Educator Resources

FDR and Churchill

Teaching Activities

Standards Correlations

This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.

  • Era 8 -The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945).
    • Standard 3A -Demonstrate understanding of the international background of World War II.

This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.

  • Standard IV.C.2. -Explain the effects on the United States of significant world political developments.

Constitutional Connection

The lesson relates to the powers and duties of the president as defined in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution. It also relates to the function of government and foreign policy in time of national crisis (war).

Cross-curricular Connections

Share this exercise with your history, government, and language arts colleagues.


Placing the Documents in Historical Context

  1. As a homework assignment, direct students to read and gather facts from their textbooks on the political careers of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The focus of these notes will be from the period prior to and during World War II, especially focusing on their cooperative efforts in directing their nations' war efforts. Divide the class into half and assign one group to gather 10 facts about FDR and the other half to gather 10 facts about Churchill. On the board, compile that facts gathered in two separate columns.

  2. Photocopy and distribute copies of the chart from the New Deal Network (Document 1) to the class. Direct students to highlight on the chart in which conferences both Roosevelt and Churchill were participants. Lead a class discussion about the major decisions made at each of these highlighted conferences relative to the outcome of World War II.

Document Analysis

  1. Photocopy and distribute Document 2. Instruct the students to examine the document and complete a Document Analysis Worksheet. Lead a class discussion about the results of the document analysis and ask the following questions. What reasons did FDR and Churchill each give for the importance of celebrating Christmas and lighting the tree during the dark days of the war? What references do each of the speakers make concerning their common enemy? What references do each make concerning the other speaker? Is there evidence that a close friendship is developing? What focus is placed on the children in their messages?

Writing Activity

  1. Inform the students that even before Roosevelt and Churchill met in person, they made important agreements. One of these led to the Lend-Lease Act in early 1941. This agreement helped to solve an immediate need for supplies for Britain and our other future allies. As Germany took over country after country in Europe and Japan expanded its territory in the Far East, public opinion in the United States began to reflect isolation less and less and to the horrors of these conquests more. In 1939, the United States passed legislation with provisions that favored the Allies, allowing the sale of arms and munitions on a "cash-and-carry'' basis. In 1941 the Lend-Lease Act allowed the president to sell, exchange, lease, or lend arms, supplies, and equipment to any nation whose defense was considered essential to our security. With large amounts of armament being sent to the Allies, the United States became known as the "arsenal of democracy." This act would eventually provide the Allies with more than $50 billion in supplies.

    Photocopy and distribute the three pages of Document 3. Instruct the students to compare the comments made by both the president and the queen and, as homework, to write an essay supporting the following thesis statement: "The actions taken by the United States and the Netherlands in transferring a ship to Holland are an excellent example of the purposes set forth by FDR and Churchill when lend-lease was introduced."

Venn Diagram: Compare/Contrast

  1. Inform the students that in August 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill met in Argentia Bay, Newfoundland, and drafted an agreement on war aims. This document became known as the Atlantic Charter.

    Photocopy and distribute Documents 4 and 5 (Atlantic Charter and Fourteen Points speech). Divide the class into cooperative groups and instruct them on creating and using a Venn diagram (similarities/differences). Using the two documents, direct the groups to create a Venn diagram that lists the provisions of the Fourteen Points that are similar to and different from those of the Atlantic Charter. Lead a class discussion about the findings of the activity to determine how much influence the Fourteen Points might have had on the adoption of the Charter.

Document-based Question

  1. Direct students to brainstorm a list of conclusions drawn from the Christmas messages of FDR and Churchill, the remarks by FDR and Queen Wilhelmina, and the Atlantic Charter that relate to the international background of World War II. Instruct each student to write a thesis statement based on the infomation presented in the list. Examples might include the following:

    1. The relationship that developed between FDR and Churchill prior to U.S. involvement in World War II was crucial to the establishment of a unified effort to deal with the Axis powers.

    2. As a result of the Lend-Lease Act, the United States was actively engaged in World War II months before war was declared by Congress.

    Next, compile a list of the student-generated thesis statements.

    Direct students to use their knowledge of the period and the infomation contained in the documents to assess the validity of one of the thesis statements and to write a well-organized essay. Explain that their essays should include an introduction incorporating the thesis statement, several paragraphs explaining and supporting the thesis, and a conclusion. To support their positions, instruct students to draw evidence from the documents used in class, their knowledge of the topic, and the information gathered from their cooperative groups. Ask them to include specific historical details and cite sentences and phrases taken from specific documents.

The documents included in this project are from Record Group 44, Records of the Office of Government Reports [OGR]; and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library. They are available online through the National Archives Catalog National Archives Identifiers:


The National Archives Catalog replaces its prototypes, the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.

The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the National Archives Catalog 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 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the National Archives Catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the National Archives Catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the National Archives Catalog will grow continually.

This article was written by Tom Gray, a teacher at DeRuyter Central Middle School in DeRuyter, NY.

Return to Lesson Main Page