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The New Deal

Guiding Questions:

  • What were President Franklin Roosevelt’s objectives as explained in his May 7, 1933 Fireside Chat?
  • What problems were New Deal programs intended to solve?
  • Why did President Franklin Roosevelt propose reorganization of the judiciary? What was the method he proposed the reorganization? What constitutional principles support his plan? How would reorganization have changed the constitutional system of checks and balances?
  • What long-term results came from the New Deal?


  • Students will describe the purposes of various New Deal programs.
  • Students will analyze the extent to which President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal changed the shift of governmental power.
  • Students will evaluate Roosevelt’s plan for the judiciary.

  • Founders
  • Fourteenth Amendment
  • liberty
  • Bill of Rights
  • due process
  • limited government
  • tyrannical
  • equality

Have students read the New Deal Essay.

Review some of the economic, social, and political conditions that faced the nation in 1932: deepening economic crisis and unemployment of the great Depression, stock market weakness and banking shutdown, plummeting industrial production, racial segregation and discrimination, lack of faith in the political system, etc.

Distribute Handout B: New Deal Programs. Have students work in pairs or trios to select one of the following New Deal programs and create a presentation in which both partners can explain the provisions of the program, which branch of the government would administer the program, and the intended length of the program.

  • Agricultural Adjustment Act
  • Civilian Conservation Corps
  • Federal Communication Act
  • Federal Emergency Relief Administration
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Indian Reorganization Act
  • National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act
  • National Industrial Recovery Act
  • Public Works Association
  • Social Security Act
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Works Progress Administration

Have students write the required information on poster paper. Encourage students to add illustrations, memory devices, and colorful elements to their posters, and then display the posters in the classroom for a gallery walk. Set a timer to give the audience 2 minutes at each poster. There is no particular order in which students should visit the posters; just spread out wherever there is space. Have one member of the pair responsible for each poster stand beside their poster to explain it to classmates for the first half of the gallery walk time, and then switch to allow the other teammate to present. As they view each poster, the audience should take notes on Handout B to summarize the main provisions of each New Deal program and develop a memory device for the program.

Have students read Handout C: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Press Conference about the Composition of the Supreme Court, February 5, 1937. If pressed for time, you might assign just pages 1, 8, and 9 of this document. Ask students what they think of President Roosevelt’s logic in the proposal regarding the Supreme Court. If more people are involved in reaching a decision, does that make the decision process take less time or more time?

Have students read Handout D and discuss the Critical Thinking Questions in small groups. If pressed for time, you might direct students to focus on pages 2,3,4, and 7.

Hold a debate regarding Roosevelt’s Judiciary Reorganization plan. Divide class in half, assign one half yea and the other half nay regarding this proposition: President Roosevelt’s Reorganization plan would have probably solved the problems he cited in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

In preparation, each side should be able to cite

  • Constitutional provisions that affirm their arguments.
  • Constitutional principles that affirm their arguments.
  • The historical context of the arguments.

Format: 5 minutes for each side’s opening statements; 10 minutes for discussion and questions/cross examination; 5 minute break for each side to hone their final statement; 4 minutes for each side to make their final statement.

Find examples in current events of controversies related to judicial reform, separation of powers, and checks and balances.

Student Handouts

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The Great Society and Beyond