The intent of this lesson is to expose students to a variety of topics in a short amount of time using fun and engaging methods. Each station of this NO PREP activity contains enthralling primary source accounts of hoboes during the Great Depression. After completing this lesson, students will understand the misery and suffering in America during the Great Depression. Students will examine each of the following topics: 1. Riding the Rails, 2. Hard Travelin’, 3. Railroad Bulls, 4. In the Jailhouse, 5. Hobo Signs, 6. Hobo Jungles. Each station contains a brief description, along with intriguing primary source accounts and historic photo sets. The lesson is easily adaptable to fit your teaching style. The following methods have proven to be the most successful in my classroom:
1. Hang the information sheets around the class and have students rotate to each sheet.
- This is my favorite because it gets students up and moving. You can assign the worksheet that accompanies this activity, or simply have them summarize each topic as they rotate.
2. Split the students into groups and assign one sheet per group. Have the students read the information sheet and prepare to present the information to the rest of class.
- I assign a number to each group member (number the first group, then start back at 1 for the next group, so that you have multiple 1’s, 2’s, etc. throughout the class) and after students have had adequate time to prepare I tell them all the 2’s are presenting. This method motivates students because they don’t know which group member is presenting until it is time to present.
3. Form groups of 6 and have the students pass around the information sheets.
- I’ve found the best approach for this method is to give students a set amount of time and then have all students pass their sheets to the right when told.
The versatility of this activity allows for several culminating assessments. Typically, once students have completed one of the methods above, I have them write a response to the following question- “Do you believe the hoboes should have been able to ride the trains or were the bulls right to guard the trains? Please Explain.” Then, I conduct a debate in which students can defend their choice. Another option is to have students write a journal entry from the point of view of a hobo during the Great Depression. I encourage them to include as much information from the stations as possible.
I hope you and your students enjoy this activity. Please let me know if you have questions or concerns!
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