Teaching American History Project Lesson
  Katie Menante

The 1950s: The Fearful, The Fabulous and The Forgotten.
America: 1945-1960

Katie Menante

Introduction
“The Fabulous Fifties”… What better decade in American history is there to help young people investigate and understand the teenage subculture to which they belong? The United States after World War II is a place where young people today can begin to understand the historical roots of who they are—teenagers –and how their experience is affected by broader political, economic and social issues (1). The Fabulous Fifties provides a platform of ideals. Fifties culture offered and even demanded political, social, and economic homogeneity. Likewise, anything that diverged from those ideals was its opposite- dreaded and deviant. From the post-war prosperity to fears of the Cold War to the gradual emergence of a counter culture, middle school students will relate to evidence that is concrete, interesting and transferable. This unit provides a venue for students to relate to events that occurred and to also see teenagers as a powerful and important part of the American experience.

After contemplating the question: “What is important for students to understand historically in light of the 1950s?” I came up with a two-part rationale.

It is first important for middle school students to understand three critical themes from the time period. First are the political roots of the Cold War and its beginning manifestations in American society. Because the beginning years of the Cold War were an undercurrent that affected teen life, this is a starting point for students to see themselves as part of history (2). This component I will call the “Fearful Fifties.” Second is the Baby Boom and the economic prosperity that followed World War II. These forces shaped the teenage subculture of which students today still are a part. This connection will be valuable in exposing middle schoolers to the idea that they are part of a historical process that has changed over time. (3). The growth and prosperity of the decade earned it the label of the “Fabulous Fifties.” Finally, and most importantly, it is imperative for students to understand that not every American benefited from the economic boom and opportunity that followed WWII. For example, women were expected to retreat back into domesticity after their participation in the wartime defense industries (4). In addition, African Americans still lived as second class citizens in many areas of the nation in segregated societies. It was during the 1950s that minority voices began to emerge in events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Brown v Topeka Board of Education. These historical events set the pace for what became the Civil Rights movement (5). This component I will call the “Forgotten Fifties.” 

The second part of my rationale rests in the distinctiveness of the 1950s and the convergence of the 1960s. Developmentally middle school students are concrete thinkers who are at different stages of beginning abstract thought. Addressing three distinct categories with catchy themes will be useful in demonstrating how different themes are concurrent, how they influence each other, and how they affect change across social boundaries. Because the boundaries of these categories become less clear at the end of the decade, building a solid foundation will give students the tools to better understand the 1960s. 

In addition to the three themes, I need to add that the power and importance of television and film during the last half of the 20th Century cannot be exaggerated (6). For this reason I plan to show students time period situation comedies and clips from different films. These will demonstrate the power the Cold War had on American life, the rise of the teenager, and the situation of minorities in 1950s America. My use of film will be based on Reel Conversations, which is a text that teaches young adults to “read” films (7).

 

RATIONALE

“So why does this unit matter?” Why are the 1950s worth four weeks of class time? In terms of the cognitive development of middle school students, teaching the 1950s is important for two specific reasons. 

The focus in this unit on the 1950s will be first on concrete events. Developmentally, middle school students receive and assimilate concrete material more readily than abstract ideas. However, concrete events will act as an avenue to abstract concepts. The United States had a real live enemy in the Soviet Union and hostilities were played out concretely through the establishment of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the Space Race and the Korean War (8). 

On the domestic scene within the American family, the cultural rise of the teenager was also concrete. Contrasting the lives of teens in the 1950s with those of the Depression and World War II clarifies the change taking place in the 1950s. Fifties teens pioneered the teen culture that students are a part of today. Today’s teens can find the roots of who they are in the music, entertainment, sports, TV, fashion, food and music of the 1950s (9).

Finally, my classroom is ethnically diverse and students have the good fortune of being involved in interracial friendships. Because their experience is so radically different from students in the 1950s classroom, it is essential for them to understand in real terms the concrete lines that divided race in the 1950s and the difficulty that was present in breaking through those lines (10). Clearly, the most poignant example of such division in a school setting is that of the Arkansas Nine and the Supreme Court case Brown v Topeka Board of Education. 

My second reason for supporting the importance of teaching the 1950s is the potential it has to make the transition from concrete thinking to abstract thinking. Although three distinct categories, the Fearful, the Fabulous, and the Forgotten in the decade did influence each other. For example, Cold War fear influenced Fabulous popular culture through films like The Incredible Shrinking Man and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (11). Rock and Roll, a principal popular musical development of Fabulous Fifties teens, found its roots in the Forgotten neighborhoods of Black America. At the same time, minority groups started to challenge the status quo in sports, entertainment, and in the political sphere as they sought their full rights of citizenship under the Constitution. Instruction in the three categories will emphasize their interconnectedness. As such, students will be encouraged to apply critical tools in interpreting history. The resulting skill will lead them to analyze and evaluate how seemingly isolated events are actually interconnected. 

