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Life During the Nifty Fifties - Was it really all that Nifty?

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
4 separate lessons over a 4 day period
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
This unit will engage the students in discussions, independent reflection with written summaries, research, and others to guide students to answer the question, was life during the fifties really nifty?

This week long unit, including a minimum of 4 lessons, will engage the students in discussions, independent reflection with written summaries, research, and others to guide students to answer the question, was life during the fifties really 'nifty'?

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

Students will become familiar with the 14th amendment and how it is relevant to their lives.

Students to understand impact of Truman's presidency and how it helped to establish human rights across diverse groups of people.

Lesson Objectives - the student will

Become familiar with the 14th Amendment and how it impacts life in today's society

Students will relate to the struggles of women, African Americans and immigrants through Socratic


Test their hypothesis regarding the writing of the 14th Amendment in their own words and revise as the unit lessons develop.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met


lb3 Explain the relevance and connection of constitutional principles in the following documents:

3.             Amendments to Constitution (DOK3)


2A Explain the importance of the following principles of government within the context of US H istory from Reconstruction to the present: (DOK2)

1.            majority rule and minority rights

2.             constitution and civil rights

3.            checks and balances


3al Anayl ze the evolution of American democracy, its ideas,institutions and political processes,including:

1.         Constitution and amendments

2.        struggle for dvil rights

3.   expanding role of government



6N Predict the consequences that can occur when:

1.             institutions fail to meet the needs of individuals and groups

2.              individuals fail to carry out their personal responsibilities


Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed

The American Promise A History of the United States Third Edition.  Copyright 2005 by


Nifty Fifties Scavenger Hunt       from The Johns Hopkins University.  http//

Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

Over the course of a week, a minimum of four class periods, the students will be engaged in discussions, research, analysis of life during 1950’s society, with an emphasis on the theory of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The teacher will model, facilitate and lead discussions and activities.




5 Minute Warm-up


Truman and Equal Rights


Post the 14th Amendment on the board, beside the 14th Amendment instruct students to read the amendment and re-write  the amendment in your own words. Explain how this amendment impacts your life.



"Ok, Let’s discuss our warm-up. Does anyone know the background of this amendment?" (Students should discuss the Civil War, Reconstruction,)

"So what does this amendment really say?" (Students should discuss everyone is free or equal, that no can hold anyone without a trial, and that those rights are protected by the law.) Help students understand the meaning of born or naturalized citizens.  Discuss the phrase "abridge the privileges of citizens."

"Now someone tell me how this amendment pertains to you personally." (Give each

student an opportunity to answer."

Finish the discussion with the continued  struggle of women, African Americans and

immigrants.  Bring up the Supreme Court opinion in 1892, Plessy v. Ferguson. Homer Plessy, a thirty-year  old shoemaker, was a mix of "seven-eights white and one-eights  black.." On a trip on the East Louisiana Railroad, Plessy was told to sit in the "colored" car. He protested in a suit that made it all the way to the Supreme Court.The case was based on interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which gives all United States citizens "equal rights and protections" under the law and makes those rights apply to all states. Unfortunately, the court se the separate but equal precedent that would have an impact for over eighty years.

The United States continued to be separate but equal through the 20s, and two world wars.

The 1950s were marked by prosperity and pop culture, the decade had its dark side

as well. Prejudice against Black Americans was present They could not eat or at White establishments such as dinners or hotels. In the South, bathrooms and drinking fountains were segregated. This angered African Americans, If they were equal under the law, how could they be prevented from taking a sip of water from a water fountain? Even black baseball players such as Jackie Robinson were not permitted to stay at the same hotels as their white teammates.

The 1950s were also a turning point in the road for equal rights for all so we are

going to focus the Nifty Fifties to learn more about this pivotal period in history.



Let’s start with a Scavenger Hunt to help us learn about the 1950s. To receive credit for your answer you must cite your sources record where the answer came from,

example: website, books, include authors, page numbers, issues when available.





You will be given two class periods to complete this assignment. You can work in groups and share answers to help you learn. Try to discover answers on your own using the internet, asking family and neighbors and going to the library. Use your groups to discuss your findings, and fill in blank spots. Good Luck.


1. Who was the president of the United States in 1956?


2. Who was the president of the United States in 1950?


3.Who was General Douglas MacArthur? What did he do in the 1950s?


4. Who was Ralph J. Bunche?


5. The minimum wage in 1950 was $.75 an hour. What is the minimum wage today? How much would you make per hour today if you worked for McDonald’s?

6. Who was Ben Hogan? Name his sport!


7. The Twenty Second Amendment was adopted  in 1951. What was the purpose of the Twenty Second Amendment? Why is that important today?

8. Who was Adlai Stevenson?


9. Who were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg?


10. Who was Rocky Marciano?


11. What was a hula hoop?


12. Who was/is Sam Snead?


13. Who wasjis Little Richard?


14. What were some television programs in the late 1950s?


15. Could you purchase a PC computer in the 1950s? Why or why not?



16. What kinds of cars were popular during the 1950s? Where were the gearshifts? Did all cars have air conditioning?


17. Who was Alfred Hitchcock?


18. Who was Ernest Hemingway?


19. Did Coca Cola exist in the 1950s?


20. Who became president after Eisenhower?


5 minute warm-up

Have students do a quick write:




"I was wondering how the tragedies  against certain christian  women, children, and men in Iraq today are similar to the injustice against women and minorities during the 1950’s"


Use the Discussion Web graphic organizer to guide the development of this discussion. Students are to spend a few minutes in self-reflection before joining groups of no more than four for a group discussion.


Groups would come together  after 20 minutes to discuss as a class.


The teacher should purposefully include in the discussion the following question; "What surprised you most from the Nifty Fifties Scavenger Hunt?


Discussion web -

Source: Alvermann, D.E. (1991). The discussion web: A graphic aid for learning across the curriculum. The Reading Teacher, 45(2), 92-99.

Classroom Strategies jot· Interactive Learning (3rd eel.) by Doug Buehl © 2009. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. May be copied for classroom use.

5 minute warm-up




Have students write a paragraph discussing their feelings "you are playing in the park and get hot. You walk to the water fountain for a drink How you feel if there were two fountains, and you could drink from only one.?



From Socratic circle, choose five kids for inside ring to start  discussion.  Rest of class forms out