When discussing business cycles, teachers usually list the component parts (trough, expansion, peak and recession), but often the discussion needs some connection to recent and current conditions to give it color, and some historical connection to give it relevance.
Today's issue of The Wall Street Journal has an article (subscriber access at this writing) that does that and does it well. (I would suggest poking around with your browser to see if you can find it elsewhere.)
The article examines the current recession (dubbed the Great Recession) and compares it previous post World War II downturns, looking particularly at changes in personal consumption, gross domestic product, income, payrolls and unemployment. What we see is that while the current recession is not the worst, it is among the longest. (I'm reminded of research by Dan Ariely on whether a little pain over a long period of time is better than a lot of pain over a short period, but that's another issue.)
The article link provided above does let you access some interactive graphs to look at economic performance as measured by a number of indicators over time. You can get a long-view as well as examining specific downturns since World War II.
I hope you can find the full article. But regardless, try to access the interactive graphics. They are worth your time.
This post references the following Keystone Economic Principles:
4. Economic systems influence choices.
8. Quantity and quality of available resources impact living standards