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A Lesson to Understand the Impact of the Great Depression

written by: Deidra Alexander • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/14/2012

Hard times touched everyone during the Great Depression leaving lives in shambles. This Great Depression lesson plan takes the circumstances as highlighted in the book, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry with creativity for study of history and economics.

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    Lesson Overview and Purpose


    Students exercise critical thinking and creativity to build their knowledge of The Great Depression’s historical economic impact on America.

    Grade level: 5-7

    Time required: 2-3 class periods

    Materials Needed

    • Internet access
    • Office software suite
    • Historic references


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    Group Project Procedures

    Anticipatory set

    After reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor, students will have a basic knowledge of the Great Depression and its monumental effects.


    Inform students of a group project where they will be assigned one of three options listed below. Explain to them that the projects will require them to travel back in time to the Great Depression in an attempt to know what it was like to live through that era in comparison to how they live now.

    Guided Practice

    After students have been paired or grouped off, assign one of the following projects to complete.

    • Create a meal that would have been cooked during The Great Depression and serve it. Give a report on what others thought of it. Provide the recipe used and list any details that compare and contrast foods and ingredients used then that many may not use now.

    • Find a depression era picture and write a newspaper or magazine article (300-450 words) discussing details on what or who is pictured. Articles must be fictional and highlight financial woes in relation to the details of the story. The picture must be presented with the article for the full amount of points.

    • Write an alternate account of one of the main characters from the book describing in detail how they had to make do with what they had. Tell a story outside of the story that shows the internal struggles of a main character. The story should be at 300-500 words.

    When they have been given their assignment, have a brainstorming session in class where they are allowed to take notes. Lend ideas on websites and sources of reference in regards to this era and offer samples of each project to ensure understanding of what is being asked.


    Give students the due date for the assignment with an opportunity to work on the assignment before it is due.

    Set aside dates for presentations and notify each group of their date to present.

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    Group Grades

    Assess each group of students based on their attention to detail, creativity, and the authenticity of their product as avenue to check for understanding of the differences in economic times compared to then and now.

    Project 1 - Grade is based on feedback the student received and the authenticity of the recipe.

    Project 2 - Evaluated for creativity and how well students discuss and relay the importance of the severity of the economic hardships of The Great Depression in their article. Writing standards should be used to critically assess student performance.

    Project 3 - Assessed critically according to writing standards. Authenticity in relation to the story and to the Great Depression era, plus creativity through storytelling should all be judged and marked accordingly.

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    Other Lesson Considerations


    Pair students with learning difficulties with those at higher functioning levels accordingly based on strengths and weaknesses. Students with learning issues should be able to complete their project with their prescribed accommodations and modifications with peer tutoring and support with few problems.


    Math—have students research a month’s budget based on a salary during The Great Depression and then have them determine how if they can survive on it now. Require them to list itemized expenses.


  • Classroom experience.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Unit Study

Use lesson plans, including a study guide, based on the novel by Mildred D. Taylor. Lessons are targeted towards middle school readers.
  1. Lesson Plans on "Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry": Mildred Taylor Civil Rights Lesson Plan
  2. A Lesson to Understand the Impact of the Great Depression
  3. Creating a Student Page for "Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry:" Ideas for Teachers