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Lessons

Social Security: 5 Day Lesson

Overview:

Students engage in an inquiry focused upon different historical interpretations of Social Security and the New Deal. They examine the different ways that historians Carl Degler, Barton Bernstein, and Anthony Badger have addressed the question: Did the Social Security Act and the New Deal fundamentally change the role of American government in the economy? Students learn elements of historiography—in particular that interpretations of history may differ, in part, due to the evidence used by historians and their particular perspectives. Finally, students answer the inquiry question themselves and support their arguments with evidence from both primary and secondary documents.

Learning Goals:

  • Students will be able to identify the similarities and differences among three different historical interpretations of Social Security and the New Deal.
  • Students will develop historical interpretations of Social Security and the New Deal using a combination of primary and secondary sources.
  • Students will read documents historically, using strategies of sourcing, careful reading, and corroboration.

Note to teacher: When using the lessons off-line use the document packet for easy printing.

Plan of Instruction:

DAY ONE (approximately 50 minutes)
Step 1: 15 minutes: Introduce inquiry

Explain that historians have interpreted the New Deal and Social Security in very different ways. For example, some historians have argued that the New Deal fundamentally changed the role of the American government and the structure of the American economy. Others have countered that the New Deal was more conservative and merely preserved the American economic and political system throughout the Great Depression.

Free-write: Why do you think that historians have developed such different interpretations of the New Deal? How is it possible to have such different accounts of the same historical events?

Briefly solicit student responses and establish that historical interpretations can differ, in part, because of a historian's perspective or the evidence available to, and used by a historian.

Explain to students that their job is to examine and compare three different historians' interpretations of Social Security and the New Deal along with a number of primary documents. Students will develop their own answer to the question: Did the Social Security Act and the New Deal fundamentally change the role of American government in the economy?

Step 2: 20 minutes: Read and summarize Degler's interpretation

Divide students into pairs. Pass out "Social Security: Interpretation 1: Carl Degler" and the "5 day graphic organizer." Ask students, in pairs, to read the interpretation, underline Degler's thesis that states his main argument, and circle three pieces of evidence that support that thesis.

As a class, summarize Degler's interpretation.

Ask students to summarize Degler's interpretation in the appropriate column of the organizer.

Step 3: 15 minutes: Read "FDR" document and find supporting evidence

Pass out "FDR" document. Referring to the document's header, explain the source of this document. Ask students to read the speech and underline parts that might be used to support Degler's interpretation of the New Deal and Social Security.

As a class discuss what evidence students underlined and have students record evidence in the appropriate box on the 5 day graphic organizer.

DAY TWO (approximately 50 minutes)
Step 1: 10 minutes: Review inquiry and state hypotheses

Review the inquiry activity. Ask students to make a hypothesis regarding the inquiry question based upon what they know about Social Security and the New Deal. Students record hypothesis #1 in the appropriate box on the 5 day graphic organizer. Point out that these are just hypotheses, or suppositions that serve as starting points for further investigation, and they may change as the inquiry progresses.

Share hypotheses.

Explain that students will continue the inquiry by examining Barton Bernstein's interpretation of Social Security and the New Deal and two documents that support his interpretation.

Step 2: 20 minutes: Read and summarize Bernstein's interpretation

Have students take out 5 day graphic organizer.

Students pair with their partner from previous lesson. Pass out "Social Security: Interpretation 2: Barton Bernstein." Ask students to read interpretation, underline Bernstein's thesis, and circle three pieces of evidence that support the thesis.

As a class, summarize Bernstein's interpretation.

Students summarize Bernstein's interpretation in the appropriate box on the organizer.

As a class, review summaries of Bernstein's interpretation. Compare Bernstein and Degler's interpretations. Ask:

  • How are these interpretations different?
  • What are the different claims that these historians use to back their theses?
  • What evidence do they use to support their claims?
Step 3: 20 minutes: Read "NAACP" document and identify supporting evidence

Pass out "NAACP" document. Referring to the document's header, explain the source of this document. Ask students to read the document and underline parts that might be used to support Bernstein's interpretation of the New Deal and Social Security. In pairs, students discuss what evidence they identified and why. Students record evidence in appropriate box on the organizer.

