Close Reading of the Four Freedoms Illustrations
Students will be introduced to the Four Freedoms which President Roosevelt identified in his 1941 State of the Union Address to Congress. Each of the freedoms will be addressed individually. Through close reading of the illustrations by Norman Rockwell, students will identify details contained in the paintings. They will use these details to make and support inferences reflecting the meaning of the four freedoms in our everyday lives.
The lesson for each illustration should be about 40 minutes and taught over four different days.
Enduring Understandings/ Essential Questions:
- The Four Freedoms are for all citizens of the world.
- President Roosevelt named the Four Freedoms as Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship, And Freedom of Speech.
- The Four Freedoms are reflected in our lives.
- Are the four freedoms named by President Roosevelt relevant today?
- How are the Four Freedoms reflected in your life?
- Do all citizens of the world enjoy these freedoms in the same way?
- What does “freedom” mean to you?
- Four Freedoms
- The lesson for each illustration should be about 40 minutes and taught over four different days.
- Social Studies; Language Arts: Reading
- Freedom; Worship; Want; Fear; Parable; Need; Speech; Citizen
World War II began in 1939. The United States was not involved in the beginning of the war, however, President Franklin Roosevelt believed that the United States would eventually need to play a larger role. In January 1941, he made his speech to Congress. In his speech, President Roosevelt named the Four Freedoms, which he stated are the rights of everyone in the world. After the speech, in an effort to convey the underlying message of the Four Freedoms, the President reached out to the art world for help. Many artists created works to reflect the meaning of these freedoms in the form of paintings, sculptures, prints, musical compositions, and more. Norman Rockwell thought a lot about these ideals. In February and March of 1943, his completed Four Freedoms illustrations were published in The Saturday Evening Post, each along with a related essay. Exceedingly popular at the time and distributed widely as prints and posters, Norman Rockwell's illustrations raised over 132 million dollars toward the war effort through the purchase of war bonds. Prints of Rockwell’s Four Freedoms were given as premiums when people purchased war bonds in varying denominations. His illustrations became the face of the Four Freedoms and they continue to represent the meaning of these freedoms today.
Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms
Norman Rockwell Museum
Franklin D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms
Norman Rockwell Museum
- Handout: President Roosevelt’s Address to Congress, January 1941 (Freedom Speech)
- Four Freedom illustrations and related text
- Chart paper with T-chart labeled “What I see(noticed)/ What I think (can infer)
- Copies of related essays that were published with each illustration
Each of the illustrations should be presented separately. Allow 30 to 40 minutes for the reading and discussion of each illustration. I recommend beginning with the illustration of Freedom from Want.
- Initiating Activity: Distribute a copy of President Roosevelt’s Freedom Speech
- Display the illustration of Freedom from Want.
- Ask students to look carefully at the illustration. Give them a few minutes to do this.
- Turn and Talk: When you feel enough time has passed, have students turn to a person sitting beside them. Ask them to share with each other some of the things they notice in the illustration. As they are sharing, listen in to some of the conversations.
- Have partners share out some of the things they noticed in the picture. Record their responses on chart paper. (Elicit noticings heard during partner talk that are not shared)
- Turn and Talk: When everyone has opportunity to share, have students turn to face their partners again. Tell them to talk to their partner about what they are thinking about the…
- Have partners share their thinking. Record responses on the T-chart. Elicit details from the picture to support their thinking.
- New observations may be contributed as they look closer and are thinking about the details. Add them to the appropriate column on T-Chart.
- Share the origin of the painting and its name. Give as much information as is appropriate for the maturity of the students. At some point, you may want to discuss the use of the word “want” in the title as many students may associate it with things they wish to have rather than “want of necessities” such as food, shelter, family and friends, water, etc. Share with them that there are four paintings in this collection. They will have opportunity to look at the others over the next week (or whatever schedule you determine best).
- Each of the illustrations was paired with a related essay. Provide students with a copy of the related essay after close reading of the illustration. Discuss the relationship between the each illustrations and their related essays.
- Did everyone participate?
- Were students able to give details from the picture to support their thinking?
- Are students able to identify the importance of the contributions made by President Roosevelt and Norman Rockwell?
- Can students relate the significance of the four freedoms in their lives?
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