 

LESSON INTRODUCTION

To begin the unit, students will participate in an activity that will build conceptual understanding for the three different themes we will be examining in the 1950s. From historical recollection and personal experience each class will create a visual and word collage describing what it means to be “fabulous,” “fearful,” and “forgotten.” Upon completion, the collages will be hung in the classroom and work as a visual reminder of the unit themes. Because this lesson provides students an opportunity to apply what they already know to what they know very little about, it provides a strong foundation upon which to build the rest of the unit. 

 

THE FEARFUL FIFTIES

The Iron Curtain Descends 

When English Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri on March 5, 1946 he was recognizing the ideological barrier that emerged between the alliance system that had defeated Hitler and the Nazi’s. Fearful of America’s nuclear technology and the threat of a reconstructed Germany, the Soviet Union constructed a defense system that exceeded its own boundaries and incorporated surrounding nations into its communist economy and ideals under the Warsaw Pact. Reacting to the threat posed against America, capitalism, democracy and an effective reconstruction of Western Europe, the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) was created to oppose the threat of this power and the spread of communism. The descent of the “Iron Curtain” symbolizes the distinction of East and West that occurred after World War II and of the rivalry that was created because of it. (12). 

Beginning with what students know is always best. Because the Cold War was based on a rivalry of powers, it will be helpful to begin with an assumption students already know: The United States is the most powerful nation in the world today. To understand the Cold War, however, the concept of rivalry must be introduced. And this suggests that there was not one dominant power at the time. Rivalry demands the recognition of an enemy or a competitor. In America’s case it was the Soviet Union.

Young people too usually have some type of enemy. Whether it is a person, a group of people or school rivalry- students will relate to this vital component of the Cold War. Building upon what they know of rivalries, we can explore the concept of power- what it is, different types, how it is demonstrated, how it is balanced between rivals. 

To create a rivalry of power in the classroom, students will complete a questionnaire that, depending on their results, will position them on the Eastern (Communist, Totalitarian) or Western (Capitalist, Democratic) side of the classroom. The questionnaire will ascertain positions from students based on their beliefs regarding the ideologies of capitalism/democracy and communism/totalitarianism. An ‘Iron Curtain’ will ‘descend’ to separate the newly established world powers.

The power of the “Bomb” cannot be underestimated. Its power is probably what made for a cold rather than hot war. A film by Dr. Seuss, The Bitter Butter Battle, shows the nature of a cold war. It is a powerful film because it provokes students to consider why this war, for the most part, stayed cold. During the film students will list tools each power used to encourage and discourage war. From the film, qualities of the Cold War such as the arms race, mutually assured destruction, propaganda tactics, and deterrence will be discovered. A discussion and explanation of terms will follow. Assessment for this lesson is a reflective journal or drawing evaluating the potential futility of full-scale war under the conditions of “mutually assured destruction.”. = 

Geopolitics in the Cold War

A content based lesson in geopolitics will follow beginning with the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, followed by the partition of Germany, the Berlin Blockade and Airlift, ending with the creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. A world map, dividing Eastern and Western Europe including a break down of other “hot spots” such as Korea, Vietnam and Cuba will be colored to visually show the nature of the rivalry (13). The geographic designation of the Cold War is powerful for two reasons: first, it demonstrates the dualistic nature of the conflict; second, it shows the international nature of the conflict.

The Korean War: Truman stays true to his word

development of this unit needs also to be mindful of the Washoe County School District (WCSD) Standards. . WCSD requires 8th Graders to be able to explain why the United Nations got involved in the Korean conflict and the outcome of its involvement Rather than focusing for an extended time on this conflict, students need to see that the Cold War did occasionally “heat up” with the threat of nuclear war looming in the background. Student maps reinforce Korea’s division and shows that the invasion of the South by the North in 1950 challenged President Truman to respond, given the containment goals of the Truman Doctrine. The outcome and message sent to the communist world was clear: The United States was committed to fighting communist expansion regardless of the size or power of aggressor state (14). 

