragraph 3 What was the Great Depression? Why did it occur? Explain how this person [s] was affected, and how the individual[s] came to be in the state as shown in the photograph.

    Paragraph 4 Explain what the New Deal was and how specific programs helped the person[s] in your photo. If there were negative aspects discuss and be specific.

    Paragraph 5 This is the conclusion of the essay. Describe what happened to the person[s] in the photograph. Describe lessons learned and/or how life[s] changed for this person[s].


    Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

    A scoring guide will be used to assess each student. The student will receive a copy of the scoring guide at the beginning of the project and a detailed explanation of the requirements of the project.



    Expectations Ready to work for ABC News Promising Talent Untapped Talent Points; additional teacher comments

    Followed directions and met deadline; typed, double-spaced,
    2 inch margins,
    12 font;

    20 points

    Met all requirements Most requirements met Ignored directions ________ points

    Essay well-written; followed five paragraph format; proper mechanics;

    70 points


    Informative, create and interesting; brought photograph to life; checked grammar and spelling Adequate approach to essay; did not fulfill all paragraph/mechanics requirements Writing style confusing; did not attempt to fulfill paragraph/mechanics requirement ________ points

    Oral Presentation-
    3-5 minutes;
    notable public
    speaking skills;

    20 points

    Knew material, showed enthusiasm, met time requirements Dependent on notes, still improving; short on time Monotone, unsure of material; did not make an attempt ________ points

    TOTAL POINTS EARNED ______/110