Lesson Plan: Overview

What a Kind Santa Claus You Are

Grade Level: High School

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Academic Standards

Standard USHC-7: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the economic boom-and-bust in America in the 1920s and 1930s, its resultant political instability, and the subsequent worldwide response.

7.4 Explain the causes and effects of the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, including the disparity in incomes, limited government regulation, stock market speculation, and the collapse of the farm economy; wealth distribution, investment, and taxes; government policies and the Federal Reserve System; and the effects of the Depression on human beings and the environment.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

G. Make and record observations about the physical and human characteristics of places.

L. Interpret calendars, time lines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts.

S. Interpret and synthesize information obtained from a variety of sources – graphs, charts, tables, diagrams, texts, photographs, documents, and interviews.

Essential Questions

1. How were the youth in South Carolina affected by the Great Depression?

2. How did the youth in South Carolina try to handle and change their life during the Great Depression?

3. What was life like for youth in South Carolina during the 1930s and 1940s?

Historical Background Notes

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, millions of families were struggling to live on incomes so meager that the threat of disaster hung over them day after day. More than half the nation’s children were growing up in families that did not have enough money to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, or medical care. (Freedman, 2005, 4) As the depression sank into South Carolina, children were struggling to find a way to survive in the world in which they lived. They lived in run-down houses, on very little food and clothing, and without basic necessities.           

Many South Carolinians were struggling before the depression hit so the situation for many rural farmers and their families only got worse during the 1930s. The youth throughout the United States were effected greatly by the Great Depression as schools began to cut back on the school year or even close down, families were poor and homeless and many others were starving to death. (Cohen, 2002, 7-9) Many of America’s youth were trying to find ways to help out their families and make their lives better. Many children just wanted basic day-to-day items such as a new outfit, while others were selfless and asked for money to help their family pay the bills. The youth in South Carolina had to find ways to help themselves as they saw that their parents could not help them. Many times people during the Great Depression lost faith but children were able to find hope in both state and national governments.

During this time both Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) received unprecedented amounts of mail from Americans. Mrs. Roosevelt received more than 300,000 pieces of mail during her first year in the White House. What made the letters unique were their origins and character. The majority of the letters were written from the working class who wrote asking for aid rather than to voice their opinion. (Cohen, 2002, 5) Throughout the depression, young people wrote to Mrs. Roosevelt asking for help. Some asked for bikes so they could get to school and work. Some needed money to pay for medical bills and to buy food and school supplies. (Ruth, 2003, 30) Many children wrote Mrs. Roosevelt asking for school supplies or money to attend school. Many children had to quit school to work and others could not afford to go to school any longer. Other children asked for clothing in order to go back to school. Since many children only had hand-me-down clothes, they were often picked on and too embarrassed to return to school. The youth felt that Eleanor Roosevelt truly cared for them and would be able to help them with their problems.

The youth in South Carolina not only wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband but also wrote to the governor of South Carolina during the Great Depression, Governor Ibra Charles Blackwood. Many wrote to Governor Blackwood asking for loans while others wrote looking for help finding employment during the Great Depression. Unemployment agencies and New Deal Programs were not enough to keep up with the growing unemployment rate; so, many people went right to the top to ask for help in seeking employment. Many others wrote the governor asking for help with their family and help for schools throughout South Carolina. They felt that the government should step in and take charge when the Depression continued to get worse. People looked towards the government to help them because they had nowhere else to turn to during this time period.

The Great Depression was a troubling time for the United States, and the youth in South Carolina were not immune to its effects. As times got tough, the youth took matters into their own hands and started reaching out for help. They often took on jobs to help out their families, but with no jobs to be found they decided to ask for help. Many of South Carolina’s youth turned to the governor of South Carolina while others turned to the national government and pleaded with FDR and the First Lady for help. Despite the fact that a majority of the wishes in the letters could not be fulfilled, the ability to write the president and first lady allowed children to believe that things may get better.  

Cultural Institution Partner

South Carolina Department of Archives and History

Materials

Primary Sources

Brown, M. W. to Governor Blackwood, 25 April 1933. Governor Blackwood Papers, Alphabetical Correspondence 1931-1933. S539020 Box 6: 1933 A-Y. South Carolina Department of History and Archives, Columbia, South Carolina.

