Great Depression Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Teaching about the Great Depression can be nuanced and tricky. Use this lesson plan to explain the causes of the Great Depression and impact it had worldwide. Follow up and reinforce concepts by reading and analyzing historical text.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe the worldwide economic and cultural impact of the depression
  • list causes of the depression
  • analyze historical text


1 hour of initial class time plus time for research and presentations


  • Documents related to the New Deal, such as the Emergency Banking Act or The Securities Act of 1933
  • Documents related to The Federal Emergency Relief Administration and the New Deal

Key Vocabulary

  • Wall Street Collapse of 1929
  • Great Depression
  • suffrage
  • Roaring 20's
  • flapper
  • speakeasy
  • credit industry
  • stock market
  • speculation
  • economic collapse
  • Hoovervilles
  • New Deal policies

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9

Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington's Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech, King's 'Letter from Birmingham Jail'), including how they address related themes and concepts.


  • Begin by asking students to think of a time they needed help in a crisis. Write about it, share stories, and discuss the role of others help during the crisis.
  • Tell students they will be learning about an era called the Great Depression, its economic and cultural impact, and how the government tried to help the country recover.
  • Show the video lesson The Great Depression: Timeline, Causes & Impact. Consider previewing and pre-teaching key vocabulary words. Allow students to take notes, or print a copy of the transcript of the lesson for students to follow and highlight.
  • After the video, define unknown terms. Discuss:
    • What was America like prior to the Great Depression?
    • How did consumer culture impact economics prior to the Great Depression and eventually lead to its cause?
    • Why did the heights of the 1920's make the impact of the Great Depression worse?
    • Discuss how some risky financial practices and stock market speculation led to the Great Depression.
    • What were some indicators of the market crash? If people were aware of them, could it have changed anything?
    • How did panic impact the stock market and Great Depression?
    • The Great Depression lasted from 1929-1941. What impact did it have on how people lived?
    • What did the United States government do to help citizens during the Great Depression?


  • Get deeper into the New Deal and scaffold students as they read and analyze historical text. Locate documents listed above by searching historical document sites and using the related lessons below, or watch the lesson Franklin D. Roosevelt and the First New Deal: The First 100 Days.
  • Group students according to class needs, either partners, small groups, or individuals. Assign copies of text for students to read and analyze. Ask them to determine the reason the document was created and research the effect it had on individuals or society (e.g. Why was the Emergency Banking Act created? Who did it help? What was the Federal Emergency Relief Administration? etc).
  • Have students revisit the initial question of help during a crisis. Ask them to consider whether the government's help was necessary and/or effective in the short- and long-term.
  • Allow students to present their work in a format of their choosing - an oral report, skit, electronic report, etc.


  • Listen to fireside chats given during the Great Depression. Analyze and discuss impact.
  • Research the impact of the Great Depression on other countries, such as Canada and France. Compare and contrast.

Related Lessons

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