World War I can be confusing to modern students. Here are some lesson plans that help make sense of the events and the experience.
Virtual Field Trip
Visit the new online exhibit of the National World War I Museum.
- Begin with the Interactive Timeline. The events are listed and described, but in a format that encourages additional exploration. Turn students loose to figure out the best way to include these events on your classroom timeline.
- Add these events to your classroom map as well.
- Visit Harmonies of the Homefront and listen to the WWI-era songs there. Five songs are available for listening and there are six more sheet music covers to view. Depending on the grade level of the students, choose a selection of the songs and have students conduct a survey to find out how many people remember these songs. Again depending on the age of your students, they might ask their parents and grandparents, survey friends and neighbors, ask their Facebook or Twitter contacts, arrange to visit a local nursing home to survey the residents, or prepare an online survey with a tool like Survey Monkey. Create graphs and charts to show the results of the survey.
- Visit Man and Machine, an online exhibition with quotations and photos showing the German soldier’s experience. Challenge students to write about the effects of technology on the war, as reflected in these materials.
- Download the Family Guide and print it out for some fun worksheet activities.
- Teachers can also request lesson plans called Lessons of Liberty.
If you’re near Kansas City, be sure to visit the Museum in person!
One of the online exhibitions of the WWI Museum is a collection of Canadian propaganda posters. FirstWorldWar.com has an international collection of posters (plus lots of other resources). Learn NC has American propaganda posters, with interesting commentary on each.
Use these resources to study propaganda posters from World War I. Here are some questions to discuss:
- What did these posters ask people to do? (knit, enlist, give money, grow vegetables, etc.)
- Why were people asked to do these things?
- What emotions did they appeal to?
- Which groups did they reach out to? (women, immigrants, young men, students, etc.)
- Did they show bias against any groups of people?
- What colors did the posters use?
- What styles of art did they use?
- What kinds of lettering did the posters use?
Compare WWI propaganda posters with modern Homeland Security documents. We found the “If You See Something Say Something” campaign, but you may have other examples. Although the United States has been at war during our students’ lifetimes, the American people are not asked to make sacrifices, to enlist, or even to plant vegetables. Have students research or discuss why those requests were made in the past, and why they are not made now. This will help students to understand the way that World War II affected the people “on the home front.”
Challenge students to create a modern propaganda poster, either using the “If You See Something, Say Something” slogan or encouraging people to take some other action.
Jeff Rivera’s books about Yuck Kingdom, Um, Mommy, I Think I Flushed My Brother Down the Toilet and Um, Mommy, I Think I Flushed My Brother Down the Toilet Again paint a picture of what happens when things go down the toilet that can make a fun introduction to the idea of wastewater treatment.
Real and Imaginary
Can people really get flushed down a toilet? Is there really a Yuck Kingdom? Certainky not. But there are things about the stories that ring true: older siblings can love their younger siblings and also find them maddening, kids can try to manipulate parents, and people can band together to stand up to something scary.
Have students list the real and imaginary things in the story.
Then study wastewater treatment and compare the reality with the imaginary Yuck Kingdom:
- Wastewater treatment information from USGS
- interactive water treatment tour
- GBRA interactive tour
- interactive map
Have students look at these interactive resources and identify the things that are the same in all of them and the things that are different. Are there any parts of Yuck Kingdom that are like real sewage treatment?
Have students draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper or poster board. Have them draw a scene from Yuck Kingdom on one side and from a real wastewater treatment plant on the other. Label them “Real” and “Imaginary.”
The book has lots of groups of rhyming words. Have students write the words on word cards and sort them into rhyming groups. Have students find the parts of each group that are the same and the parts that are different. Find the groups where the same sound is spelled in different ways and those where the rhyming sound is spelled in the same way each time.
Some of the groups of rhyming words include made-up words. Find groups of words like these and have students divide the real words from the imaginary ones:
At one point, the young heroine of the story says this about her little brother: “He was a pain, but he was my pain.” Author Jeff Rivera has 12 neices and nephews, so he knows what it’s like to have little brothers and sisters. Ask how many students have younger siblings. Create a list of the things they do that make them a “pain.” Then discuss what’s great about having brothers and sisters.