America Reacts: McCarthyism, Nuclear War Drills and Bomb Shelters

My final lesson in the “Fearful Fifties” portion of the unit will focus on the social upheaval caused by the Cold War at home in America. How did Americans react to the purported threat of communism infecting their own social and governmental fabric? How were students required to respond to the threat of “the bomb” at school? How did the nuclear family respond? My objective in this lesson will be for students to experience what Americans in the Fifties experienced. McCarthyism will be explored as well as his “witch hunts” against potential communists. Then students will read, analyze and sign (if they so desire) loyalty oaths. In doing this, I will challenge them to consider whether such oaths violate their rights as American citizens or are even effective(15).

Following the loyalty oaths, a demonstration of a 1950s fear will be simulated through a “duck and cover” drill in the classroom. This will naturally lead into a discussion of survival, or the lack thereof. Students will create identification (dog) tags for identification of the bodies after the attack. This will recreate the widespread practice in public schools during the decade. The unthinkable was thinkable and possible.

In this light, bomb shelters will be examined. Popular culture’s approach to the bomb shelter was contradictory and Fifties students suffered most from the contradiction. At home and through the media, bomb shelters became an important commodity. The availability, variety and advertised “need” for family shelters was exploited and allowed Americans to believe that a nuclear attack would only temporarily disrupt American life. At the same time, students at school were required to deal with the subversively taught reality of assured destruction through science classes that required students to plot graphs marking zones of damage, local fallout patterns, and germ warfare (16). This is valuable because it demonstrates how young people were, and still are, directly effected by the demands of the government and society. 

American citizens had to contend with the question, “Would you let a neighbor into your shelter?” Students assessment for the lesson will be an activity in which they will be required to consider and defend twelve people they would invite into their bomb shelter (17). 

 

THE FABULOUS FIFTIES

Youth Culture Emerges

Post-war prosperity facilitated the emergence of a youth culture that today’s students continue to perpetuate. Miller explains that

Youth occupied a unique place in fifties America. Teens were perceived as different from other human beings and so were more set apart by a generation gap. The value of being young kept rising… Unprecedented affluence was coupled to the growth of the luxury businesses. These businesses saw the need to identify a separate youth market. This proved mutually beneficial: Teens bought youth products for the status and the sense of identity they received, and businesses provided these luxury needs to make money (18).

Exploring this subculture is a key in enabling students to see themselves as part of history in two different ways. First, music, sports, fashion, the automobile, food, magazines, slang vocabulary and entertainment shaped young peoples lives then and still do today (19). Second, these new economic forces began to drive wedges between teens and their parents as new consumer markets shaped a new teen identity.

In this first lesson, teenagers will dissect 1950s youth culture based on what they know about themselves. In other words, students will examine what makes a teen a teen and we will discover how those very qualities mirror the attitudes and lives of teens in the 1950s (20). 

It is important for teenagers to understand that beginning in the 1950s they became economic commodities, consumers, who today drive one of the most profitable markets in the United States and world (21). After creating a definition of what a teenager is, students will be provided with images of various “types of teenagers” to explore similarities and differences as well as look for essential qualities that appear across the differences. Regardless of clique, fashion, music, slang and food, teenage trends overlap. 

For homework, students will interview a grandparent or another adult who was a teenager in the 1950s to discover different, primary source, reflections on being a teen in the 1950s. This portion of the lesson can incorporate the idea of teenagers as consumers who are targets of merchandising and advertising forces in the economy. By asking grandparents what consumer goods were desired by teens, what they saved their money for, what they wanted for their birthday, how they valued work and what kind of jobs they had, my students will have a better idea of life of a teen in the 1950s. Homework will be categorized and a graph, chart or poster can be created to show what was “in” and what was “out” in the 1950s. 

The Fifties Family

Although they often don’t want to admit it, teenagers belong to a family before they belong to a peer group. The next lesson, “Episodes of the American Family” is a theme that will be examined throughout the teaching of the last half of the 20th Century. Comparing the perceived familial norm with what truly existed across these decades is an excellent strategy for students to concretely understand the historical theme of continuity and change as well as the pressure American society and its economic system placed on its citizens.

As I mentioned above, the power and importance of television and film during this time period cannot be over exaggerated because it was through this media that American culture shaped its fifties family values (22). Because it demonstrates the supposed norm for the American family in the 1950s, I will show my students an episode of Leave it to Beaver. A more modern and stark example will be the opening scenes of the film Pleasantville. This film contrasts the late 90’s family, which students are familiar with, and the 1950s family. Both examples are useful because they were produced at different times and communicate different messages through the same “family ideals”. In the Fifties, Beaver said, “This is how the American family should be.” and the late Nineties film Pleasantville said, “This is how they told us family should be but it never was.” 

