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Lesson Plans for "TVA: Electricity for All"

Contributed by: Stanlee Brimberg, a teacher at the Bank Street School for Children in New York. He has contributed articles and consulting services to several teachers' and children's publications and online teaching-resource projects.


Lesson 1: Political Cartoons and the TVA

Estimated class time: Varies according to grade, ability, and the amount of homework preparation and follow-up students can do; suitable for junior high through high school levels

Description: This lesson is organized into three sections:

  • Understanding political cartoons (one to three periods). Students learn to understand and appreciate political cartoons as a medium of journalistic expression by looking at several contemporary political cartoons.
  • Political cartoons and the TVA (one to two periods). Students apply these skills to cartoons that appeared during the TVA years and come to see that political cartoons provide insight into different sides of contemporary and historical issues.
  • Enrichment activities (one to three periods). Five additional research and art activities are provided for class or individual enrichment.


Lesson 2: The TVA: A Constructive Controversy

Estimated class time: Varies according to grade, ability, and the amount of homework preparation and follow-up students can do; suitable for junior high through high school levels

Description: This lesson is organized into two parts (plus a follow-up essay assignment):

  • Gathering and presenting information (one to three periods). Students research the various points of view about the TVA project by role-playing them. Groups representing various interests present their perspectives.
  • Understanding the perspective of others (one period). Students switch roles in order to develop evidence and empathy for the points of view of other constituences and interest groups. Follow-up questions are presented, which may be the basis for another class discussion or an essay. An assessment tool is included.


Lesson 3: Comprehension Aids on Selected TVA Documents

Estimated class time: One-half to one period per document, depending on grade and ability; suitable for junior high through high school levels

Description: Literal and inferential questions enable students to understand and use new information to solve problems. Information is presented in a variety of formats. Questions are suitable for class or small-group discussion and for writing. The lesson covers the following topics:

"TVA History" Background information about the TVA
"In His Mind's Eye" Reading a political cartoon about Roosevelt's hopes for the TVA
"Roosevelt Press Conference" Partial text of a press conference wherein Roosevelt explains the benefit of the project
"The Displaced People" Economic considerations and the effects of the TVA on people who would have to relocate because of it
"Washday at Stooksbury Homestead" Photograph and notes by a contemporary local, raising the issue of how photographers represented local people, and why
"The Planned Community of Norris, Tennessee" An article about the intentions of the planners of Norris and what evolved there over time
"Power for All" An article about rural electrification and the implications of government-owned industries
"Refrigeration" A foreign journalist reflects on the need for refrigeration in the Tennessee Valley
"What REA Service Means to Our Farm Home" A personal account of how life improved as a result of electrification
"Power: A Living Newspaper Production of the Federal Theater Project" Two scenes from the play "Power," which dramatized the issues of electrification for contemporary audiences