Great Society Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

Many of the most relevant political debates of the past few decades stemmed from the Great Society programs. This lesson and lesson plan will help your students gain a deeper understanding of not only the policies but also the politics of the Great Society.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • understand the impact on the Great Society on domestic life in the United States
  • analyze arguments in support of and opposing the Great Society


40 minutes, plus 40 minutes for activity

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Key Vocabulary

  • Great Society
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • War on Poverty
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson
  • President John F. Kennedy
  • President Franklin Roosevelt


  • Start by reviewing the New Deal with your students. Discuss how the New Deal set the stage for government to play a bigger role in the lives of the common people.
  • Watch the video lesson President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Great Society Program, pausing to address discussion questions at the following points:
    • 1:06 - What were the major goals of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society? What earlier successes made Johnson feel the time was right for the Great Society? How do you think this would have been different had he not been so successful in the 1964 election?
    • 2:34 - What elements of the Great Society were pointed at ending racial discrimination? What made the Voting Rights Act of 1965 necessary?
    • 3:53 - Choose a couple of the programs listed here (Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamp Program, Head Start) and discuss them in detail. Focus on determining the benefits of each. For example, it is not just poor people who benefit from the Food Stamp Program, but also the stores that accept them and the food producers who have higher sales as a result.
    • 5:31 - Ultimately, what crippled the ability of the Great Society programs to continue? Do you think this contributed to the unpopularity of the Vietnam War? Do you think it contributed to the rise of conservatism in the 1970s?

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