Keeping in step with the influence of the television, homework for this assignment requires students to write two TV Guide reviews of Beaver from the perspective of a teenager then and now. Another idea is for them to write a blurb for TV Guide for a contemporary episode of Beaver. What would be different?

In addition to family roles, Leave it to Beaver reflected other themes of the Fabulous Fifties— the growing middle class, economic prosperity, consumerism, materialism, suburbia, car culture and fashion (23). Pointing these out will awaken students to some of the forces and motivations that drive our lives today. 

It's Elvis' Fault

Perhaps the most pivotal figure in the evolution of the modern teenager is Elvis Presley. As the king of Rock n’ Roll and the first teen idol to teenage girls and boys, Elvis can indeed symbolize the generation gap that has marked American culture in the post-war period (24). In The Century: America’s Time, Peter Jennings describes the power of Elvis’ Rock ’n Roll when he writes

But what mattered to its teenage fans was less the quality of the sound than its volume, less poetry than crudity, anything to puncture the sweet suburban mood of their parents which to many adolescents hung in the air like the family lie. When a Time writer groused in 1956 that rock did for music “ what a motorcycle club at full throttle does for a quiet Sunday afternoon,’ youth could nod in approval, for that was precisely the point. (25).

Students love to cast blame on anyone other than themselves so beginning this lesson by reviewing all the misunderstandings they have with their parents will lead us into a discussion on the blame Elvis received as America’s first teen idol. Students will need to come to class with a musical artist in mind along with a list of the qualities that make them appealing to the youth of today and unappealing to their parents. This prior knowledge will open a door for us to explore the person of Elvis. 

Like most teens long to do, Elvis challenged the status quo and set trends that shaped youth culture. He gave this new youth culture an identity much like Brittany Spears, Rap Musicians, and Lincoln Park do today. The way he dressed, spoke, the lyrics he sang and the way that he danced provoked an energy in teenagers that adult society found licentious and offensive (26).

In this lesson Elvis’ famous first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 will be shown to demonstrate two things. First, the restrictions placed on what could and could not be shown of Elvis dancing. This will demonstrate just how different America’s television standards have changed in the last fifty years. Second, communicating the social and economic pressure placed on Mr. Sullivan to host Elvis will speak loudly to the social importance of the emerging teen culture in the 1950s. The video series The Century explains that after only two months of having called Elvis vulgar and repulsive, TV’s “minister of culture and morality,” Ed Sullivan hosted Elvis and in effect surrendered to the youth culture. Rock and Roll was here to stay. 

To assess this lesson students will compare lyrics with an Elvis song such as Hound Dog or Tutti Frutti with lyrics of one of their favorite songs. Students would also interview a grandparent or adult who remembers Elvis’s debut and the social reactions surrounding it.

 

THE FORGOTTON FIFTIES

What Women?

Unfortunately, the Fifties weren’t the idealized fabulous decade for every American. With soldiers returning home from the war, women who had been working during and before the war were expected to return to a more traditional role. The baby boom, the emergence of the nuclear family, and even Freudian psychology steered women towards a new expression of domesticity. One popular work of the time, Modern Women, explained that a woman could only truly be happy if she embraced her femininity and her womanly role. Farnham and Lindbergh explained that, “Only by accepting her place as wife, mother, homemaker and by erasing her ‘masculine-aggression’” could woman be content (27). 

Fifties television does an excellent job of communicating the social expectations placed on women in the 1950s. The lesson will begin with a survey of what kind of jobs and responsibilities my students’ mothers have and then we will journey back in time through 1950s Television. Compared to the mothers of today, June Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver demonstrates a clear difference between now and then. This contrast will provide a good opportunity for students to evaluate the pros and cons of “working” and “stay at home” mothers. 

In addition, is the episode of I Love Lucy where Ricky and Fred trade places with Lucy and Ethel. The story satirizes the idea of women going to work and men filling the domestic role at home. It is simply absurd and hysterical and the stereotypes are concrete. Women who work are militant, masculine and undesirable. Lucy and Ethel, demonstrating their femininity and frailty, flail at the candy factory while Ricky and Fred destroy the kitchen but stay determined to iron well and to have the dinner meal prepared when the “girls” get home from work. The episode ends, on happy note with everyone feeling much better about themselves, each other and their marriages when they are safe and secure within the preferred social roles of the 1950s. 

Homework for this lesson will be to read a list of helpful hints for young women wanting to please their potential husband from a 1950s Home Economics Text and rewrite five of the rules applying society’s expectations of women today. 

