Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Disaster and Government Response

The Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the New Deal

Activating Students’ Prior Knowledge

Ask students what photos or images come to mind when they hear the term “the Dust Bowl.” Have students tell what they have read about it, what they have seen in terms of photographs or movies, and how/where they have heard about the Dust Bowl. As a follow-up, ask them to identify on a map where they think the Dust Bowl was located. This will allow you to get a general assessment of students’ prior knowledge of this era and the location of the Dust Bowl.

Next, ask students to write five words that they think of when hearing about the Great Depression or the 1930s in the United States. Have students share their ideas with a partner, and then have them share them with the class. If common terms or phrases emerge, probe them about where they heard of the Depression and what they know. Ask them to describe any photographs that they have seen that depict the Depression. You might probe them to determine if they were in black and white, what people were wearing, what the expressions were on their faces, what was in the background, was the setting (urban/city or rural/country), and so on. Collect the cards and read over them for more information on what students know. This could also be turned into a poster and displayed in room, and then students could return to the ideas generated in this exercise and think about how their ideas have changed after they participated in the unit.

next: Migrant Mother: Selecting the Most Impactful Photograph

Grade Level

High School


Earth and Space Science
English Language Arts
U.S. History


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