Goals and Objectives--Grades 9 - 12
Voices and Choices--Bonnie Johnson
Note: It is a good idea to print
Level Three for easy reference.
Bonnie Johnson is the sole provider for her
family after her father loses his job in 1931 and is unable to
regain it due to the Depression. She must decide whether to marry
her fiancé, Chuck, now or to wait until he is making enough
money to support her and help her parents out
These themes can be explored with either a social studies or
language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other
resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other
cultures, students' own lives.
- Surviving tough economic times by supporting and working
together with the people who make up your family.
- The Great Depression and its effect on the American
These questions, which come at the end of each story (minus "the
answer"), can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as
What is the significance of October 29, 1929, Black Teusday?
On October 29, 1929, the U.S. stock market plummeted and the
U.S. lost 30 billion dollars. In that one day the U.S. stock
markets lost as much as the U.S. government had spent on World War
What hardships do you imagine Bonnie and her family face now
that hers is the only household income?
We don't know what kind of income Bonnie's father earned at
Monarch Electric. We can only assume that to lose the father's
income was an economic setback for this family. They were lucky in
that the parents owned their home in Oak Park. Bonnie's meager
salary of $100 a month could be used for food, utilities, and
What sacrifices does Bonnie have to make for her parents?
Bonnie continues to live at home. She works and gives her salary
to her mother, who manages the household. Economically, they work
together as a team. We can only imagine that they gave each other
emotional and psychological support as well.
Can you describe her lifestyle? What does she do for fun? What
kind of person does she seem to be?
Bonnie lives at home, works at the public library and sees her
fiancé every weekend. They go out Saturday night to a movie
or to the theater, and on Sunday they stay at home. She seems to be
a loyal daughter and girlfriend. In many ways, she seems mature for
her age, having accepted the responsibility for financially
supporting her parents and putting off her own desire to marry.
What do you imagine your lifestyle will be like when you reach
This could lead to a good discussion about how lifestyles have
changed from Bonnie's time. Some students may expect to be very
independent in their 20s while others may see themselves in college
or graduate school, still depending on their parent's financial
Why doesn't Bonnie want to get married? How is her parent's
well-being wrapped up in her decision? Would you make such a
sacrifice for your parents?
Students' answers will probably vary. Some students may already
be helping their family out financially. Other students may not
have considered having to take responsibility one day for their
parents' well-being. This kind of role-reversal, where the child
becomes responsible for the parent and the parent depends on the
child, may be very threatening to some students.
Do you think her decision to hold off getting married is a wise
one? Was her decision based on emotion or on reason?
Bonnie seems to act on reason. She never really tells us how she
These are suggested classroom activities and student projects
that you may want to use with your students or as models to create
The following activities analyze the private impact of public
- The Great Depression
- World War II
Each of these events affected the lives of nearly everyone in
society. Are there contemporary events that have ramifications for
everyone? Listed below are World Wide Web resources for the Great
Depression and World War II. Remember to "bookmark" this
website so you can easily return.
1. Oral Interview
The purpose of this interview is to find out what the Great
Depression was like for people living at that time.
Interview your parents, grandparents, or older members of your
community about the Great Depression and their memories of life at
this time. You might ask them the following kinds of questions:
- How did the Depression affect you and your family
- How did the Depression affect you and your family
- What types of sacrifices did you or your family have to
- After the depression ended, what was the attitude towards
- Can you compare what America is like today with what it was
like when you were growing up?
You can read other oral interviews with people who lived through
the Depression at:
2. What is Prohibition?
Compare the impact of Prohibition of the 1920s to the
contemporary prohibition on drugs. You can present your comparison
in a number of ways:
- As an essay
- As charts which show government spending on the prohibition of
alcohol from 1920 - 1930 and government spending on prohibition of
drugs from 1980 - 1990
- As a poster for or against the prohibition of alcohol in the
1920s or a contemporary poster for or against the prohibition of
- As a proposition to the U.S. government to put a prohibition on
3. What is poverty?
Compare the financial hardship of the Johnsons with the relative
security of your own family. With the main income earner out of
work, the Johnsons fell into near poverty. How near or far are you
- Using census records that you can find at your local library,
determine the medium income of those living in poverty in your part
of the country or state.
- Construct a rough budget for your family.
What if the main earner in your family became disabled,
unemployed, or somehow incapable of work. How long could your
family continue in your present lifestyle? What adjustments would
you have to make to your family budget?
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