How FDR Used Radio to Ease the Public’s Fears
Few U.S. presidents have been able to use media as persuasively as Franklin D. Roosevelt. His “Fireside Chats” assured and inspired the nation during the Great Depression and into World War II.
What made FDR the “Master of the Airwaves?” How was he able to persuade the nation to accept New Deal programs? In the following activities, you’ll investigate how Roosevelt used persuasion to create effective messages to the public and develop your own “21st Century” persuasive “Fireside Chat” dealing with a New Deal or World War II issue. While you will be using 21st Century technology to develop the podcast, remember that the message should focus on issues that faced Americans during the 1930s and 1940s, and should use grammar and style typical of the era.
Overview: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, able to put people at ease with his personality, also reduced the anxiety of millions of Americans during the Depression with his use of radio. Through his famous “Fireside Chats,” FDR informed the public about New Deal plans and programs and eased people’s fears. As totalitarian dictatorships increased their strength in Europe and Asia, FDR used the radio to prepare the nation for entry into World War II and gained national support.
In this lesson, students will investigate FDR’s mastery of the airwaves by reviewing video clips from The Roosevelts: An Intimate History as well as listening to examples of his radio talks. They then research economic and political issues of the Depression and World War II eras and develop podcasts (21st century “Fireside Chats”) using “FDR-‐‑style” techniques.
Lesson Objectives: The student will…
- Understand how FDR’s use of mass communications helped promote and gain public support for New Deal policies and the entry into World War II.
- Recognize the impact of media (including radio) on the nation during the 1930s and the 21st century.
- Understand the impact of the New Deal and the entry into World War II on American economic and government policy.
- Develop persuasive writing and speaking strategies to communicate with various audiences.
- Develop collaborative strategies to use technology to create persuasive presentations (podcasts) based on historic evidence.
Technology Assets Needed: Computer(s) with Internet access; ability to stream and broadcast audio (and video), headphones, podcasting software (software included in the web resources is available either bundled with various computer operating systems, or for free or low cost). In addition, sufficient online storage space for students to edit and store projects is needed. Free online storage can be found by using Google Drive (http://drive.google.com), Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com), iCloud (http://www.icloud.com), or other free or low-‐‑cost online storage solutions.
Teacher Preparation: Prior to starting the lesson, teachers should ensure that they have the technology assets needed as well as a working knowledge of podcasting. Several of the “podcasting resources” included in the Resources section can provide a quick overview on how to create a podcast, or provide a good tutorial for the beginner.
Should the classroom not include sufficient technology available for podcasting, the lesson can still be completed by having students create multimedia presentations, or students can work together to create Fireside Chat “scripts.”
Lesson Procedure: Opening Activity:
- Introduce the lesson by asking students to define the word “persuasion.” Brainstorm with students and write responses on the whiteboard or overhead projector. The teacher might also use an application such as “Padlet” (http://www.padlet.com) in which the teacher makes an online “word wall” and then shares the web address with the class. Class members then post their responses, thoughts, or examples on the Padlet word wall.
- Once a consensus about the definition of “persuasion” has been reached, move to the next phase of the opening activity.
Form the class into small groups. Ask students to consider instances when the president or members of Congress have “led the charge” to persuade the nation to follow a particular policy or viewpoint. Some examples of this might include the debate over the need for tighter security at US embassies, support for passage and implementation of a new health care act, or calls for stronger gun control laws in the wake of school shootings. As time permits, show some sample clips of persuasive speeches from the White House or Congressional websites (http://www.whitehouse.gov, http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov). Over time, it is likely that some of these issues may have become “old news” or lost their relevancy. If that is the case, the teacher may wish to generalize these into less specific topics, or may wish to substitute more recent topics. (Note: If the teacher elects to have students search for examples of persuasive speeches, be aware that sites such as YouTube contain content that may be controversial and unfiltered.)
Next, have students think about an instance where government (school or local, state, or national) has focused on an issue or event, and needed to generate support. Mention that in order to “sell” this message to the public, officials would use various persuasive techniques. Have students view the techniques at the CopyBlogger site (http://www.copyblogger.com/persuasive-‐‑writing), or print the contents on the page and review it with the students.
