How did the United States move from isolation to international leadership in a generation?
First edition. June 2006.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the U.S. History Series that summarize key events, people, and terms, as well as underrepresented histories and skill development are available, along with a timeline, on this MIRO BOARD.

Today it is difficult for many students to imagine the tremendous debate in the United States about how to respond to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The debate lasted until the attack on Pearl Harbor and divided Congress, families, and neighbors. Using diverse primary sources and readings, students consider the effects of the end of World War I, the Great Depression, and the challenges to liberal democracy from international socialism and fascism. Students recreate the competing ideas at play in the United States in a role play of the debate in Congress over the Lend-Lease Act. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills and can be completed in one or more periods

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“My students learned a lot and engaged deeply in the discussion in the Isolationism unit.” – Lisa, History and Government Teacher, CT

Part I: After the Great War (1918-1935)

Part I examines the domestic and international legacies of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles. Students also explore the impact of the Great Depression. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) The Great Depression, and 2) Political Geography of the Interwar Period.

Part II: “Isolationism” and Franklin Roosevelt (1935-1941)

Part II explores the leadership of Franklin Roosevelt and the U.S. response to the gathering storm in Asia and Europe. There is one lesson aligned with Part II: Between World Wars.

Part III: Epilogue—The Legacies of FDR and Isolationism

Part III examines the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt and the end of isolationism. There is one lesson aligned with Part III: Listening to FDR.


The Great Depression

Students examine photographs, a Robert Frost poem, one of FDR's Fireside Chats, a series of graphs, and directed questions help gain a broad understanding of the Great Depression and its effects.

Political Geography of the Interwar Period

Students identify major geographical landmarks and connect them to historical events.

Between World Wars

After constructing a timeline, students examine cause and effect relationships between historical events and consider relationships among the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Role-Playing the Three Options

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit, and it asks students to examine three distinct options for U.S. policy in January 1941. Students draw upon primary sources and work cooperatively to recreate the great debate about the Lend-Lease Bill.

Listening to FDR

Students listen to Roosevelt's 1941 'Four Freedoms' Speech and analyze its immediate and long-term implications.

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