Cohen, Robert [Eleanor Roosevelt]. Dear Ms. Roosevelt :Letters from Children of the Great Depression. January 1934. Letter from L.L. from Blacksburg, SC, 190. Chapel Hill:   The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Cohen, Robert. [Eleanor Roosevelt]. Dear Ms. Roosevelt :Letters from Children of the Great Depression. 5 March 1937. Letter from M.E.P. from Allen University, Columbia, SC, 121. Chapel Hill:   The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Cohen, Robert. [Eleanor Roosevelt]. Dear Ms. Roosevelt :Letters from Children of the Great Depression. 18 March 1937. Letter from Miss B.M. from Greenville, SC, 76. Chapel Hill:   The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Cohen, Robert. [Eleanor Roosevelt]. Dear Ms. Roosevelt :Letters from Children of the Great Depression. 21 February 1938. Letter from Westminster, SC, 55-6. Chapel Hill:   The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Lange, Dorothea. “Child of sharecropper. Near Gaffney, South Carolina.” July 1937. American Memory. December 1998. America from the Great Depression to WWII: Black and White Photographs from FSA/OWI 1935-1945. American Memory. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. Accessed 2 November 2009. 

Lange, Dorothea. “Home of sharecropper family near Chesnee, South Carolina.” July 1937. American Memory. December 1998. America from the Great Depression to WWII: Black and White Photographs from FSA/OWI 1935-1945. American Memory. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. Accessed 2 November 2009.    

Lange, Dorothea. “Sharecropper family near Chesnee, South Carolina.” July 1937. American Memory. December 1998. America from the Great Depression to WWII: Black and White Photographs from FSA/OWI 1935-1945. American Memory. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. Accessed 2 November 2009. 

Post, Marion. “Sorghum mill at home of Indian family near Summerville.” Photograph. 1939. Farm Security Administration. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

" The Brown Family in Front of Their Home." Photograph. As reproduced in A South Carolina Album, 1936-1948, Constance B Schulz, editor. Columbia: The University of South Carolina Press, 1992. Original in Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

“The Wife and Mother of a Sharecropper.” Photograph. As reproduced in A South Carolina Album, 1936-1948,   Constance B Schulz, editor. Columbia: The University of South Carolina Press, 1992. Original in Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Thomas, Ida B. to Governor Blackwood, 7 August 1933. Governor Blackwood Papers, Alphabetical Correspondence 1931-1933. S539020 Box 6: 1933 A-Y. South Carolina Department of History and Archives, Columbia, South Carolina.

Williams, Marion to Governor Blackwood, 11 October 1933. Governor Blackwood Papers, Alphabetical Correspondence 1931-1933. S539020 Box 6: 1933 A-Y. South Carolina Department of History and Archives, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wolcott, Marian Post. “Negro shack near Summerville, South Carolina.” December 1938. American Memory. December 1998. America from the Great Depression to WWII: Black and White Photographs from FSA/OWI 1935-1945. American Memory. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. Accessed 2 November 2009.           

Secondary Sources

Cohen, Robert. Dear Ms. Roosevelt :Letters from Children of the Great Depression. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Edgar, Walter. South Carolina: A History. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Freedman, Russell. Children of the Great Depression. New York: Clarion Books, 2005.

Ruth, Amy. Growing up in the Great Depression: 1929-1941. Minneapolis : Lerner Publications, 2003.

Tools

• Copies of letters
• Copies of pictures
Photograph Analysis worksheet – copy for each student
Letter Analysis worksheet – copy for each student
• Markers/Colored Pencils
• Pens/Pencils
• Construction Paper or poster board
• Whiteboard with markers to generate lists
• Computer and Printer
• Computer Paper 

Lesson Plans

Step by Step Procedure: This lesson took roughly 2 class periods (90 minute blocks) to complete.

1. Break students into groups of 3-4 depending on size of class.

2. Review background information of Great Depression – 10 minutes

  • Time period of the Great Depression
  • What the Great Depression Was and why it happened
  • Where the Great Depression Occurred
  • How the Great Depression Occurred
  • Who the Great Depression Affected

3. After the discussion, hand each group a picture from the Great Depression along with the photograph analysis sheet. Each group will have a different picture, and each member of the group should have their own copy of the picture to analyze.

4. Students will study the picture and answer the questions on the sheet by themselves. I gave them about 5 minutes to work on this step.

5. Students will discuss their answers with their group. I gave them about 7-10 minutes to do a group discussion.

6. The teacher will then lead a discussion about the photographs that were viewed. Each group will briefly describe their picture and their information and then compare all the photographs to get a general picture. This took the class about 10-15 minutes to do; since, we did every group, and then discussed.

7. Then the students will create a list of things they would want if they lived in these houses or lived during the Great Depression, and the teacher will compile a class list on the board. This took about 5 minutes or less.