Using this information, have students write a quick promotional message (approximately a paragraph) that would encouraged an audience to support the government program or initiative they identified. The message should incorporate two of the persuasive techniques described in the “CopyBlogger” handout. They can present these to the class or post online at Padlet.
After students have had a chance to review all the presentations, follow up with these debriefing questions:
- Summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the promotional messages.
- What parts of the promotional message were intended to promote or gain the public’s support?
- What type of audience was the message aimed at?
- Was there a persuasive writing technique used more than others in the messages?
- What was it and why do you think this was used so much? Do you think the intended audience received the message? Why or why not?
The teacher should divide the class into groups of approximately five students. Distribute the handout “How FDR Used Radio to Ease the Public’s Fears.” Either read aloud the introduction or display it on the front board.
Make one copy of the “Video Analysis Organizer” for each student to complete while watching the three clips. Tell them that they will first analyze three clips from The Roosevelts: An Intimate History that feature several FDR Fireside Chats in order understand the topics FDR spoke about and the speech techniques he used.
Explain that they should pay close attention to FDR’s speaking style and the organization of his chat. This will assist them in developing the tone, flavor, and impact of their own “chat” podcast. (Note: If pressed for time, the teacher can have student groups view the clips and complete the organizer as homework.) Encourage students to view clips multiple times as needed in order to effectively complete the graphic organizer.
Once the groups have completed their organizers, bring the class together and have the groups recall from the video clips what they heard FDR say in the speeches. Review the following debriefing questions with the class.
- Cite examples of where FDR’s Fireside Chats promoted his programs and gained public support.
- What persuasive techniques from CopyBlogger did you hear FDR use in his speeches? Why do you think they were effective for people in the 1930s?
- Describe several reasons why you think the radio was such an effective commination tool in the 1930s. What would be a comparable communication tool or tools in the 21st century?
- Do you think FDR’s fireside chats changed policy on the New Deal and the entry into World War II? Explain your answer.
When class discussion on the organizer is complete, direct students to the “Creating Your ‘Fireside Chat’ Podcast” handout. Tell students that they will research information on a New Deal or entry into World War II topic and create a podcast formulated around a Fireside Chat speech.
Project the list of topics (below) on the front board or create a handout for students. Have each group select, or assign them, a topic for their podcast. Carefully review the podcast criteria, the “Podcast Information Organizer”, the “Podcast Storyboard”, and the “Fireside Chat Resources” with students to assist them in their research and development of the podcast. Tell students they will be evaluated on how well they follow the criteria.
Once the podcasts are complete, the teacher should allow time for each group to present their podcast to the other groups in the class. (The teacher may elect to have the class critique each podcast for historical accuracy and effectiveness.) If possible, the teacher may also wish to have the podcasts stored in an online repository for download by others, including the public.
New Deal Topics:
- Banking crisis
- Farming crisis (and the Dust Bowl)
- Relief efforts and make-‐‑work projects
- Work relief (both adults and youth)
- Industrial recovery and the NRA
- Housing recovery (HOLC, FHA, etc.)
- Supreme Court reform (court packing)
- Roosevelt “Coalition” and 1936 election campaign
- New Deal “agitators”
- Social Security
- Securities and exchange reform
- Consumer safety reform (pure food and drug legislation)
- Worker/management relations (collective bargaining)
- Flood control and land revitalization (Tennessee Valley Authority)
Topics Related to World War II/American Entry into the War:
- Lend-‐‑Lease program
- Atlantic Charter
- “Four Freedoms”
- FDR’s third term (1940 campaign)
- Pearl Harbor
- Selective Service (the “draft”)
- Home front issues (war bonds, sacrifice, industrial production)
- Battle campaigns
- Wartime conferences (Casablanca, Yalta, etc.)
At the conclusion of the project, the teacher should evaluate students on the following:
- Active participation during discussions and activities.
- Completion of notes from the video viewing activity.
