- Discuss the U.S. economy, society, and politics in the years following World War II.
- Explore the boom in advertising during this period by reviewing print advertisements from the late 1940s and early 1950s.
- Analyze a print ad from the period and compare it to an ad for a similar product today.
- After watching
World War II: Causes and Consequences
, review the U.S. economy, society, and politics in the years following World War II. To spark discussion, write the terms below on the chalkboard and ask students: What does each of these terms communicate about post-war America in the late 1940s and early 1950s? In what ways was this a time of prosperity and hope? What were some of the challenges the nation faced? Answers may include the following:
- Cold War
- arms race
- baby boom
- assembly lines
- vacuum cleaners
- G.I. Bill
- labor camps
- Discuss the role of advertising during this era. Ask students: Why did Dick Manoff want a career in advertising after the war? What made this an exciting time for advertising in America? What were some of the new products being advertised?
- Explain that students will explore advertisements from the late 1940s and early 1950s. Like all advertisements, these showcase a society's latest products and technology. They also reflect the society's values and common stereotypes. (With older students, you may want to discuss this topic further, sparking conversation with a few advertisements from recent papers and magazines.)
- Show and discuss a few examples of late 1940s and early 1950s print advertisements from the following Web sites. (Be sure to select examples from after 1945.) Ask students: What do each of these ads tell you about U.S. society at the time?
- Now have students work with a partner to browse the two Web sites and select an advertisement to analyze. (To narrow their focus and ensure diversity, you may want to assign each pair of students a different Web site section.) Have the pairs print the ad using a color printer and then write a short analysis that answers the following questions:
- What product is being advertised?
- Who is the target audience?
- How is the product described? What features are highlighted?
- What claims does the ad make? What does it promise the product will provide the buyer? (For example: comfort, excitement, popularity, beauty, praise, prestige?)
- Does this ad use symbols or stereotypes to sell the product? If so, which ones?
- Does this ad give any evidence or proof to support its claims? If so, what is it?
- What other information is included in the ad? (For example, was the product's price included?) Was there any information you found interesting or surprising?
- What does the ad indicate about the U.S. in the post-war years?
- Do you think this ad would be effective for a similar product today? Why or why not?
- Next, have the student pairs find a print advertisement for a similar product from a current magazine or newspaper. Have them write a second analysis, first answering the previous questions and then the following ones:
- How are the two advertisements similar?
- How are they different? (For example, do they make similar claims for the buyer? Do they use different symbols or stereotypes to sell the product?)
- Have students present their post-war and modern-day ads to the class. Discuss what the ads convey about the post-war era, as well as how life then differed from life today in the U.S.
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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
Three points: Students helped define and discuss several terms from post-war America; wrote informative, thoughtful analyses about their selected ads that answered all of the questions.
Two points: Students helped define and discuss some terms from post-war America; wrote clear, complete analyses about their selected ads that answered most of the questions.
One point: Students did not help define and discuss the terms from post-war America; wrote incomplete or vague analyses about their selected ads that answered few or none of the questions.
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Definition:A competition between countries for the most weapons
Context:As nuclear technology advanced, the United States and the Soviet Union waged an arms race. Each country wanted to have more firepower than the other.
Definition:A large and sudden increase in the birth rate in America between 1946 and 1964
Context:Greg Manoff was born in New York City in 1945, making him part of the baby boom generation.
Definition:A period of intense rivalry that developed after World War II between groups of communist and non-communist nations, most notably the Soviet Union and the U.S.
Context:The Berlin Wall stood for nearly 30 years, separating the oppressed from the free and symbolizing the deep divisions that split the world during the Cold War.
Definition:A political and economic system in which all means of production are owned by a single party; a social system in which property and goods are owned in common
Context:As World War II drew to a close, the political and economic system of communism took hold in parts of Europe.
Definition:The area at the outer edges of a city or town
Context:Suburbia was a new word in the 1950s. It sounded like a foreign country, and for some Americans it was.
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Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visithttp://www.mcrel.org/.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
- U.S. History: Era 8-Understands the causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs
- U.S. History: Era 9-Understands the economic boom and social transformation of post-World War II United States; Understands how the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics
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The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go tohttp://www.socialstudies.org
This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards:
- Time, Continuity, and Change
- Power, Authority, and Governance
- Production, Distribution, and Consumption
- Science, Technology, and Society
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