Fireside Chat Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

FDR's Fireside Chats were hallmarks of the Great Depression. With this lesson plan, your students will learn about the Fireside Chats and listen to audio clips of them, using this as the basis for a writing assignment.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain the purpose and significance of FDR's Fireside Chats
  • Contextualize the Fireside Chats within the greater history of the Great Depression
  • Demonstrate empathy with historic actors


90-120 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.



  • Start class by reviewing the Great Depression.
    • What was the Great Depression? What was life like for Americans in this time?
    • What is the role of the US president in times of crisis? How does the president reassure the nation? Why is this important?
  • Break the class into small groups, and distribute copies of the lesson Fireside Chats: Definition & Significance.
  • Students will read this lesson in their groups, with one student reading aloud at a time, and switching every paragraph. Using this method, ask students to read the sections ''Goals of Franklin Delano Roosevelt'' and ''Origin and Definition of the Fireside Chats''. Pause here to discuss this information.
    • Why would Roosevelt want to communicate directly with the American people during the Great Depression? What does this tell us about the role of the American president?
    • How do you think presidents communicated a message to the people before the invention of radio? How is that different from communication by radio?
  • Have students continue reading the lesson in their groups, and complete the remaining sections. Discuss this information.
    • Did presidents have to be good at using mass media before Roosevelt? How do you think the Fireside Chats changed the expectations of the presidency? How did it change the relationship between the people and the government?
    • If you were president during the Great Depression, what kind of ideas would you want to communicate to the American people? Why?
  • You may test student understanding with the lesson quiz.

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