- Students’ podcasts, using a suitable rubric. An example rubric that can either be used “as is” or adapted for a particular class is included at the end of the lesson.
- Have students listen to the current president’s weekly address found at the White House website (http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-‐‑ room/weekly-‐‑address) and write a compare-‐‑and-‐‑contrast essay analyzing the current president’s tone and effectiveness with FDR’s Fireside Chats.
- Have students develop podcasts on current issues using the same framework instructions contained in the “Creating Your ‘Fireside Chat’ Podcast” handout.
This lesson meets the following standards:
Mid Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) (http://www.mcrel.org/standards-‐‑benchmarks)
Standard 24: Understands how the New Deal addressed the Great Depression, transformed American federalism, and initiated the welfare state
- Level III, Standard 24, Benchmark 3: Understands the factors contributing to the forging of the Roosevelt coalition in 1936 and its electoral significance in subsequent years
- Level III, Standard 24, Benchmark 8: Understands how the New Deal influenced public opinion (e.g., the public’s belief in the responsibility of government to deliver public services)
- Level IV, Standard 24, Benchmark 1: Understands the first and second New Deals (e.g., the success of the relief, recovery, and reform measures associated with each)
- Level IV, Standard 24, Benchmark 3: Understands how the New Deal influenced labor and employment (e.g., the impact of the New Deal on non-‐‑union workers; factors contributing to the success of the CIO leadership in organizing the rubber, auto, and steelworkers in the period 1937-‐‑1941; labor’s commitment to organizing; causes, strategies, and leadership of major strikes during the New Deal; the effects of the New Deal agricultural programs on farm laborers)
- Level IV, Standard 24, Benchmark 4: Understands influences on the New Deal (e.g., Supreme Court cases related to the New Deal and Roosevelt’s response to the rulings; the class basis for support and opposition to the New Deal in the Northeast, South, Midwest, and Far West)
- Level IV, Standard 24, Benchmark 5: Understands the significance and ideology of FDR and the New Deal (e.g., whether the New Deal was able to solve the problems of The Depression, who the New Deal helped the most and the least; how the New Deal changed the relationship between state and federal government)
Standard 25: Understands the causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the US role in world affairs
- Level IV, Standard 25, Benchmark 3: Understands President Roosevelt’s ideas and policies during World War II (e.g., Roosevelt Administration’s wartime diplomacy among the Allied powers, the ideas presented in his Four Freedoms speech)
- Level IV, Standard 25, Benchmark 4: Understands how World War II influenced the home front (e.g., the impact on science, medicine, and technology; how Americans viewed their achievements and global responsibilities at the war’s end; how minorities contributed to the war effort and the contradiction between their treatment at home and the goals that they were fighting for in Europe; the effects of the relocation centers on Japanese American families)
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards:
- W.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
- W.7: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
Comprehension and Collaboration:
- SL.1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
- SL.3: Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
- SL.5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Speaking and Listening:
- SL.11-‐‑12.1: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-‐‑on-‐‑one, in groups, and teacher-‐‑led) with diverse partners on grades 11-‐‑12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
- SL.11-‐‑12.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
- SL.11-‐‑12.5: Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
English Language Arts Standards: History/Social Studies:
- CCSS.ELA-‐‑Literacy.RH.9-‐‑10.1: Cite specific evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
- CCSS.ELA-‐‑Literacy.RH.9-‐‑10.5: Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
- CCSS.ELA-‐‑Literacy.RH.11-‐‑12.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
- CCSS.ELA-‐‑Literacy.RH.11-‐‑12.5: Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
Handout: New Deal Podcast Rubric
|Category||Excellent (10-‐‑8)||Good (7-‐‑5)||Fair (4-‐‑3)||Poor (2-‐‑0)||Group Score|
|Research||All sections of the criteria were present in the podcast and indicate strong mastery of the material.||Most of the criteria were completed, showing reasonable mastery of the material.||Approximately half of the criteria was addressed, showing some mastery of material.||Less than half of the criteria was addressed, showing little or no mastery of material.|
|Persuasiveness||Podcast includes three or more persuasive writing techniques.||Podcast includes two persuasive writing techniques.||Podcast includes one to two persuasive writing techniques.||Little evidence of persuasive writing techniques.|
|Organization||Podcast runs smoothly; high level of organization shown according to framework.||Podcast generally runs smoothly; good organization shown.||Podcast generally runs smoothly; average level of organization shown.||Podcast does not run smoothly; little organizational skill shown.|
|Aesthetics||Podcast is appealing and eye-‐‑ catching as stated in framework.||Podcast is relatively engaging.||Podcast is engaging on an average level.||Podcast is neither appealing nor engaging.|
|Originality||Significant evidence of original thought and invention as stated in framework.||Some originality shown; still includes a large amount of others’ ideas.||Little originality shown; work is a rehash of others’ ideas.||No evidence of originality or uniqueness shown.|
|Other Criteria as Developed by Teacher|
Handout: Video Analysis Organizer
View the three clips from the film The Roosevelts: An Intimate History that highlight and explain the impact of the Fireside Chats. As you watch, answer the questions in the organizer to help you understand the of how FDR effectively used radio to get his message across.