Juvenile Delinquency

Post-war prosperity and the boom of the white middle class left no room for dissidence. One author explains that rebellion was causeless and meaningless and that it was regarded not as an act of the will but as failure of the will (28). However, middle class America and the happy-go-lucky teen scene failed to recognize the disfranchisement of those from different social classes. Poverty, broken families and a sense of not fitting in with the cultural script gave rise to the phenomena of juvenile delinquency. A 1960 study of delinquency defined it as “any behavior which a given community at a given time considers in conflict with its best interests, whether or not the offender has been brought to court (29).” Fifties conformity made no room for divergent ideas or ways of living. For these reasons, delinquents were shunned and efforts to understand them were shallow (30). 

For students, the best way to understand 1950s juvenile delinquency will be for them to discover delinquency and what makes a delinquent through their own school experience. From the position of school authority students can probe which kinds of students teachers and administrators they “like” and “dislike.” They can also explore what types of situations or life experiences can lead to delinquency. To demonstrate delinquency, students will see clips from Grease that will contrast the attitudes and affiliations of the jocks and the greasers. Through this students will be able to deduce why delinquency occurs. 

For evaluation, students will be asked to consider the idea of juvenile delinquency and how it has changed over time. Students will consider questions such as, “Is delinquency necessarily a bad thing?” “What are the causes of delinquency?” “How does society today address young people at-risk?”

Marginalized

In post-war America, minority groups faced a challenge unacknowledged by the growing white middle class. Still caged in by Jim Crow Laws and school segregation in the South and de facto segregation throughout the rest of the country, African Americans began to challenge the status quo. Leaders emerged in a variety of places and it was their collective power that worked to break through social barriers that before this time were impenetrable (31).

On one level, Civil Rights found its roots in popular culture. Muddying racial boundaries was rock-n-roll. Also known as “black music,” it infected the emerging teen culture. Actor Sidney Poitier valiantly stood up to the racist policies in Hollywood. It addition, it was Jackie Robinson who gave new hope to the black community after breaking the color barrier in professional baseball. One man explains that Jackie Robinson’s position in the majors gave hope and spirit to the downtrodden and that he became a hero and a role model for the black and white Americans alike (32). 

Amongst disenfranchised blacks, the quest for Civil Rights emerged on a grassroots level, which subsequently created its political force. The three major 1950s Civil Rights events; the Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Little Rock Nine were events that shattered Reconstruction segregation laws, namely the decision made in Plessy v Ferguson (1896). The campaign against the “equally” segregated society intensified in the in 1960s. 

Comparison will be at the core of this lesson. Students will compare what they know to be “fabulous” about the fifties with the fifties experience of African Americans. They will also compare the visibility of African Americans then and now in the spheres of influence that were just beginning to penetrate in the 1950s: music, sports, film, politics and public schools. 

To experience the type of racial discrimination that was prevalent in America and the nonviolent power with which it was fought, students will participate in a simulation of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (33). For homework, students will evaluate their own feelings and the essence of nonviolence through the directive of Martin Luther King Jr. as he provided leadership to the bus boycott. He promised, “If you will protest courageously and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the history books are written in future generations the historians will pause and say, ‘there lived a great people- a black people- who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization’” (34). 

 

CONCLUSION: STUDENT PROJECTS AND ASSESSMENT

Student Assessment

Students will be assessed formally and informally on an ongoing basis for participation, their skill and willingness to evaluating the information given to them, for completing homework and their final project. At the end of each thematic lesson, a short formal test will be given. An additional method in assessing students and setting them up for the convergence of the 1960s will be to ask them where they see crossover within the three different themes we have explored. 

Student Projects

At the beginning of the unit students will be given the opportunity to focus on one of the components of the themes that are being emphasized in the unit. Intermittent library time will be given but students will be expected to complete this project at home. Following are ideas for student projects. 

  1. Stocking a Bomb Shelter: Give justification for the contents stocked and the number of days a family of five could survive in the shelter.
  1. The Space Race: How were teens affected by the Cold War Space Race? 
  1. Planning a Class Party: Plan an actual party for the end of the unit replete with all the goodies that would have made a 1950s teen party a blast (35). 
  1. Making a Record Album: Research popular teen music of the 1950s and create a mixed album of popular music! Create a record album cover with cover art and descriptions of the songs. Burn CD or make a tape with the music you include on your album. 
  1. Talk Show: Interview the Arkansas Nine and White students from Central High School: Video Tape a talk show interviewing students after the students were turned away and after they were permitted to enter campus and attend classes.
  1. Keeping Up With The Jones’s: Create a series of advertisements from 1950s consumer goods that will convince me of my need to have them so that I can “Keep up with the Jones’s”
  1. Car Magazine: Put together a feature story on a highly desirable car in the 1950s. Show and tell me all the features that will make me want to buy this car! How will this car help my social life? 
  1. Sports Illustrated: Write a feature story on Jackie Robinson as the first African American man to play major league baseball. What were the feelings of his teammates? Be sure to include the responses of everyday African American’s and White Americans of the time. 
  1. Girls at School: What were the roles of girls in American junior and high school in the 1950s? What kind of sports did they play? What were their classes like? What kind of opportunities did they pursue after they graduated?
  1. Dance Party: What dance steps were popular in the 1950s. Learn them and teach them to your class at the end of the unit 1950s Party.

