Launching the New Deal: FDR and Congress Respond to the Great Depression
This lesson introduces the New Deal by examining how President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress responded to the Great Depression, and how the role of the Federal government changed as a result.
How did the role of the Federal government change as President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and Congress launched the New Deal in response to the Great Depression?
Grades 7 – 12
Each activity will take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
Activity 1 - FDR Launches the New Deal in his Inaugural Address March 4, 1933
Summary: In his Inaugural Address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt cautioned the American people against panic, identified the causes of the economic distress facing the nation, and committed himself to work with Congress to find a solution to the Great Depression.
Procedure: Divide the class into three groups. Assign each group to read one excerpt from Handout 1 "Excerpts from Franklin D. Roosevelt's Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933." Instruct the students to complete the questions on Worksheet 1 "Analysis Questions." Instruct the students to share their findings with the whole class when they have finished.
Activity 2 - Analyzing News Coverage of the New Deal
Summary: "A Newsreader’s View of Six Weeks of History" shows how the launch of the New Deal was covered by The Evening Star, then Washington, DC’s largest daily newspaper.
Procedure: Divide the class into three groups. Instruct each group to study two of the six front pages on Handout 2, "A Newsreader’s View of Six Weeks of History." Note - Each sheet of "A Newsreader’s View of Six Weeks of History" can be printed at legal size or can be projected one page at a time to the entire class. Students should record details about their assigned numbered news items by completing the appropriate spaces on Worksheet 2, "A Newsreader’s View of Six Weeks of History." When the students have finished, convene as a whole class to discuss all six weeks and have students fill-in information for the other four stories their group did not study to form a completed worksheet. Instruct the students to identify the three news items they think would have the greatest long-term effect on America.
Activity 3 - Assessing New Deal changes to the Federal Government
Summary: In this activity, students analyze how the New Deal comprised short-term responses to the Great Depression and long-term changes in government.
Procedure: Divide the students into three groups. Instruct each group to complete Worksheet 3, "A New Role for Government?" using Handout 3. Students should be prepared to share their findings with the whole class. Then, instruct the students to complete Worksheet 4, "Was the New Deal a Plan for Long-Term Change or a Series of Short-Term Responses" using Handout 4. Students should be prepared to share their findings with the class.
Activity 4 - Primary Sources Illustrate the Federal Government’s Response to the Great Depression
Summary: Students will analyze primary sources that show examples of difficult conditions Americans faced during the Great Depression as well as how the New Deal responded to them.
Procedure: Divide the students into two groups. Instruct one group to complete Worksheet 5, "Urban Problems and New Deal Responses" and the other group to complete Worksheet 6, "Rural Problems and New Deal Responses." Groups should be prepared to share their findings with the whole class. After the groups have shared, hold a class discussion on the problems and solutions. Ask the students to draw from their knowledge of earlier eras of U.S. history to assess how the New Deal changed the way America responded to a crisis.
Activity 5 - Crisis in Banking and the Stock Exchange Trigger Expanded Federal Oversight
Summary: Students will examine two economic crises facing America in 1933 and the New Deal Response to each. The public feared a collapse of the nation’s banks, and they also suspected that the unbridled greed of financial manipulators had contributed to the stock market crash of 1929. Primary sources in this Activity present the words and actions that illustrate the two crises and how the New Deal responded.
Procedure: Divide the students into two groups. Instruct one group to complete Worksheet 7, "The Crisis in Banking" and the other group to complete Worksheet 8 "Should the Government Regulate the Stock Exchange?" Students should be prepared to share their findings with the whole class.
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