8. The teacher will then ask the students who they would ask to give them these things and wait for responses. About 2 minutes

9. Then the teacher will tell students they are fixing to see what many of the children during the Great Depression asked for in real life.

10. Hand each group a letter from the Great Depression along with an analysis sheet. Each group will have a different letter to analyze and each member of the group should have a copy of the letter to analyze on their own.

11. Students will read the letter and then answer the questions about the letter on their own. About 5 minutes

12. They will then discuss the letter and questions in their group. About 7-10 minutes

13. Then the teacher will lead a class discussion about the letters with each group quickly describing the letter they had. The teacher will create a list on the board of each letter including: if the child is male or female, age, what is being asked for and who is being asked. Students will then discuss any similarities that exist between the letters. This took about 10-15 minutes to complete.

14. The teacher and student will discuss this list with their original want list to see if any of the items are similar and have a general discussion about what students have discovered through the letters and pictures. 5-10 minutes

15. The teacher will then give the class their assignment.

16. Students will create, within their groups, a poem about the kids during the Great Depression. Each poem should address the following questions: How did the Great Depression affect children and how did they try to fix their problems? This was handed out about 10 minutes before the bell rang since the photograph and letter analysis took all most the whole 90 minute block. This allowed them to brainstorm ideas about the poem.

17. The next day students had the full class period to write their poems and then create the final product on a poster board with an illustration.

Teacher Reflections

I was excited about attending the Teaching American History in South Carolina institute this past summer. I was unsure of what to expect out of the institute but was ready to go the first day of the institute. I knew it would be beneficially for me as a new teacher to get new techniques and learn more about my content area. The institute proved to be more than I could have hoped for, and I am glad I was able to attend over the summer.

I do have to admit that I was not a teacher that used primary sources very often in the classroom. I may show students pictures from a time period so they can see what life was like, but we would not spend too much time actually analyzing the photo. Other times I would show students the actual document, like the Declaration of Independence, on a powerpoint slide, but that would be the extent of using it in the lesson. I never thought I would have time to use primary sources in a US History classroom because of the End of Course testing we have to prepare for at the end of each semester. However, once I learned how to actually incorporate primary sources into a lesson it was beneficially to my students and me. Students were able to teach themselves a lot of the material using primary sources; the primary sources were no longer an extra lesson or class period for students. I learned how to base lessons around the primary sources. Students also loved this new style because they no longer felt like they were actually learning anything; all they knew was that they were no longer taking notes. It was beneficial to me because I was not constantly talking and teaching in front of the class and tiring myself out during the day. The students were able to discuss among themselves ideas and teach each other. I will definitely start using more and more primary sources throughout the semester.

Kevin Witherspoon did a good job at condensing a lot of history into a short amount of time. Many times throughout the two-week course, I felt that I was not benefiting from the summer session because I knew a lot of the information; however, once back in the classroom, I realized I was able to teach my students more information and in a much clearer way. While I was planning my lessons for US History this past semester, I found myself going back to the lectures from Kevin to get a better understanding of the topic.

I was also able to use the books we read over the summer in the classroom along with the discussions on the books. I read excerpts from The Good War by Stud Terkel while teaching World War II to give students an extra look into the lives of those who lived through the war. The students really enjoyed hearing the stories and discussing the information. Students jumped in with information they heard from family members and felt like they were part of history. I also used A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo when we discussed the Vietnam War to illustrate the feelings of Americans fighting the war. I also used it to help discuss the feelings of being stuck in the war, and why there was so many protests against the war. Students were much more engaged when discussing the Vietnam War this semester since I used parts of the book that were detailed. The students were constantly talking and discussing what was going on, and it was nice to see the student liven up during class. I do have to admit that I hated Summer of the Gods when I read the book and did not think I would actually use it in the classroom. However, I found myself referring to it quite often while discussing the 1920s and the trial. I was able to answer more of the students questions about the trial and fill in with more background information about why it was such a heated and publicized case.   

I also used a lot of the resources that Wardie Sanders gave us during the summer, and I am planning to incorporate more of them into my lessons this coming semester. My students struggled with political cartoons, so I was able to use the lesson she gave us on analyzing attitudes on immigration through political cartoons. This ended up being three lessons in one because students were learning how to analyze political cartoons, analyze documents, and get an idea about the different views on immigration during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Students remembered this lesson for awhile and were able to give me more information on immigration than previous students. I also used the lessons on arguments for and against expansion and the lesson on muckraking. I am planning on using more of the lessons this upcoming semester such as the mini-dramas and the photo stories. I also used other activities that were presented and used throughout the institute, such as A and B partners with each partner having a certain amount of time to tell everything they remembered. I have also done question strips at the end of the day and the index card review strategy.

