Life During the Depression—Pictures

9, 10, 11, 12

Students will be introduced to life during the Great Depression by looking at primary source pictures taken during the 1930s.

PrintOne to Two Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • interpret primary sources from the Great Depression.
  • hypothesize about possible solutions that could have relieved suffering during the Great Depression.
  • Go to the Website for the Library of Congress and download pictures of the depression or Google "Images of the Great Depression"
  • Depression Pictures (question handout)
  • Problems/Solutions Chart (handout)
  • Group Grading Rubric (handout)
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Ask students to ask their parents, grandparents or other relatives to share what they know about the Great Depression, whether they actually experienced it or just heard about it. Of particular interest may be the question about what their locality did to make life easier for its residents who were going through hard times.


Library of Congress Memory Collection. America from the Great Depression to World War II: Black and White Photographs from the FSA-OWI 1935 – 1945.


  1. Anticipatory Set: Begin class with the following journal entry: “Describe how you think individuals lived during the Great Depression.” After students have completed their journal entries, ask a few students to share what they have written. End the sharing by thanking the students and stating that today will begin the process of learning more about how individuals lived during the Great Depression.

  2. Divide the students into groups of three. Have students assign the following jobs to each member in the group: facilitator, recorder and narrator. Describe the jobs of each person. The Group Grading Rubric (Attachment Three) can also be shared with students here, if students have never worked in cooperative learning groups before.

    • Facilitator – leads and keeps the group on track.
    • Recorder – writes down what the group discusses while answering the handout questions.
    • Narrator – shares the group’s answers with the rest of the class.
  3. Give each group one copy of Depression Pictures (Attachment One). Give each cooperative group a picture for study. Remind students to answer their questions thoughtfully and with care and explain that they will have twenty minutes to accomplish the task. At the end of the time limit, check to see that everyone is ready. If a majority of the groups still need more time, allow an extra five minutes.

  4. Ask for a group to volunteer to begin discussing their picture. If there are no volunteers simply choose a group. Invite the entire group to the front of the room, and have them tape their picture on the board. Ask the narrator to give a short synopsis about their answers to the handout questions. Once the narrator has completed the task, ask the rest of the class to make comments on the picture, and ask them to add any solutions to the problem they see in the picture. While students are describing solutions, the teacher should write the problem and solutions offered on a copy of Problems/Solutions Chart (Attachment Two) to be used later.

  5. Once the students have all presented their pictures to the class, the teacher should show the completed overhead. Allow the class to discuss their solutions.

  6. Ask the class to look at the solutions and see if they can create some categories for the solutions, e.g., governmental, philanthropic, individuals, civic, etc. End the discussion by saying that the overhead created today is an example of what the students will be expected to do tomorrow when working on their next assignment, and the groupings that they have created will also be used.

  7. In preparation for tomorrow’s lesson the teacher should create cards that can be posted which list each of the categories designated by the students.


The evaluation of group work may be used as the assessment for this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Explain why needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society and family.


jhindman, I see that you are interested in handouts for this lesson about the Depression. I'll upload the handouts today and notify you when they are ready. Thanks, Betsy