Some students may not have siblings. Ask whether they have similar experiences with a pet, friend, or relative.
Falisha doesn’t want her mommy to tell her daddy what she has done. She’s able to make things right, and we don’t see her getting in trouble with her dad, or having more than a scolding from her mom. Why do kids get in trouble with their parents? Is it important to make things right when we’ve done something we shouldn’t?
How does Falisha make things right with her brother? How does she make things right with her mother?
Ask students whether they think Falisha and Jesse will get into trouble again in the future. Have them write a story of their own starring themselves and their sibling, pet, or friend.
Find more ideas for studying about families at our Families theme page.
In studying exploration, we tend to focus on the conquistadors of Spain and the great explorers of Italy: Columbus, Magellan, Da Gama, Vespucchi, and Cortez. When we’re thinking of exploration in North America, though, we should remember the French explorers.
There were French explorers during the Great Age of Exploration, including Jaques Cartier, who claimed Canada for France. However, France was engaged in wars during much of the Great Age, and didn’t get serious about exploration until somewhat later. French explorers like la Salle, la Harpe, Marquette, and de Bienville explored the New World in the later 1500s and 1600s, mapping the Mississippi and establishing towns like St. Louis and New Orleans. In the 1700s and 1800s, French explorers like De Surville, Bougainville, du Fresne, and d’Urville explored Polynesia and what is now New Zealand.
Begin your study of French explorers by learning a bit about France. use our Country Study lesson plans as a starting point. Some online resources:
- Paris 3D is an impressive introduction to the capital city of France. Play the Saga, an interactive exploration of the city that allows you to choose various buildings and different time depths.
- See modern Paris in 3D with Google Earth. The video below gives you a tour, but students may enjoy exploring the city and surrounding countryside on their own. Be sure to turn on the 3D buildings layer.
Once students have a sense of where these explorers were coming from, it’s time to do some research on the individual explorers.
- Have students choose an explorer from Wikipedia’s list of French explorers or the list from the Virtual Museum of New France. Each student can choose one and prepare a report for the class. As a class, determine the minimum information each report should include (consider full name, date of birth, hometown, parents’ occupations, first experience with exploration, reason for choosing this career, and main accomplishments). Upper elementary school students can find a lot of that information at the sites linked above, but secondary level students should branch out. A search for an individual is a relatively easy way to get started with online research, since there’s little difficulty with synonyms or commercial uses of those names.
- Use file folders, as we did in our Study of Heroes, and create a tablescape of French explorers. Be sure to add each to the class timeline. you can also mark the explorers’ main discoveries on your class map, or have students create a map for their reports.
Christopher Columbus was born in October, 1451, in Genoa, now Northern Italy. His father was a weaver and owned a cheese stand, where Christopher helped out as a child. He later claimed that he went to sea at age 10. There are records of him on a Genoese ship in 1470, and in 1473 he was apprenticed as a trader.
C9lumbus traveled in the Mediterranean and along the coast of Africa as a trader. He married and had children, but the sea and trading were his primary interests.
Columbus didn’t go to college, but he taught himself to read Latin, Portuguese, and Spanish, and he read many books on astronomy, mathematics, geography, and history. He didn’t just read these books, but studied them, making notes in the margins and returning to the books repeatedly. His studies led him to believe that it was possible to sail westward from Europe and reach Asia, an idea that had been suggested occasionally since the days of Ancient Rome.
The Ottoman Turks had taken over the Silk Road, and it had become much harder for Europeans to get to Asia for trade. Spices and silks were important and profitable trade items for Europeans, so traders of the time were working on new routes to Asia. Sailors from Portugal, where Columbus lived, thought that ships could sail around Africa and back up to Asia. Columbus thought his westward route would be easier.
People often think that Columbus was the one who realized that the world was round. This is not true; many people since the time of the Ancient Greeks thought the world was round. Columbus had a different idea of geography from most people of his day, though. For one thing, he thought the world was smaller than it actually is. He thought that Japan was far to the east of India, and he thought that the distance between Europe and Asia to the west was therefore not very great. These misunderstandings on his part convinced Columbus that a westward route to Asia was a practical plan.