As your group views the three clips, look for the ways FDR used radio as a persuasive tool in order to promote the New Deal policies and inform the public about events leading up to and during World War II. You’ll want to look for historical facts, but even more important, look for persuasive cues—tone of voice, speaking style and mannerisms, rhetoric, wording of phrases, etc.—that the president used to help get his message across and convince Americans to support him. To help you find these cues, refer back to CopyBlogger handout.
|Clip #1: FDR explains the banking crisis (1933)
Episode 5 (“The Rising Road”): INTRO: 10:56 (William Leuchtenburg, “Five thousand banks have failed…)
EXIT 17:13 (approx.) (Newsreel Announcer: “The leader leads and the nation heeds.”)
|What is the significance/relevance of the term “fireside chat?”||Explain Jonathan Alter’s point comparing FDR’s speaking style with “crooning”, and Roosevelt’s “new relationship” with his audience.|
|Review Alter’s example of FDR relating to the people in regards to “hording.” Explain whether this is a good example of Roosevelt’s relationship with his audience?||Using information from the clip, describe the clip’s psychological impact.|
|Clip #2: The President discusses World War II progress (1942)
Episode 6 (“The Common Cause”): INTRO: 1:14:37 (Narrator: “On the Pacific Front, bad news was everywhere…” EXIT: 1:18:41 (FDR: “We Americans will contribute unified…”)
|Why would FDR ask Americans to follow this fireside chat by using a map? What impact might this have?||Provide examples from the clip that explains how FDR instilled confidence in the American people through his Fireside Chats.|
|Roosevelt refused to make a larger number of fireside chats. Explain whether you think this was a good strategy on his part and for his audience.|
|Clip #3: FDR leads the nation in prayer on D-Day (1944)
Episode 7 (“A Strong and Active Faith”): INTRO: 12:48 (Narrator: “The world had waited nearly thirty months…).
EXIT: 15:50 (“…and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph…”)
|James Roosevelt called his father a “frustrated clergyman.” Based on what you see and hear in the clip, do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?|
|Review FDR’s D-Day Prayer Fireside Chat in the video clip. Provide a review, much like a movie review, of the speech’s impact on the American public. Comment on the words used and the persuasive techniques used to inform and inspire the American people.|
Handout: Creating your “Fireside Chat” Podcast
To begin producing your podcast, pick a topic from the list your teacher provides, work on the topic your teacher assigns you, or work with your teacher for another topic that fits the scope of the era (1933-1945).
Once you’ve selected a topic, research the facts following the criteria below:
- An introduction to the audience (for example, FDR would frequently use the phrase “my friends” to start his fireside chats, and then a short introduction as to what the purpose of the chat was… “I want to talk to you about banking” was the subject of his first chat, in March, 1933.)
- A description of the problem the group is addressing in the podcast. For example, if the group is addressing work relief, they should find some statistics regarding unemployment, the number of jobs lost, or other information related to persons not being able to work.
