Prohibition Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

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

Use this lesson plan to teach students about the Prohibition movement. Examine the roots of the movement and impact on American life. Follow up with a high-level thinking activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe root causes of Prohibition
  • define and explain key vocabulary terms
  • analyze stance of groups involved in Prohibition
  • defend an opinion on Prohibition


  • 1 hour


  • Role cards, one for each student or grouping

Key Vocabulary and Components

  • Prohibition
  • Women's Temperance Union
  • Anti-Saloon League
  • National Prohibition Act
  • Volstead Act
  • Andrew Volstead
  • J.D. Rockefeller
  • William Taft
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • 18th Amendment
  • Morris Sheppard

Curriculum Standards

  • 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.RH.9-10.10

By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1.d

Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2

Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally), evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.


  • As a warm-up, ask students to imagine that a law was adopted prohibiting them from drinking soft drinks at any time. Allow them to write a flash response, then share and discuss reactions. Ask:
    • Would people be more healthy if they didn't drink soft drinks?
    • Should they be prohibited from drinking them by law?
    • What would be the pros and cons of adopting a law like this?
  • Discuss the term 'prohibition' and its meaning. Tell students they will be learning about the Prohibition era. Share prior knowledge.
  • Show the video Prohibition of the 1920s: Definition, 18th Amendment & Results.
  • Allow students to take notes during the video lesson, or print transcripts and have students follow along and highlight key ideas.
  • Review the contents of the video. Discuss:
    • Describe how supporters of Prohibition used morality to defend their stance.
    • Why and how did WWI help the Prohibition movement?
    • What did supporters of Prohibition hope to achieve?
    • Why was Prohibition a victory for small towns and nativist groups?
    • What events showed the American people did not agree with prohibition?
  • Create a three-column chart labeled People, Events, and Organizations. Write key figures and happenings related to Prohibition in each.
  • For further clarity, have students create a timeline of events. Record on the board or on chart paper.


  • Explain that many people had strong opinions on Prohibition. Pass out role cards to students or groupings. Each card should contain a person with stake in Prohibition, such as a politician, business owner, soldier, farmer, wife of an alcoholic husband, etc.
  • Instruct students to reflect on their role card and write their stance and feelings about Prohibition as this person in the form of a personal statement. For example, if the role card 'police' was drawn, the student may imagine the stance to be a chance to make a profit from Prohibition. Therefore, the policeman would be in favor of Prohibition, but not be able to say why publicly.
  • Give students class time to imagine and create personal statements.
  • Take turns sharing personal statements. Instruct students to take notes on others statements as they will respond to them.
  • After all the statements are read, allow students react to others' statements. For example, the wife of an alcoholic husband may want to say something to the owner of a speakeasy.
  • Continue until all students have participated.
  • For homework, ask students to write a reflection on the experience in their own voice. Share the next class.


  • Examine current laws attempting to prohibit and enforce similar regulations, such as the movement to ban soft drinks, requirements for households to use energy-efficient light bulbs, seat belt or helmet laws, etc. Discuss the 'line' in government rights vs. personal rights.
  • Women played a large role in the Prohibition movement. Research women integral to the movement and write a report.
  • Do a novel study of The Great Gatsby.

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