American Presidents

Franklin D. Roosevelt American Presidents Teacher Guide

Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Beacon in the White House
Oct 11, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary level

This teacher guide was developed by C-SPAN Champion Teacher Joe Emerson who teaches at Grafton Middle School, York County, Virginia. C-SPAN is provided to his area by Cox.

The students will be able to:

  • Evaluate and analyze the life of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Demonstrate how the childhood, adolescence, and early adult years influence public policy leaders.
  • List the lasting contributions of the Roosevelt administration.


  • Television/VCR
  • Tape recorder
  • Videotape of C-SPAN's American Presidents program featuring Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Audiotape of a fireside chat
  • A picture/portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Time Frame: 1 1/2-2 blocks of instructional time for anticipatory set, viewing C-SPAN programming, and going over student answers. 2-3 more additional blocks may be needed for the follow-up activity.

Before Viewing American Presidents
Part 1

Obtain a tape of Franklin D. Roosevelt giving one of his "fireside chats". Play the speech for the students twice. After hearing the presentation, have them write a short essay hypothesizing about the characteristics of the speaker, the events which led to the delivery of the speech, when the speech was delivered and what effect it had on the American people.

Have students volunteer to read their essays and discuss the answers.

Part 2
Show the class a silhouette of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Ask the following questions:
1. Do you recognize the figure?
2. Would like to change your answers to Part 1?

Inform the students that the speaker and silhouette are the same person - Franklin D. Roosevelt. Tell students they will view C-SPAN's American Presidents program featuring Franklin D. Roosevelt. Distribute and review the study guide, to be completed with information from the program.

While Viewing American Presidents
Directions: Answer the following questions with information from the program.

1. What was Franklin D. Roosevelt's relationship with his parents? Give an example of how Franklin D. Roosevelt defied his mother's wishes regarding marriage and politics.

2. Analyze how the following politicians influenced Franklin D. Roosevelt's political thinking:

  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • James Cox
  • Al Smith
3. Describe the marriage of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. What were some of the obstacles they faced and how did the couple overcome them?

4. How did Franklin D. Roosevelt react to his paralysis? How did his family assist him during his campaigns for governor of New York and president?

5. What hobby did Franklin D. Roosevelt have throughout his lifetime?

6. What was the New Deal? What were some of its programs? In what ways was it considered successful? In what ways was it considered a failure?

7. Describe Franklin D. Roosevelt's relationship with his Vice Presidents. Were they well informed about public policy decisions? What kind of influence did they have? Explain.

8. How did Franklin D. Roosevelt inspire the American public to overcome fear? How was President Roosevelt's life before his presidency a metaphor for his administration?

After Viewing American Presidents
Review the study guide of questions to ensure accuracy and elicit student opinion.

Additional Activity
Organize the students in groups to develop a list of hypothetical interview questions eliciting information from each of the following people:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Harry Truman
  • A senior citizen who remembers Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration
  • An unemployed worker in the 1930's/40's
  • A farmer who has lost land in the 1930's/40's

Once the interview questions have been developed, the groups will exchange questions and research possible answers using the internet and other sources. Perhaps students can obtain permission to visit a local nursing home and conduct a series of interviews with the residents focusing on Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Great Depression. If this is not feasible invite a well-known leader of the community who can speak to this topic to your class.

After each group has researched their answers, simulate a roundtable discussion, in the style of C-SPAN's Washington Journal and summarize and discuss all findings.

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