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Teaching Guide: Exploring the New Deal

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, The New Deal, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. According to the “fireside chat” in May 1933, what was Roosevelt’s vision for the New Deal? What problems did he seek to address? How did he propose to do so?
  2. How did various groups of Americans respond to the New Deal? Consider the interview with Ossie Davis and the pamphlet from the American Liberty League in your response.
  3. By the time of his 1938 “fireside chat,” how did Roosevelt describe his economic plan? Had anything changed since he was elected in 1932?
  4. Drawing on the remarks of President Roosevelt discussing the Civilian Conservation Corps and the photos in this set, describe the labor programs put in place under the New Deal. Whom did they employ? What sorts of projects did they pursue?
  5. In the 1935 pamphlet, how did Harry Hopkins explain the rationale for Social Security? What problems would it address? How would it do so?

Classroom activities

Have students search for additional images from the 1930s on the DPLA site. When each student has chosen a photograph, have them printed. Working in groups, have the students arrange their photographs into an interpretive exhibit about the period. How do their images fit together? What stories do they tell? Do they depict scenes of poverty or of prosperity? What can the images tell us about the varied effects of the Great Depression and New Deal on Americans from different backgrounds and regions?

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