Lesson Plan

Children of the Great Depression

Students create composite images and video slide shows.
Elisabeth A.
Technology coordinator
Cosumnes River Elementary School
Sloughhouse, CA
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My Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
My Subjects Math, Social Studies

Students will be able to...

  • Name at least 5 causes for the Great Depression
  • Infer challenges children and families faced during the time of the Great Depression
  • Define the meaning of Migrant, Dust Bowl, Great Depression, Drought, Stock Market, Unemployment, Foreclosure
  • Use PowerPoint to create composite images of themselves using photos from the time period and current photos of themselves
  • Use Animoto or Photo Story 3 to create a video slide show
  • Use KidBlog to communicate their understanding of expectations
Social Studies
Grades 4 - 5
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Tell students they will be learning about the Great Depression. Tell them this was a time of great difficulty in the United States, that many people lost their life savings, lost their jobs, and had a hard time feeding their families. Show the Video Children of the Great Depression (6:57) via SchoolTube: http://bit.ly/1fqQOvU. Use the video as a starting point to discuss causes for the Great Depression:

Explain that many people blame the stock market crash as the cause for the Great Depression, but it was just one of several reasons for the bad economy. Listed below are 5 commonly sited causes:

1) stock market crashed on October 29th, 1929

2) banks failed and depositors lost their savings (deposits were not insured as they are today)

3) businesses cut back on production because people had less money to spend; unemployment grew

4) US government created the Smoot Hawley Tariff to protect American businesses, but the tariff angered foreign countries who traded with the US.

5) drought occured in the Midwest and, coupled with bad farming practices, led many people to try to sell their farms if they could or to simply abandon their properties and begin to migrating to CA in hopes of seeking jobs in agriculture.


2 Direct Instruction

Introduce students to PowerPoint, a tool for creating slides, slide shows, and animations. Tell students they will be creating composite images using photos of themselves and images from the time of the Great Depression. 

The teacher will take photos of the students individually. It helps to use a solid backdrop like a green screen, but a sheet will also work. The teacher will curate numerous historical images from the time period (use large files to produce sharper images that will not pixelate). After downloading the images, the teacher will upload them to a designated folder that students can access from their school computer. The teacher must also have a designated place on the computer for kids to store their PowerPoint slides and a designated place for students to store their completed composite images (the completed slides are converted to gifs and saved as separate slides with titles). 

Students will view this video http://bit.ly/LXrDX3 to learn how to create composite images. (This video example uses PowerPoint for the PC). This video can be uploaded to Kidblog, along with guidelines for the photo shot. Students can then reply to their teacher's post (see Guided Practice).

Here is an overview of the steps involved:

1) Student begins with a blank slide in PowerPoint (make sure students have already named their PowerPoint and saved it to the correct location before continuing).

2) Student will insert a historical photo onto the slide, resizing as needed. This serves as the backdrop.

3) Student will then insert another photo of himself/classmates on top of the historical photo. This is an image that includes the green screen.

4) The student will then format the selected image of himself/classmate by using "Remove Background" feature. 

5) With the green screen removed from the image, the student can now resize and drag the photo to a position in the historical photo that looks realistic.

6) The student will need to use the "Remove Color" feature to convert the color photo to black and white.

After the student has created 15-20 composite slides, the slides will need to be saved as gifs, given a file name, and saved as "current slide only." Each slide will need to be placed into a designated folder for the student.



3 Guided Practice

Free to Try, Paid

1) Students will open PowerPoint, save their file with their first and last name, placing their PowerPoint into the designated location.

2) Students will resize and drag images of themselves/classmates to places in the historical photos that seem most realistic.

3) All composite images will be black and white.

4) Students may include appropriate captions by inserting text boxes. Text font, color and size should add to the appearance and message of the photo.


Create a post at KidBlog with the sample information shown below, including example photos, and have kids reply to the post, demonstrating their understanding of teacher expectations.

"Here is a collection of photos of children from the Great Depression. As you plan your outfit take a look at the kind of clothing worn by the children. Do not wear clothing with logos, jewelry/watches, fancy hair barrettes, or any other modern looking clothing. Simple plaid shirts, plain t-shirts, gingham fabrics or coveralls work great. You can bring a prop (old style doll, shoeshine kit, apron, old style hat/scarf, etc). Try to imagine what your clothing will look like in black and white. You do not need to buy anything: use what you have. If you want, you can visit Goodwill for second hand clothing, which is very affordable.  You will be asked to stop by the computer room before school begins or after school if you do not need to take the bus home. I will specify the date for this activity."

4 Independent Practice

Free, Free to Try, Paid

When students have completed 15-20 slides, they can upload them to Animoto or Photo Story 3. If using Photo Story 3, the teacher will need to demonstrate the use of transitions, timings, captions and music. Completed videos can be uploaded to SchoolTube or YouTube. This will allow students to share their work with parents and peers.

When publishing student photos to the web be sure to have parent permission and limit the students to first name and last initial.

5 Wrap-Up

From $220

Help students review causes for the Great Depression by having them watch BrainPOP's Great Depression Video. Review definitions for Migrant, Dust Bowl, Great Depression, Drought, Stock Market, Unemployment, Foreclosure. Have students take the graded quiz. Ask students to print or email their quiz results to their teacher. Students can explore other related videos on the Stock Market, the New Deal, and President Hoover.