Title of Lesson: Daily Life During the Great Depression


Students will be able to identify what daily life was like during the Great Depression and why oral histories are valuable tools for preserving memories.


Materials Needed:

Paper, pencils, pens

Hand Recorders

Transcribing Machines (if available)

Typewriters or Word Processors



1. As a class, people will be identified who lived during the great depression. These can be grandparents, relatives, neighbors, family friends, etc... Anyone who is over 70 should remember some things about this time period.

2. After people have been identified, discuss the importance of history. Discuss why people need to know what life was like during the Great Depression. It was a dark time for America and we need to remember how and why it happened so we can avoid it in the future. It was also a time when people overcame great personal challenges and learned to survive. We can learn a lot about human nature and our ability to overcome great trials by learning about life during the Great Depression. The people who lived during this time are older now and soon this generation will be gone. It is very important that we preserve their memories and learn from them.

3. Identify what an oral history is. Explain that an oral history is like an interview but you use exact quotes from the person you question. The best way to take an oral history is to record an interview and then go back and transcribe it. (A helpful hint is to take notes during the interview so when you transcribe the tape it will be easier to follow.)

4. Brainstorm questions you could use to find out about daily life in the Great Depression. Make a large class list of possible questions and identify reasons why some would be better than others. Have each student make a list of questions they would use. Check each list to make sure it is appropriate. Discuss the importance of follow-up questions. If they ask someone if their family was poor and the person replies, "yes," then they need to use a follow-up question. For example, they could ask why they were poor, or what specific things they did without to qualify them as poor. Have the students work in partnerships and practice asking each other follow-up questions.

5. Individually or in groups, have the students identify the person they are going to take an oral history on. Have them check with this person and set up an interview time and place. When this has been done, have them turn in a final list of questions to be approved by the teacher.

6. Have the students practice interviewing each other so when they do the real thing the can be articulate, ready to ask follow-up questions, and know how to work a tape recorder.

7. When students have completed the oral history interview show them how to transcribe the interview. Be sure they understand they need to use exact quotes. If available, the fastest way to transcribe is to use a transcribing machine. If these are not available they can use a regular tape recorder using stop, start, and rewind. Have each student type their oral history.

8. Publish all of the oral histories in a book on Daily Life During the Great Depression. Make this book available to anyone who is interested. See if your school library will put it on the shelf to be checked out by other students and faculty.



Evaluate each oral history for the use of direct quotes, and apropriate questions. During class sharing time have the students report some of the most interesting things they learned during their oral histories. Randomly ask students to identify why this was such an important project. Give students the option to pass on sharing.