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1950's Dream Car


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Keywords: Flip Video, video, social studies, 1950's, advertising, Cold War
Subject(s): Technology, Business, Social Studies, History
Grades 8 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Westlake Middle School, Erie, PA
Planned By: Kevin Jones
Original Author: Kevin Jones, Erie
Day 1- Students will analyze the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (1956) using the source analysis sheet from the National Archives and watch short a DVD clip from The Century America's Time: Episode 9 "Happy Days" or America: History of Us: Episode 11 "Then and Now" to see and hear about the impact of the building the interstate Highway System using authentic archival footage and first person accounts. Students will then complete the Route 66 song lyrics and DBQ questions sheet and discuss the answers in a class discussion tied to the Enduring Understandings (EU's): 1.) Post-WWII Americans used their newly acquired wealth to purchase a variety of new consumer goods (suburban homes, cars, television etc...) 2.) The technological innovations of WWII coupled with the lack of buying opportunities (Great Depression and WWII rationing) created an intense desire for consumer goods after the Second World War.
and the Essential Questions (EQ's) 1.) To what extent did 1950's materialism and excess consumption become an unchallenged way of American life? 2.) How did technology (television/automobile) produce a new way of life for Post-WWII Americans?


Day 2- Students will watch a short clip of the movie Cars and complete the motion picture analysis worksheet and then analyze Eisenhower Political Cartoon and Transfusion Song lyrics with source analysis worksheets from the National Archives to gauge the impact: both positive and negative of building the Interstate System focusing on aspects of our culture that became outdated because of the change and the aspects that were propagated because of it.

Day 3- Introduce Dream Car assignment by creating student groups (heterogeneous groups of 4-6 students works best due to the volume of work) and assigning the fictional families. Each student will design his/her own car for their group to consider as the car for sale as independent work or homework for the next class.

Day 4- The group will select one of the cars as the group's car for sale. The students will use a now/then comparison sheet to brainstorm what the car should look like and contain and begin to complete the spreadsheets for the budget, mortgage, and auto loan based on the data they were given.

Days 5, 6, and 7- Students groups will work on and finish the spreadsheets and begin to create the brochures and commercials using any software or medium they desire. They must be sure to follow the specifications regarding a slogan and other advertising techniques. They are free to record their commercials in any format/application after shooting their footage and downloading it onto the computer from the “Flip“ video camcorders. Students may also use the Duke University’s Ad Access website (http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/adaccess/) to view sample commercials as exemplars from the 1950’s to gather ideas for their work.

Days 8 and if needed 9- Student groups will be given DVD blank disc and burn their finished commercials for viewing. Using a scoring rubric as a checklist the students will be given one last chance to check their work before submitting it for assessment. The commercials are assessed based on the students' economic understanding of what the family could afford demonstrated through the loan papers, spreadsheets, and budget material. The teacher generally assesses these items outside of class, but usually plays the DVD commercial in class and assesses the use of advertising techniques, overall effectiveness, quality of the video, and special additions (music, special effects, voice-overs, etc...).

Day 10- Finish any unviewed commercials and have the student groups review their work and complete a short self-evaluation and group evaluation focusing on what they did well and the areas they could improve as well as what they've learned and how it applies to their lives today.

As with any lesson, it is important to differentiate based on student needs, student ability, available time and resources, computer access, and other pertinent issues. The focus can be shifted to almost any era in history from Ancient Egypt to today with just some minor tweaking.

Materials: Video Cameras, Flash Memory Camcorders, Flip Video, DVD Camcorder, Video Tools, Tripods, Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Sound Libraries