- A description of what the New Deal had done (or planned to do) to solve the problem and its impact on economic policy.
- Use of two to three persuasive writing techniques in the podcast.
- Unless your teacher directs otherwise, your podcast should last 3-5 minutes.
- Pictures and/or related sound files that may be used in the podcast (for example, FDR giving a speech or a photo of a related New Deal project, such as the WPA, CCC, etc.)
- Any other material the group feels appropriate to include. (Your teacher may have other requirements for the podcast as well.)
Use the Podcast Information Organizer to help you keep track of information you want to use, as well as complete the storyboard to script the podcast. Use additional sheets of paper, if necessary.
Fireside Chat Resources:
Here are some online resources but don’t forget to look at print sources (books, encyclopedias, etc.) to help you as well.
Web site for “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the- roosevelts/
Film clip for the Ken Burns film, “The War” which highlights radio broadcasts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for a declaration of war against Japan on December 8, 1941. (http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/explore/detail/2983)
“Inkling Media” “Seven Reasons Why FDR Was a Social Media Pioneer” (http://inklingmedia.net/2009/12/16/7-reasons-fdr-was-a-social-media-pioneer/#.U0BOz8fg97M)
American Experience, “FDR” (includes transcript from that film) (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/fdr/)
General FDR/New Deal/Events Leading to World War II Resources:
“The Roosevelts: An Intimate History”: http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/roosevelts
New Deal Network: http://newdeal.feri.org/
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (Library of Congress): http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timelin e/depwwii/newdeal/
The Living New Deal: https://livingnewdeal.berkeley.edu/resources/what-was-the-new-deal/
Interactive Periodic Table of the New Deal: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/education/resources/periodictable.html
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/
C-SPAN “American Presidents: Life Portraits” FDR page: http://www.americanpresidents.org/presidents/president.asp?PresidentNumber=31
POTUS FDR page: http://www.potus.com/fdroosevelt.html
National Archives “Documents Relating to FDR and Churchill” (Teaching With Documents): http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/fdr-churchill/
FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/content/fdr- 4freedoms-speech.html
Apple GarageBand support page: http://www.apple.com/support/garageband/
Podcasting with GarageBand (pdf file): http://www.users.miamioh.edu/warrencn/DLI/podcast_garageband_doc_final6-22-07.pdf
Audacity download page: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Audacity Podcast tutorial: http://www.how-to-podcast-tutorial.com/17-audacity-tutorial.htm Learning in Hand Podcasting page: http://learninginhand.com/podcasting/
Podcasting Tools Web site: http://www.podcasting-tools.com/
Mashable.com Podcasting Tools Web site: http://mashable.com/2007/07/04/podcasting-toolbox/
Tech-Ease Podcasting tutorial videos: http://etc.usf.edu/te_mac/movies/podcasting.html
EdTechTeacher “Teaching History with Technology” Podcasting page: http://thwt.org/index.php/presentations-multimedia/podcasts
Persuasive writing and speaking resources:
Read-Write-Think “Developing Persuasive Writing Strategies” (http://www.readwritethink.org/professional-development/strategy-guides/developing- persuasive-writing-strategies-30965.html)
Copyblogger “Ten Timeless Persuasive Writing Techniques” (http://www.copyblogger.com/persuasive-writing)
Writetodone “A Step-by-Step Approach to Persuasive Writing” (http://writetodone.com/a-step- by-step-approach-to-persuasive-writing/)
|Podcast Information Organizer|
|Information collected on the problem being addressed. Include the introduction to the podcast as well as sound files and pictures.|
|Information on what the New Deal had done (or planned to do) to address the problem.|
|Web Resource Citation Information.|
|How information will be used to persuade the audience (Use 2-3 persuasive techniques that you studied in the resources. Make sure podcast lasts at least 3 min.|
Handout: Podcast Storyboard
Use the storyboard blocks below to map out the different aspects of your podcast. You may want to use additional copies of this sheet if needed.