Lesson One: President Coolidge Honors Edison (1-2 class periods)
Direct students to the student section of this lesson: President Coolidge Honors Edison.
Students analyze a speech by President Calvin Coolidge.
- Students may work individually or in groups.
- Class discussion of student findings and conclusions is essential.
- Be sure students cite examples to support their responses.
Lesson Two: Edison's Role in the Electrification of America (2-3 class periods)
Direct students to the student section of this lesson: Edison's Role in the Electrification of America.
Students focus on the life of Thomas Edison. The timeline activity could be an entire class project and displayed in the classroom.
This activity works well if student groups work on different sections of the project.
- Provide students with an example such as vaudeville. Explain how vaudeville influenced popular vocal recordings. Play excerpts to demonstrate how each recording sounded. For some genres, provide copies of the words with an analysis.
You may want to use the collections American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920 and African American Sheet Music, 1850-1920.
- Assign groups to each of the seven genres of Edison Diamond Disc recordings. (See Overview of Edison Disc Recordings by Genre.)
- Each group prepares a presentation for the class, incorporating selected portions of various recordings and an analysis and explanation of each genre.
- Assign groups of students to specific sections of:
- Assign presentations to each group. The presentations should provide:
- a brief summary of an aspect of Edison movie history.
- an analysis of one of the film genres.
Lesson Three: Merchandising and Advertising (1-2 class periods)
Direct students to the student section of this lesson: Merchandising and Advertising.
- Advertisement Gallery: Assign students to work in pairs for written and oral work on each advertisement.
Lesson Four: Women and the Mass Consumer Society (2-3 class periods)
Direct students to the student section of this lesson: Women and the Mass Consumer Society.
- Read the Teachers Page Collection Connection, Inventing Entertainment: The Edison Companies.
- Ask students to brainstorm words or phrases based upon electricity that describe human behavior, feelings, emotions, or situations. Some examples are: live wire, charged, dim-witted, bright, shocked, out like a light, plugged in, and recharge your batteries; and words and phrases with a mechanical or electronic/computer focus: screw loose, zapped, and overloaded circuits.
American Memory provides numerous collections offering interesting and informative material about the era.
- American Leaders Speak, 1918-1920 contains fifty-nine sound recordings of speeches by American leaders from World War I and the 1920 election, including Calvin Coolidge.
- Students may do more in-depth research of the three magazines to further an understanding of the world of the 1920s. The advertisements for other products, such as automobiles, provide interesting comparisons with today's products. Students may analyze the technological and social changes occurring in the increasingly electrified mass-consumer society depicted in the mass circulation magazines.
- Students may read Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, a wonderful novel about the mass-consumer society of the 1920s.
- After completing the activities in this unit students participate in a "talk show" to discuss the various themes of this unit. Guests could include Thomas Edison, and other individuals such as: farm men and women, including teenagers; urban residents with a variety of gender, class, racial, and ethnic characteristics; and business, political, and civic leaders, such as the head of the Chamber of Commerce. Students in the audience prepare questions prior to the show. The teacher acts as host, wandering about the audience, or that role may be assigned to a student.
Questions to consider for discussion:
- The increased emphasis on leisure and entertainment: is it good or bad?
- How has electricity altered people's lives?
- Are there differences in the impact of electricity on men and women's lives?