An Introduction to Panics, Depressions and Hard Times

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The Basics

Time Required

1-2 class periods

Subject Areas

10th Grade US History

Contemporary America, 1968-present


Song analysis

Song research



Charles Bell (2011)


The Lesson


This lesson is designed to help students better understand economic and financial crisis in the United States.

Guiding Questions

1).            What is a panic? a depression? What causes a panic/depression?

2).            What are the results of a panic/depression?

3).            Who suffers and how during a panic/depression?

4).            How do we get out of a panic/depression?

5).            Is it the government's job to get us out of a panic/depression?



Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Analyze how governments and other groups have used propaganda to influence public opinion and behavior.


  • Describe the ways in which governmental policy has been shaped and set by the influence of political parties, interest groups, lobbyists, the media and public opinion.


  • Determine the credibility of sources by considering the following: recognition of stereotypes, accuracy and consistency of sources and the circumstances in which the author prepared the source.


Preparation Instructions

Song used in this lesson:

“1933 -  To California” by Ellen Cherry

Lesson Activities

Begin by having students listen to “1933 - To California.” Have small groups of students record their impressions for what strikes them most about this song, write down "images" that the song brings to them, what they notice about voice, instruments, the music performance itself.

Second have the groups of students listen and watch the video, “Hard Times: Great Depression vs. Great Recession” (see link below) with their notes for modification and discuss their changes and what they think the song is about. Then what time period they think the song is discussing.

Repeat the same process using the song “Busted.” At the end discuss the song and the "Kennedy Slide" recession of 1962.

Have student groups select a song from the following list:  



  • “1933 To California”(2007)

“Hard Times: Great Depression vs. Great Recession”                                                    


  • “Busted” (1962)


  • “Money” (1973)


  • “Greenback Dollar” (covered from folk song “East Virginia”) (1932)                                


  • “Breadline Blues” (1932)


  • “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” (1932)


  • “Hard Times Come Again No More” (1855)



Student should analyze their song choice for their impressions of the time period, who is/are singing, who is/are listening, what are they doing, what is/are their reactions, where are they?

Discuss the dates of panics/depressions and see if the students change their impressions. Give each group access to the web site "Top 10 Worst Financial Crisis in U.S. History" ( ). Then have each group prepare and present their impressions on their song choice along with their estimate of which panic/depression each song is associated with.


Students will evaluate (subject to teacher's review) each other's "song" presentation for organization, content, visuals, aurals, and presentation. Evaluations will be considered within each group (individually) and also among each of the groups (group presentation).

Extending the Lesson

Have students prepare a mock newspaper as if it were printed during the panic/depression chosen including: news headlines, human interest stories, editorial cartoons, advertising for the popular music of the day, employment advice column.




“Hard Times: Great Depression vs Great Recession” video available at






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