Recession vs. Depression Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we delve into the finer differences between a recession and a depression and encourage our students to debate the meaning of each term with one another through a case study focusing on the Great Recession.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain what makes an economic downturn a recession
  • explain the difference between a depression and a recession


1 hour

Key Vocabulary

  • Recession
  • Depression


  • Internet access and books on the Great Recession and Great Depression

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3

Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.


  • Have students watch the video lesson Recession vs. Depression: Definitions and Differentiation
  • Stop the video at 4:02.
  • Hold a short discussion on the difference between a depression and recession. Some example questions include:
    • Which is worse: a depression or a recession?
    • Just how bad does the economy have to be before it is considered a depression?
    • Given what we've just learned about naming, do you think things will ever get bad enough for us to call another economic downturn a depression?
  • Watch the rest of the video, answering any questions.
  • Have students take the quiz to check understanding.

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