Causes of the Great Depression Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education

Use this lesson plan to have students take a close look at the causes and impact of the Great Depression. Use key vocabulary terms and apply knowledge by creating a layered book.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify causes of the Great Depression
  • summarize impact of the Great Depression
  • argue and defend opinions on Great Depression


  • 1 hour


  • Colored paper
  • Markers, crayons, colored pencils
  • Glue and scissors

Key Vocabulary

  • Gross National Product (GNP)
  • Stock market
  • Consumer credit
  • Ideology
  • Deregulation
  • Prosperity

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3

Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.1

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.


  • Write the essential question on the board: 'Is the government responsible for economic struggles?' Allow students to respond to the question in their notebooks. Remind them to use reasons for their answer.
  • Tell students they will be learning about the Great Depression and what caused it. Share background knowledge.
  • Watch our lesson The Great Depression: The Wall Street Crash of 1929 & Other Causes. Allow students to take notes or provide a transcript for them to highlight.
  • Pause at 1:24. Compare the prosperity of the early 1920s to the despair of the late '20s.
  • Look closely at the statistics and data provided. Compare the unemployment rate to the current rate. Explain the stock market and the significance of the decline. Ask:
    • What would it do to a family to be out of work for an extended amount of time? A community?
    • What class did the crash impact most? Why?
  • Play the remainder of the video. Define vocabulary words in the lesson.
  • Continue the discussion:
    • How did market speculation impact the economy?
    • Was it irresponsible for creditors to lend money? For people to purchase goods on credit? Explain.
    • What are 'pro-business politics?'
  • Return to the essential question. Discuss student answers in relation to the information in the lesson. Have answers changed?


  • Tell students they will create a layered book to demonstrate understanding of the Great Depression. Layered books are made by Slightly offsetting different colored pieces of paper, folding them (again, slightly offset), to create vertically-layered pages. Several layers and extensions can be created if time/supplies permit.
  • Allow students to use information from the focus lesson, our lesson The Great Depression: Timeline, Causes & Impact, or other related lessons (listed below).
  • Encourage students to create sections for vocabulary, causes, a timeline, photographs, and other creative applications.
  • Share and display final products.


  • Assign a creative writing assignment asking students to imagine they were alive on the day the market crashed.
  • Read newspaper articles written during this era.
  • Do the math. Compare unemployment rates, the stock market, and other financial numbers to today's standards, or compare to the recent financial recession.

Related Lessons

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