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Teaching Guide

Teaching FDR's New Deal

Make history feel like new.

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The New Deal isn't exactly new anymore. It's older than Animal Farm, Death of a Salesman, and even Pat the Bunny. But like all of those books (especially Pat the Bunny), it's still relevant to all our lives. This teaching guide will help you prove that to your students.

In this guide you will find

  • modern resources that compare and contrast FDR with BHO (Barack Hussein Obama).
  • links to related history like the Great Depression and Labor Unions.
  • activities analyzing the statistics, symbols, and documents of the time.

Make the New Deal seem new again with our help.

What's Inside Shmoop's History Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring history to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

Objective: Historians continue to debate the effectiveness of Roosevelt's New Deal in combating the Depression. In this exercise your students will examine some statistical data from the era, hypothesize what it reveals about the economy's performance during the 1930s, and decide whether or not this performance might be linked to the New Deal.

Length of Lesson: 2 class periods

Materials Needed:

Step One: Divide students into two groups and assign each group to debate either in favor of or against the following motion: 

"The New Deal contributed to the improvement of the economy." 

Step Two: Direct your students to the Statistical Sources below and ask them to work with their groups to chart and summarize the changes between 1929 and 1941 for each of the following:

  • Unemployment rates
  • GNP
  • GNP per capita
  • The American auto industry
  • Federal spending as a percentage of the GNP
  • Private real investment (money invested into land and machinery as opposed to stocks and bonds)

You may need to help break up this work within their groups to make sure they have everything covered. And remind them that they are looking for evidence to support their side of the motion—either that the New Deal did or didn't contribute to the improvement of the economy.

Statistical Sources:

Step Three: Ask students in each group to draw up a list of statements (a.k.a., arguments) to accompany their charts and summaries of the statistics.

Step Four: Allow students to present the evidence for their arguments point by point, alternating which group goes first each time. 

Step Five: When students have finished presenting their evidence, give each team one minute to summarize their points and explain why their argument is correct. 

Step Six: Ask students which group they think won the debate and why. Take some time to analyze the points that were presented and the way in which each team represented the data. Which points were the most persuasive? Were there any arguments that seemed to either manipulate or misrepresent the data? Was anyone's mind changed during the course of the debate? When and how?

Instructions for Your Students

Ambitious? Yes! 

Creative? Yes!

Effective? Hmm...that's what you're going to decide today. And no, we're not talking about your new haircut. We're talking about—what else?—FDR's New Deal. It is the title of this unit, after all. 

FDR's New Deal was an attempt to restore prosperity after the economy took a nose dive into the Great Depression. Today you'll be looking at some statistics and using them to debate whether or not the New Deal was effective.

Step One: First you have to figure out where you stand on the issue. And no, you don't get to decide. Your teacher will divide the class into two groups  and assign each group to debate either in favor of or against the following motion: 

"The New Deal contributed to the improvement of the economy." 

Step Two: Work with your group to chart and summarize the changes between 1929 and 1941 for each of the following areas:

  • Unemployment rates
  • GNP
  • GNP per capita
  • The American auto industry
  • Federal spending as a percentage of the GNP
  • Private real investment (money invested into land and machinery as opposed to stocks and bonds)

You can use the Statistical Sources linked below to find the information you need. Remember: You're looking for evidence to support your side of the motion—either that the New Deal did or didn't contribute to the improvement of the economy.

Statistical Sources:

Step Three: Once you have your research under control, work with your group to draw up a list of statements (a.k.a., arguments) to accompany your charts and summaries of the statistics.

Step Four: Time to let your debate chops shine. Present the evidence for your arguments according to the debate format laid out by your teacher. Most likely, you'll be going point by point through the areas outlined above in Step Two (Unemployment Rates, GNP, etc.), alternating which group goes first each time. 

Step Five: When everyone has finished presenting their evidence, each team will have one minute to summarize their points and explain why their argument is correct. Be ready to hammer your main points home and offer any final bits of persuasion that you can. 

Step Six: Take some time to discuss who you and your classmates think won the debate and why. Take some time to analyze the points that were presented and the way in which each team represented the data. Which points were the most persuasive? Were there any arguments that seemed to either manipulate or misrepresent the data? Was anyone's mind changed during the course of the debate? When and how?

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING FDR'S NEW DEAL?

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