Discuss with class what evidence students recorded.

Pass out "Mirage" document.

Homework

Students read "Mirage" document and underline parts that might be used to support Bernstein's argument. Students record evidence on the organizer.

Students develop and record their second hypothesis regarding the inquiry question.

DAY THREE (approximately 50 minutes)
Step 1: 15 minutes: Pair/share

In pairs, students share their first two hypotheses. (During this time, check that students have completed the 5 day graphic organizer.)

Solicit example hypotheses from students.

Explain that students will continue the inquiry by examining Anthony Badger's interpretation of Social Security and the New Deal and documents that support his interpretation.

Step 2: 20 minutes: Read and summarize Bernstein's interpretation

Have students take out 5 day graphic organizer.

Pass out "Social Security: Interpretation 3: Anthony Badger." Ask students to read interpretation.

After reading, ask students to summarize Badger's argument on the 5 day graphic organizer.

As a class, review summaries of Badger's interpretation. Compare Badger's interpretation to Degler and Bernstein. Ask students:

  • How are these interpretations different?
  • What are the different claims that these historians use to back their theses?
  • What evidence do they use to support their claims?
Step 3: 20 minutes: Find supporting evidence from document set.

Divide students into small groups. Have students retrieve "FDR," "NAACP," and "Mirage," documents. Pass out "Stealing" and "Long" documents.

In groups, students draw from across the document set to find evidence supporting Badger's interpretation. Point out that students should use between 3-5 documents and find 3-5 pieces of evidence from each document they select.

Each student fills in appropriate box on the 5 day graphic organizer with evidence, making sure to identify the source of the evidence.

Homework

Students develop and record hypothesis #3.

DAY FOUR (approximately 50 minutes)
Step 1: 10 minutes: Check and review homework

Check that 5 day graphic organizer is complete.

Review evidence drawn from primary documents to support Badger's argument.

Step 2: 20 minutes: Discussion

Share final hypotheses with class.

As a class, compare and contrast Degler's, Bernstein's, and Badger's interpretations of the New Deal and Social Security:

  • Why are they different?
  • How could historians have such different perspectives?
  • Is one of them right?
  • What else would you want to know about these historians?
  • What other types of evidence do you think they used in developing their interpretations?
  • How might the time period during which these historians lived have shaped their perspectives?

(Teacher Note: Be sure to include that these are all legitimate historical interpretations as each relies on historical sources and the historical record to make their case, includes supporting evidence, and considers contrary evidence. Moreover, other historians have judged these arguments as plausible and rigorous. While students do not have the detailed or complete argument given these short adapted excerpts, it is important to help students understand the difference between legitimate and illegitimate historical interpretations.)

Step 3: 20 minutes: Students develop thesis statements and assemble evidence.

Students develop thesis statements regarding inquiry question: Did the Social Security Act and the New Deal fundamentally change the role of American government in the economy? Write thesis statement on 5 day essay organizer.

Drawing from their 5 day graphic organizers, students select evidence from 3-5 primary documents or secondary sources to support their conclusions. They list source and evidence on the 5 day essay organizer.

In pairs, students share and critique plan on 5 day essay organizer. Classmates give feedback using the two questions:

  • Does the thesis statement respond directly to the inquiry question?
  • Does selected evidence support the thesis statement?
Homework

Write an introductory paragraph with thesis statement and develop an outline for an essay that addresses the inquiry question.

DAY FIVE (approximately 50 minutes)
Step 1: 10 minutes: Share introductory paragraphs and outlines with partners

In pairs, students share and critique introductory paragraphs and outlines. They should ask the following questions of each other:

  • Does the thesis statement answer the prompt?
  • Is the thesis statement supported by at least three pieces of evidence?
  • Is evidence drawn from different documents?
Step 2: 25 minutes: Begin writing first draft of essay

Students begin first draft of essay.

Step 3: 10 minutes: Peer editing of essays

Explain to students that they are going to stop writing their essays and take the final 10 minutes of class to conference about what they have written.

In pairs, students share and critique papers. Students should help each other check for organization, use of evidence, and mechanics.

Homework

Finish essays.