This activity helps bring life to the Depression Era. By tracing boxer Jim Braddock's meteoric rise from the bread lines to Madison Square Garden, students will gain a first-hand look at the trials and tribulations that afflicted many Americans during the 1930's. As an in-class activity, watching and discussing the film will take approximately three days. As they watch the film, I have students fill out a series of question guides that enable insightful discussion and relevant analysis while also providing specific examples to be used in an essay assessment.
Included in this activity are my question sets for all three days and two versions of differentiated analytic essays that focus on themes of the time period, connections to students' personal experiences, and conclusions that can be drawn.
I usually show the film after an in-depth study of the causes and effects of the Great Depression. Once students have sufficient background knowledge, the film serves as a good platform for students make relevant connections between reading materials, lecture, classroom discussion, and film. The film also pairs nicely with other primary documents and first-hand accounts of the time period and can lend it self to discussions of historical accuracy and comparison contrast.
Here is how I use the materials in sequence.
1. Textbook, lecture, primary source readings about the causes and effects of the Great Depression.
2. Watch Day 1 of film
3. Review Day 1 worksheet and discuss students reactions and questions. Watch Day 2.
4. Review Day 2 worksheet and discuss student reactions and questions. Watch Day 3.
5. Review Day 3 worksheet and discuss student reactions and questions. Hand out essay and discuss options.
*Sometimes I allow students to write the essay in class, other times I assign it as homework depending on the students in question and my own time frame for the unit.
*The film also pairs nicely with the book of the same title by Jeremy Schaap.