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Lesson Overview

The New Deal programs and agencies, created under the leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had a powerful impact on the relationship of government to the people of the United States. Yet a study of New Deal programs often leaves the student with a disconnected list of 'alphabet soup' programs and no real grasp of the impact of the New Deal.

This lesson takes a student through a process of examining primary sources, both photographs and life histories, to develop a sense of the profound impact the Great Depression had on real people’s lives. Then after studying New Deal Programs, students learn how the WPA programs helped to improve the situations of those people, whose life history interviews they have read. They synthesize the information gathered into an essay which has both an expository and a creative component.


Students will:

  • analyze and evaluate primary sources.
  • apply research skills to solve problems.
  • understand the intent of New Deal programs and their impact on people's lives.


Time Required

  • Two weeks

Recommended Grade Level

  • 9-12


  • Oral Histories


  • Great Depression and WWII, 1929-1945


  • Marilyn Swan and Elaine Kohler