 

Class Party/Fashion Show

To complete the unit, my classes will celebrate with a 1950s Party. It will be planned as one of the student projects. At the party, students will dress up as teenagers from the 1950s. Students not responsible for planning the party will bring their completed projects for display and we will eat 1950s food, listen and dance to 1950s music and peruse other students projects. 

 

Footnotes:

  1. Miller, 1977
  1. Schwartz, 1998
  1. Salamone, 2001
  1. Miller, 1977
  1. Boyer, 1999
  1. Jennings, 1999
  1. Teasley and Wilder, 1997
  1. Boyer, 1999
  1. Salamone, 2001
  1. Jennings, 1999
  1. Boyer, 1999
  1. Jennings, 1999
  1. Appleby, 1998
  1. Appleby, 1998
  1. Boyer, 1999
  1. Miller, 1977
  1. Morris, 2002
  1. Miller, 1977, pg. 270
  1. Lindop, 1978
  1. Jennings, 1999
  1. Boyer, 2001
  1. Marling, 1994
  1. Doll, 1998
  1. Doll, 1998
  1. Jennings, 1999
  1. Jenning, 1999
  1. Miller, 1977
  1. Miller, 1977
  1. Robinson, 1960, pg. 11
  1. Miller, 1977
  1. Boyer, 1999
  1. Jennings, 1999
  1. Appleby, 1998
  1. Jennings, 1999, pg. 348
  1. Brobeck, 1960

 

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan #1: CONCEPTUALIZING FABULOUS FEARFUL AND FORGOTTEN

Part I—Planning Elements

Prior Student Preparation: This lesson will fall at the beginning of the unit. Students will have just completed studying World War II and will be familiar with America’s possession of nuclear power, America’s victory, and the return of soldiers to America. 

Lesson Theme or Concept: To build understanding of the concepts around which this unit on the 1950s is based; Fearful, Fabulous, Forgotten. 

Instructional Objectives:

1. SWBAT: define in their own words fearful, fabulous, and forgotten

swbat: record when they have felt fearful, fabulous, or forgotten

2. SWBAT: discuss the differences between fearful, fabulous, and forgotten.

swbat: consider who or what in post war society might fit into these categories

3. SWBAT: evaluate images or short pieces of writing from the era that demonstrate the concepts of fearful, fabulous, and forgotten.

4. SWBAT: construct a collage or picture representing one of the three concepts.

swbat: write a brief 3-5 sentence explanation of their work

swbat: present and defend homework in small groups and/or to class

 

Subject Matter Elements:

  1. Concepts: fearful, fabulous, forgotten
  1. Skills: writing, discussion, analysis, assimilation, application
  1. Values: conflict, prosperity, injustice

 

Components of Instruction:

  1. Strategies: discovery learning, questioning
  1. Activities: writing, small group analysis, categorizing collage/picture
  1. Materials: magazines, butcher paper, 1950s booklets of propaganda, famous images, quotations, slogans

 

Part II - Presentation Elements

Lesson Opener: students will be asked to, in their own words, define the three concepts and give an example of each of them- personal or otherwise. 

Order of the Lesson:

Established Time: One and a half class periods

  1. Lesson Opener /10 minutes
  1. Discussion of Answers and examples in opener /10 minutes
  1. Introduction of unit and empty collage paper /10 minutes
  1. Evaluation & categorization of images & writing from era/groups /20 minutes
  1. Homework Assignment /10 minutes
  1. Class presentation and application of homework /20 minutes

Lesson Closure: The lesson will close with a review of the images in the booklets of propaganda, images, slogans, and quotations. Homework assignment will follow.

Assignment: The homework assignment will be fore students to create a collage or draw a picture that demonstrates and explains their knowledge and understandings of one of the categories. These will become part of the class-wide collage representing the concepts we will be building upon in this unit. 

Lesson Feedback/Assessment: At the next meeting students we will take time to present collages or drawings and to apply them to the class-wide collage.

 

Lesson Plan #2: WOMEN… AT WORK?

