Teach PA History
Dear Mrs. Roosevelt

In advance, print out marker Five Letters Written to Eleanor Roosevelt by Pennsylvanians, 1933-1936.

Reproduce the images or prepare to project them onto screen.
Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange

Project Exterior of Norvelt House

Kitchen of Norvelt House

Girl Scouts cooking for Eleanor Roosevelt

Prior to this lesson, conduct a preliminary discussion of the Great Depression. Explain who Franklin D. Roosevelt was and how he worked to introduce programs to help the people who had been affected by this economic disaster. See Teacher Background material for information to aid this discussion.
It would be useful to use the Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange image to help students visualize the Great Depression. Ask students what they see in this famous photo.

Who is in the picture? [mother and two children]
What are they wearing? Do their clothes look new/old, dirty/clean? [old, dirty shirts; frayed sweater]
Where do you think they are living? Hint: Look at the canvas behind them. [Possibly a tent.]
What do you think they are feeling?
The mother [pensive, worried, tired]
The children [tired]

Explain to the students how Franklin Roosevelt tried to change all of these conditions and help the many Americans like this mother and her children survive the extreme poverty.

Day One:

1. On the day of the lesson explain that the students are going to have an opportunity to learn first hand what the Great Depression was like for young people. Explain that a primary source is an original record created at the time historical events occurred. Examples include items such as letters, diaries, newspapers, interviews, memoirs, and photographs. These sources can give us information of historical events from the more immediate perspective of someone who was there. Distribute
Student Worksheet 1–Analyzing the Letter and read together the introduction about Eleanor Roosevelt. Discuss how the students think Mrs. Roosevelt could have handled the large amount of letters she received. How would it make her feel to hear so many sad stories?

2. Divide the class into five groups and give each group one of the letters: marker Five Letters Written to Eleanor Roosevelt by Pennsylvanians, 1933-1936. (You may decide that it would be helpful for each person in the group to have a copy of the letter.) Ask the students to read the letter and work as a cooperative group to answer the questions on the Student Worksheet 1–Analyzing the Letter. Monitor closely as the groups work to observe whether the responses are complete enough and refer back to the text.

3. After about 20 minutes, call the class back to their seats. Divide the class into five groups, this time the groups should be compiled of a member from each of the former groups, so that each letter is represented in each group.

4. Distribute Student Worksheet 2–Data Collection Sheet. Explain that now the group is going to find similarities between the different letters so as to get a better picture of the overall effect of the Great Depression on children. Tell the students that they should select a reporter that would give their results to the class. The teacher should be available to the groups to answer questions and to make sure they are working effectively. Prepare a grid similar to the one on Student Worksheet 2–Data Collection Sheet on the board or on an overhead transparency.

5. After about 20 minutes, call the groups back to their seats to compare results. Call upon the reporter from each group to share their results. Record the data on the grid. Compare the results of the groups. Tell students that in the next class period they will be writing a response to the letter they used for activity one. Tell them to think about how they feel Eleanor Roosevelt would have responded.

Day Two:

1. Project or make copies of the Girl Scouts cooking for Eleanor Roosevelt. Explain to students that this picture shows the woman to which the letters were written. Ask students to comment on what they see in the picture that shows how people, including children, trusted Eleanor Roosevelt and found her to be a caring and compassionate friend.

2. Distribute the Student Worksheet 3– Mrs. Roosevelt Responds
Discuss the possible responses that Eleanor Roosevelt made. See Teacher Background Sheet.

3. Discuss the difference between taking care of an immediate need such as providing money for a coat or an Easter dress and providing for a more permanent relief such as providing housing or jobs. One way to explain this to the students is to distribute or project Project Exterior of Norvelt House. Explain that Eleanor Roosevelt promoted the projects of her husband and focused her attention on these relief efforts which would provide permanent solutions. In Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, she helped with a housing project for coal miners who needed a home. Help students to find Westmoreland County on a map of Pennsylvania. This housing development was eventually named "Norvelt" in honor of Eleanor Roosevelt. If students have difficulty understanding, you can write "Norvelt" on the board and Eleanor Roosevelt, underlining the appropriate parts. Here are some photographs of a home that is part of this project. Ask your students:
What do you think of this house?
Would you want to live there? Why or why not?
What are some of the details you notice?

Explain that President Roosevelt believed that the houses should be constructed to minimal standards, without electricity and running water, but First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt made sure that the houses were equipped with the "modern" conveniences of running water, refrigerator, an oven, etc.

4. Ask students to decide what is the appropriate response for them to take in regards to their particular letter. Students should then be divided into groups or work independently to write their response. Monitor closely.

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