The cultural institutes were interesting to visit. I never knew that most of the places existed until this summer. It is hard to do field trips at the high school level, but at least I know where I can encourage students to go for research or just a fun outing if they are into history. I also have new locations to go to for future research and made connections with people to help me find material if it is needed for a lesson. I thoroughly enjoyed the Darlington County Historical Commission. I had a ton of fun reading through the material they had there. I had a lot of letters and journal entries from World War II that I can use with students because they were written by people from the Darlington area. It really made those lessons hit home with students. I never knew about the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, and that place was great. It had so many primary sources that could be used, and I could have spent days making lessons with their information. I enjoyed seeing history from just South Carolina. US History is such a broad topic in high school and hard for students to connect with; so, by having South Carolina sources, it is easier to bring the material home for them. 

I used different skills from the summer institute to teach my lesson. The lesson I taught was on how the Great Depression affected youth in South Carolina. I used information from Kevin’s lecture to give some background information. I was able to use resources from the cultural institute to help teach the lesson. I used letters from Governor Blackwood and Mrs. Roosevelt to teach the lesson. My students enjoyed analyzing the letters, could not believe how young some of the children were and what some of the children had asked for in the letters. I was able to use other information to help gather pictures to show students to illustrate how children in South Carolina lived during the Great Depression.

The lesson I taught had strengths and weaknesses. There are parts of the lesson I will keep and use again, and there are parts that I will change for the next time I teach the lesson. Some strengths of the lesson were the different primary sources and the differences between the pictures and letters; so, it gave a variety of information for the students. The students breaking into small groups to discuss the information was useful because it was much easier for them to handle the information and be able to discuss it out loud as a whole class. This allowed a much more structured class lesson. It was also useful for them to have questions to help guide them in analyzing the photographs and the letters. I think the students did a great job of bringing the photographs and letters together to form a complete picture of the Great Depression. Students were also able to relate to some of what the children during the Great Depression were going through because of the recent recession. I was able to have them connect with the children in the letters and pictures by having some of them discuss if they knew of people who were out of work and how they have had to cut back. It was a slow discussion at first, but once a few students talked out loud, others began to jump in and contribute.

The weaknesses of the lesson fell more on the assessment than anything else. We did not have a lot of time left in the semester by the time I got to the lesson, so I could not spend too much time on the assessment. Next time, I will make sure the students have more time to work on this lesson. I would like to spend a whole day discussing the letters and pictures and show them even more pictures and letters. I would also change the assessment from a poem to doing a photo story like we created during the summer sessions. I think students would enjoy the photo story more than the poem, and it would show more of what they have learned and expose them to more primary sources. This would also allow them to present them to the class and see the different views of the Great Depression. I think it would also be useful to do more with primary sources before getting to this lesson. I would also group the students myself instead of allowing them to pick their own groups to work with. The groups began to play around during the time they were supposed to be working on their assessment, so it took longer than it should have.

In conclusion, I can only say positive things about my experience during the summer institute. I received a great deal of knowledge while attending the institute. I learned a great deal more about US History and better ways to teach my students. I walked away with new friends and new contacts that I would have never met without the institute. I was also introduced to a whole new world of primary sources that I never knew existed. I also enjoyed creating a US History lesson based on South Carolina. I would never have thought to create a lesson based on South Carolina information, but it was enjoyable and taught me a lot about my state since I changed my topic three or four times. 

Student Assessment

Have students create a poem about children during the Great Depression using some of the pictures or letters used during the lesson. 

Directions for Assessment

Today you will be creating a poem about life during the Great Depression for children in South Carolina. You will work with your group to create this poem. You will use the information we discussed yesterday with the photographs and letters to create this poem. You may base your poem on a child in the picture, one of the letters, or on children in South Carolina in general. Your poem must be at least 20 lines long and must answer the following questions:

  • What was life like for youth in South Carolina during the Great Depression?
  • How were the youth in South Carolina affected by the Great Depression?
  • How did the youth in South Carolina try to handle their situation in the Great Depression?

You will need to turn your final product in on either construction paper or a poster board. You will need to use color to make your final product more attractive (see Rubric for Great Depression Poem). 

Examples of Students Work

The Depression - student poems

Photo Analysis Sheet-Student Work

Letter Analysis Sheet-Student Work

Credit

Nikki Roberts
Hartsville High School
Hartsville, South Carolina