Part I - Planning Elements

Prior Student Preparation: This lesson falls into the “forgotten” theme of the overall unit and it will be the first lesson to be introduced within the theme. In addition to being familiar with the fact that women made up a large part of the work force during WWII, students will have also already seen the traditional 1950s role of women from their experience of watching an episode of Leave it to Beaver.

Students will be expected to come to class ready to answer the following questions:

  1. What is your mom’s job? 
  2. In addition to her job, what other responsibilities does she have?
  3. How many of your mothers have lives like June Cleaver?

Lesson Theme or Concept: Through a famous episode of I Love Lucy, this lesson will explore the attitude towards women working in the 1950s. By contrasting it with the jobs women did during WWII, students will easily recognize the expectations on women and the challenges they faced in securing meaningful and fulfilling employment outside of the home in the 1950’s

Instructional Objectives:
1. SWBAT: compare and contrast the roles and expectations of women in the 1950s and today.
swbat: rewrite a list of 1950s rules and expectations of women using today’s standards.

2. SWBAT: list the blunders made by Lucy & Ethel and Fred &Ricky when they attempt to work at opposite jobs.
swbat: describe the difference in demeanor of different characters in the sitcom.
swbat: explain when the main characters are happiest
swbat: recognize common stereotypes surrounding the expected role of women in the 1950s.

Subject Matter Elements:

Concepts List: social roles, expectations and norms, continuity and change

Skills List: critical analysis of time period television, compare

Components of Instruction:

Strategies: discussion, video, group analysis, homework

Activities: discussion, video, group analysis, reading and drawing application from homework.

Materials: episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel go to work in the Chocolate Factory. 

 

Part II - Presentation Cycle

Lesson Opener: Students will answer the questions, 1. What is your mom’s job? 2. In addition to her job, what other responsibilities does she have? 3. How many of your mothers have lives like June Cleaver?

Order of the Lesson:

Established Time: One, one-hour, class period

  1. Lesson Opener and Introduction /10 minutes
  1. Video /25 minutes
  1. Share answers in pairs / 5 minutes
  1. Share answers in class and compare to women/work force today /10 minutes
  1. Homework assignment /10 minutes

 

Lesson Closure: This lesson will close by students writing a short explanation (3 sentences) justifying why it could be said that women were “forgotten” in the 1950s. 

Assignment: Student assignment will be to read a page from a 1950s Home Economics Text that details the expected role and behavior of women in the 1950s and to rewrite five of the rules according to today’s role and expectation of women.

Lesson Feedback/Assessment: Students will share homework by reading the rule they rewrote and the new version they created. 

 

Lesson Plan #3: FABULOUS FEARFUL AND FORGOTTEN STUDENT PROJECTS

Part I - Planning Elements

Prior Student Preparation: Following the unit introduction, students will select different student projects that will be worked on in the library and at home over the course of the unit. Please see project ideas in research above. Librarians will be given the assignment topics in advance and will have a book cart prepared for students in the library.

Lesson Theme or Concept: The concept of this lesson is for students to select a specialized topic of interest within the three themes to study more in depth. In addition to providing students with an opportunity to research an topic they are interested in, each project will be surveyed by students at the end of the unit “Class Party.” 

Instructional Objectives:

1. SWBAT: conduct research a unit specific topic
swbat: complete research from multiple sources (library, Internet, video)
swbat: complete a web diagram detailing information researched
swbat: transfer diagram into report form
swbat: write brief explanations of visual or audible components of research. 

2. SWBAT: create a visual display (illustration, mobile, video, interview, skit, fashion show) that demonstrates their understanding of the topic being studied.

3. SWBAT: identify the dominant theme of other student projects during “class wide” survey.
swbat: chart and explain why each project fits into the given category

Subject Matter Elements:

Concept List: fearful, fabulous, forgotten, popular culture, 

Skills List: research, small group cooperation, analysis and application, categorization

Components of Instruction:

Strategies: student centered research project with teacher guidance. Facilitator of end of unit presentations/ party/

Activities: small group and individual library research, assimilation into a presentation, ”1950s Class Party”

Materials: library, Internet, various- depending on student project selection

 

Part II - Presentation Cycle

Lesson Opener: Launching off from Unit Opener on previous day, students will consider which area they would be most interested in studying and why.

Order of the Lesson:

Established Time: 4 and 1/2 - 60 minute class periods

  1. Lesson Opener /10 Minutes
  1. Project Explanation /25 Minutes
  1. Library Research /60 Minutes
  1. In class Research/ Teacher-Student Meetings /60 Minutes
  1. Library Research /60 Minutes
  1. Lesson Completion: 1950s Class Party /60 Minutes

Lesson Closure: Lesson closure will be completion of the project and the “1950s Class Party” that will take place at the end of the unit.

