Finding Patterns in Times of Crisis

Author: Sara Chavarria
Editor: Stephanie Nardei

Time: 2 Class Periods
Overhead sheets made available
Materials: Note cards or note size sheets of paper
Scissors if students need to cut own paper
Blank overhead sheets
Overhead markers
Presentation of Photos from Great Depression


This Apply lesson activity challenges students to answer the question of how the Geat Depression could have been avoided. They must understand why and how it happened in order to address what factors might have prevented it from happening or lessened the devastating result. Factors that will arise are going to address political, social, economic, and environmental issues that aggravated this period in American history.

Students will be able to:
1. Develop, in a collaborative group effort, a mind map or web identifying concepts with examples that succinctly illustrate the Great Depression, applying learning’s from previous lessons.

Historical Thinking Standards

  • Standard 3E: Analyze cause-and-effect relationships and multiple causation, including the importance of the individual, the influence of ideas, and the role of chance.
  • Standard 3F: Challenge arguments of historical inevitability.
  • Standard 5A: Identify issues and problems in the past.

United States History Standards

  • Era 8 Standard 1: The causes of the Great Depression and how it affected American society.
  • Era 8 Standard 2: How the New Deal addressed the Great Depression, transformed American federalism, and initiated the welfare state.

Teacher Background
If Applicable.

Resource Websites

Education World on Great Depression:



Day 1
1. In the previous lesson, we ended with how the Depression was a time of change in politics, economy, and society. In addition, it was a time of environmental awareness. This activity will serve as a review of information gathered. The goal is to see what the students comprehended and how well they make associations between ideas.

2. Pose the following question to students:
How could the Great Depression have been avoided?

3. Students must write down a minimum of two responses, each on a separate card or scrap of paper.

4. When done, individually students will read one of their cards and determine what the dominant concept is and invite class opinion. When sure of their dominant concept the card goes into an envelope and the concept is written on the envelope. Since, multiple students will provide cards with the same concepts place a tick mark on the outside of the envelope to keep track of how many students contributed the same content.

5. Simultaneously, on an overhead, begin creating a web-like diagram outlining the concepts that should resemble the following example.

6. Example of the first web-like diagram, showing the first tier of ideas or ‘Concepts’:

7. The next student repeats the process. If a new concept is developed, a new envelope is brought out and the concept written on the outside. If the concept is the same as the previous one it goes into the first envelope.

8. Proceed with each student doing the same thing, creating new envelopes if new concepts are introduced but try to address if they go into the existing ones.

9. This is done when students finish reading their first card and cards placed in an envelope. The goal is to have about 10 envelopes maximum.

10. Repeat the process with the second set of cards. At this point depending on time, the teacher may ask for volunteer comments that have not been introduced yet or call on students they feel need to participate more.

11. When done, the finished web-like diagram on the overhead should be copied by students into their notes.

Day 2
12. Students will now be grouped to further categorize the sheets or note cards in the envelopes. Groups of 2-4 will be formed, dependant on how many cards are in an envelope. If the quantity is very large, more than one group for that concept can be created with the contents divided among the groups.

13. Each group will categorize the contents of their concept (envelope) into concise and clear statements. When done they will create a 2nd tier web (on note paper) outlining their concept with the defined statements. (15-20 minutes)

14. Below is an example of what the group result should look like: the concept statement with the 2nd tier statements (or examples) defining concept.

15. Each group will share their work with the class using an overhead or board to create a large web map addressing the initial question:
How could the Great Depression have been avoided?
The class as a whole will expand their initial First Tier web notes (Step 6) by adding the new statements onto those notes.

16. Final student notes should resemble the following format:

When the final web is created, end with a discussion addressing how many of their concepts are economic, social, or political. Remind them in the end, all of these factors influenced the Great Depression occurrence. Bring in environmental factors and how they aggravated the problem. End by noting land use and preservation continue to be of concern in the political arena and we are still trying to resolve how to manage land without having similar devastating effects on people and their livelihood.

If applicable

Embedded Assessment
Assessment can be conducted with the following:

  • Student’s group webs
  • Presentation of their concept webs
  • Participation in class discussion




PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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