Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan:
FDR's Fireside Chat on the Purposes and
Foundations of the Recovery Program
This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
- Era 8 -The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
- Standard 2B -Demonstrate understanding of the impact of the New Deal on workers and the labor movement.
This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard III.B.1. -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding the purposes, organization, and functions of the institutions of the national government.
This lesson relates to the powers of the president in Article II, Section 3, to recommend to Congress for their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. This lesson also relates to Article I, Section 8, which grants Congress the power to make all laws necessary and proper for executing all other powers vested by the Constitution.
Please share this exercise with your history, government, and language arts colleagues.
- Ask students how they get information on important events or activities that occur in the national government today. Use the following questions: How do you learn more about a crisis that occurs in the United States? Who do you think should provide this information? What would make you feel safe or secure when a crisis is taking place? Share with students background information about FDR's fireside chats. Ask students to compare ways these radio addresses in the 1930s are different from and similar to broadcasts of the media today.
Document Analysis and Discussion
- Share with your students the background information about the New Deal. Divide
students into small groups. Distribute a copy of Document
1 to each group. Use the Document
Analysis Worksheet Worksheet developed by the National Archives education
staff or make a transparency with the following questions: What type of document
is this? What is the date of the document? Who wrote the document? What is the
purpose of the document? What information in the document helps you understand
why it was written? Ask each group to analyze and discuss the document analysis
questions. Lead the class in oral responses to the questions.
- Direct students to a more in-depth study of the document. Ask each group
to divide and distribute the 13 pages of the document so that each student in
the group only has 2-3 pages to analyze. Instruct students to read their assigned
pages and identify words or phrases of encouragement or hope used by the president
as he addressed the American people. Ask each group to share its findings, placing
these words on the board as they are reported. Ask students why they think the
president used these words and speculate on the effect they had on the listening
- Ask the students to go back to the pages they analyzed in Activity 3 and read through them again. This time they are to try to identify problems facing this country during the Great Depression, solutions proposed for these problems, and actions to be taken by the federal government. Direct each group to create a three-column chart with the headings Problems, Solutions, and Actions, on which they will compile the results of their research. Ask each group to report their findings to the class and write this information on a similar chart on the board or a transparency. Lead a class discussion on what problems FDR was proposing to solve and how they would be solved. Ask: What was the government going to do? What were businesses asked to do? What were the American people asked to do? Direct students to read the last paragraph of FDR's speech. What did he ask of American businesses, government, and workers? How would these words make you feel if you were a listener in 1933?
Photograph and Poster Analysis
- Copy Document 2 and Document 3 on a transparency. Display Document 2 on a projector, distribute copies of the Poster Analysis Worksheet, and direct students to analyze the NRA poster by completing the worksheet. Discuss aloud with the students their ideas about the message and purpose of the poster. Then display Document 3 and distribute copies of the Photograph Analysis Worksheet. Ask the students what the message of this photograph is and how the poster and photograph support FDR's message in his fireside chat of July 24, 1933.
Compare and Contrast
- Direct students to research the history of the NRA, especially the original legislation passed by Congress, the details of how the program was implemented in industry, and the agency's demise. Ask them to write answers to these questions: Were FDR's predictions correct? What eventually happened to the NRA? How is this an example of checks and balances in our system of government?
The written document and photographs included in this project are from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY. They are available online through Archival Research Catalog (ARC) Identifiers:
ARC replaces its prototype, the NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. ARC's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.
ARC is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use ARC to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.
Currently, about 20% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in ARC. 124,000 digital images can be searched in ARC. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in ARC will grow continually.
This article was written by Linda Darus Clark, a teacher at Padua Franciscan High School in Parma, Ohio.