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Teacher Feature

Teacher Feature

What's the Deal?


After visiting the 1935 Great Depression era in the Time Machine, the students will understand what the New Deal programs were and how these programs impacted the nation during the Great Depression.


After visiting the 1935 Great Depression era in the Time Machine, review with the students information about the Great Depression and the events leading up the stock market crash of 1929.  Emphasize what condition the nation was in both financially and in spirit when Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1932.

Students should know that:

  • The beginning of the Great Depression is marked by the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday.
  • The Great Depression affected cities and rural areas, industry and farming, and both the rich and the poor.
  • The New Deal was a program put forth by Franklin D. Roosevelt and was funded by the federal government.

Explain to the students that there were multiple economic factors that led to the stock market crash of 1929.  One of the main contributors to the stock market crash was that prior to the crash, the wealth was in the hands of a few families in the United States.  These families often chose to invest or save their money rather than spend it on goods.  The gap between those who had money and those who did not increased greatly during this time.  Industry and farming both slowed, jobs were cut, and people were unable to sell their goods and services.  Farmers and workers did not profit during this period, and were unable to afford the increasing prices of the times.

Explain that President Herbert Hoover was in office before Roosevelt and that Hoover did not believe it was the federal governmen's place to use federal monies to assist those who were unemployed.

Using bookmarked Web sites and text, have the students look up what daily life was like at the beginning of the Great Depression.  Discuss with the students conditions just before the stock market crash and the first two years after.  Discuss the election of 1932 and the outcome.  Ask students to discuss the changes that people wanted to see take place once Roosevelt was elected.

Explain to students that President Roosevelt made many changes during his first 100 days in office.  In order to let people know what was going on, he made radio broadcasts to the public, which were called "Fireside Chats".  The Fireside Chats were informal addresses to the American people that helped to simplify all of the changes that were taking place.  Explain to the students that, during that time, the radio was listened to the way we watch TV today.  Families would listen at night together to their favorite programs for both entertainment and news.

Divide the students into pairs or small groups and distribute the New Deal Programs worksheet to each student.  Assign each small group a New Deal Program to research.  Using the worksheet to guide the investigation, have the students research information about the programs, what these programs did, and what area of the country was served.  Students can use bookmarked Web sites and texts such as:

  • Children of the Great Depression by Russell Freedman
  • The New Deal and the Great Depression in American History by Lisa A. Wroble
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The New Deal President by Brenda Haugen

Have students present their findings as if they were giving their own Fireside Chat.  Have each small group complete the Fireside Chat worksheet and give a radio broadcast to the class.  You may want to have students deliver their broadcast behind a partition or curtain to simulate an audio-only broadcast like President Roosevelt's.

Have students fill in the remaining information on their New Deal Programs worksheet as each Fireside Chat is given.  Then review the New Deal Programs worksheet with the students and have them complete any missing information.


  • Listen to radio broadcasts and programs from the 1930s.  Have students compare and contrast the radio programs with modern TV programs they watch.
  • Have students locate examples of still-existing projects from the New Deal program, such as the Appalachian Trail, dams, and airports.  Have students explain how the New Deal programs had lasting impact and have students map these projects.
  • Have students keep a journal as if they were working on one the New Deal programs.  Have them record the challenges they faced, the new places they would have seen, and how they thought this program would help them.


The project described above reflects some of the national standards of learning as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and the International Society for Technology in Education.  These standards are listed below:

Social Studies Standards

Time, Continuity, and Change
People, Places, and Environments
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Civic Ideals and Practices

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