The Day Before

Language Arts and Social Studies Activity

Students create a magazine that captures what life was like just before a great event of the 20th century.



  1. Choose a major event of the 20th century and write its date on the chalkboard. Have students share what they know about the event. Ask them to think about what life was like just before the event and compare it to what happened afterward. Possibilities include the start of World War I, Pearl Harbor, and the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

  2. Explain that magazines and newspapers of the time help historians to understand the impact a major event has on people and on history. Tell students that each team is going to publish its own magazine to recreate the times in which such an event occurred. The publication date of each magazine will be the day before the event occurred.

    Divide the class into editorial teams and have each team select one of the following dates or a similar one of your choosing:

    June 27, 1914
    October 28, 1929
    December 6, 1941
    August 5, 1945
    November 30, 1955
    November 21, 1963
    December 24, 1991
    THE DAY BEFORE . . .
    Archduke and Archduchess of Austria were assassinated
    The Stock Market crashed
    Japan attacked Pearl Harbor
    The atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan
    Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery
    JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas
    The Soviet Union was dissolved

  3. Tell students that their magazines should represent as many as possible of the following aspects of society: the arts (including movies, radio, and television), fashion, sports, politics and government, and international affairs. Suggest that they vary the formats of their stories, such as mixing straight news, feature articles, and photo spreads. Advise students to study current magazines to help them decide on formats.

  4. Have teams publish their magazines and make a brief oral presentation to describe the big event that occurred on "the next day" and how that event changed life as it is described in their magazines.


Instead of having students make an oral presentation, have them reenact a newscast of the major event and have various "experts" describe how they think the event will change society and people's lives.

Have students arrange their dates chronologically on a timeline and add to it other major events. Encourage a discussion on if and how the events are related.

Some students might locate on microfilm newspapers or magazines for the dates of their birth. Have them share what they learn about the world they were born into.

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