Assignment: Project Completion and project evaluation during “1950s Class Party.”

Lesson Feedback/Assessment: Students will be assessed in two ways. First, an individualized assessment will be based on the completion and presentation of their project. Second, students will be assessed for a broader understanding of the three unit themes through their evaluation and charting of other student projects.

 

Annotated Bibliography

Appleby, Joyce. & Brinkley, Alan. & McPherson, James M. (1998). The American Journey. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill. 
This is the Washoe County School District’s adopted 7th and 8th Grade text. It will be useful in establishing ideas for the basic scope and sequence of my unit. 

Boyer, Paul S. (1999) Promises To Keep: The United States Since World War II. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
This text will be useful in providing me with the history of 1945- 1960. It will aid me in establishing chronologies and key events as well as broadening the scope of the time period socially, politically and economically. 

Brobeck, Florence. (1960) The Family Book of Home Entertaining. Garden City: Double Day.
This is a primary source that teaches potential entertainers how to give the perfect party. Because it has a section on teen-age parties, I think it would be fun to actually have a 1950’s party- music food costumes- and social norms! 

Doll, Susan M. (1998). Understanding Elvis: Southern Roots vs. Star Image. New York: Garland Publishing Inc. 
This book examines Elvis and his role as a historical figure in popular culture. The importance of music in the emerging youth culture arguably began with Elvis. This book will be useful in helping me communicate to my students the importance of his pivotal role in American History. 

Dynneson, T.L., Gross, R.E. “Designing Effective Instruction for Secondary Social Studies.”
This is a useful format in creating Social Studies lesson plans. 

Hardy, Beatriz. (2001). Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History: National History Day 2002.
This is a teaching resource and includes a lesson on Cold War Propaganda. 

Jennings, Peter. & Brewster, Todd. (1999). The Century: America’s Time. New York: Double Day.
The Century is an excellent source for finding popular and accessible explanations of the social, economic and political forces that shaped the 20th Century. Because it is concise and thorough, it is a valuable resource when creating and presenting the 20th Century in the classroom. 

Jennings, Peter. & Brewster, Todd. (1999). The Century: for Young People. New York: Double Day. 
Like its adult version, The Century: for Young People presents the concise history of the 20th Century but does so through the lens of young people. It includes primary source information that will be invaluable to students learning to understand the nature of Post War America. 

Lindop, Edmund. (1978). An Album of The Fifties. New York: Franklin Watts.
Written for young people, this book is composed of chapters that cover key events of the 1950’s. It presents political issues like the Korean and Cold Wars and the beginning of the Civil Rights as well as cultural phenomena such as fashion, entertainment, and sports.

Marling, Karal Ann. (1994) As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950’s. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
This book establishes television as the venue through which the 1950’s were experienced. Focusing primarily on popular culture, this book will be an excellent starting point for paralleling the youth culture of today with that of the 1950’s.

Miller, Douglas T. & Nowak, Marion. (1977). The Fifties: The Way We Really Were. New York: Double Day and Company.
Sections of this book dissect the rise of the teenager in the 1950’s. This will be helpful developing the section of my unit that teaches about the rise of youth culture. 

Robison, Sophia M. (1960). Juvenile Delinquency: Its Nature and Control. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston.
Published in 1960, this book could be valuable in comparing a 1950’s and 21st Century analysis of juvenile delinquency. Students would also be able to apply this material to the changes in juvenile delinquency over the following decades. Applying some of the stated characteristics of 1950’s juvenile delinquency to films or television shows of the same time period would also be interesting. 

Salamone, Frank A. (2001). Popular Culture in the Fifties. Lanham: University Press Of America.
This text covers popular culture in the Fifties. Youth, food, travel and transportation, advertising, fashion, fads, games, toys, sports, literature, music, and TV are all addressed in this text. Included in the appendix are timelines that cover both popular and political events. 

Schwartz, Richard A. (1998). Cold War Culture: Media and Arts, 1945-1990. Florida International University: Facts on File, Inc.
Organized like an encyclopedia, this reference book includes brief explanations and descriptions of key events that made up the entire Cold War. It’s easy to access and covers a broad base of information. 

Teasley, Alan B. Wilder, Ann. (1997). Reel Conversations: Reading Films with Young Adults. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
This book teaches young people how to analyze different types of film. When selecting what films and television shows to show students it will help me in teaching them to critically view and “read” the film.