It took Columbus years to find backers for his idea, probably because his geography didn’t square with what people knew about Asia, but eventually he persuaded Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to finance his voyages.
In 1492, Columbus set out with three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. He reached an island which he called San Salvador. It is not know which island he was on at the time, though the current island of San Salvador (given the name in 1925) is one possibility. He was somewhere in the Bahamas.
In those days, Europeans called most of the Asia “the Indies.” Columbus thought he had reached Japan, the westernmost part of the Indies.
Columbus actually discovered a place which was previously unknown to Europeans, but he didn’t believe that. He continued to believe that he had reached Asia. Columbus made three more voyages, visiting Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and attempted to colonize Hispaniola, now the Dominican Republic and Haiti. He was unable to manage all his responsibilities, however, and was arrested and removed from his governorship of Hispaniola in 1500. He made another voyage after that arrest, but died in 1506.
Columbus wasn’t interested only in discovery. He wanted plenty of rewards in return for his service to Spain. He was given the title Admiral of the Ocean Sea and granted a coat of arms. He had four “books of privileges” made to record the deals he made with Spain, and later in his life he sued the Spanish court for the privileges he believed he was entitled to under those agreements. Some of the rights he negotiated include 10% of all the profits made from the new lands and the right to be governor of all the lands he claimed for Spain. The court cases continued (with Columbus’s descendants) until 1790.
Was Columbus a hero? To many people, he is, and we celebrate Columbus Day each year as a federal holiday.
Christopher Columbus was a trader who thought a new route to Asia would bring him wealth from the spice trade. Instead, he stumbled onto a whole new part of the world that Europeans didn’t know about (though Lief Ericson had visited North America earlier). Since there were people already living in the places he visited, it doesn’t make sense to say that Columbus “discovered” the New World, and of course he never came to the land which is now the United States.
Columbus certainly was the one who opened trade between Europe and the Americas, beginning the “Columbian Exchange” which brought horses and sugar to Native Americans and tomatoes and chocolate to Europeans. It also brought new diseases to both the Old World and the New World. Columbus himself was in favor of selling the people of the New World as slaves in Europe, though he didn’t live long enough to put that plan into action. He was accused by Spanish settlers in the New World of having exaggerated the wonders of the New World, and he was accused of cruelty to the people who were already living there. He had big plans for himself and his family, but was still in the early stages of those plans when, suffering from arthritis and fighting to regain the privileges he lost in 1500, he died just fourteen years after he had set out on his first journey.
Learn more about Columbus:
- What Was Columbus Thinking? gives students an opportunity to read letters from Christopher Columbus and get more insight into his ideas and intentions.
- An Ongoing Voyage is an online version of the U.S. Library of Congress exhibit about the world in the time of Columbus.
- A video about Columbus from National Geographic Kids.
The Ozark Folk Center is a state park in Mountain View, Arkansas, where a mountain town has been recreated as living history. Here visitors can get a greater understanding of the life of American pioneers.
Certainly, most of the people in a town like this in the 1800s would have been farmers, growing their own food and making most of the things they uses. However, there were some special skills that a community would need, and we visited the people who had special jobs that shared those skills with their neightbors.
We visited a wood carver. Many men would whittle a spoon or other household objects, but there might also be a woodcarver in town, a person who could make special things like wooden toys. In the town where we live, the first Christmas tree was in the home of a German immigrant toymaker. He charged people ten cents to come see his Christmas tree, and gave each person a carved wooden toy. At the Folk Center, the woodcarver makes fine wooden toys.
Another woodworker was the cooper, someone who could make barrels, churns, and other large wooden objects.
The cooper at the Folk Center told us that a small town wouldn’t usually have a cooper, but there would usually be a farmer who did some coopering, making butter churns and wooden bowls for the people of the community.
A community might also be lucky enough to have a potter. The Folk Center’s potter makes beautiful pots, bowls, cups, and more. A pioneer community would count on a potter to make jugs and dishes.
A larger town might have a printer, someone who could print newspapers for the town, and possibly also signs and circulars for stores. The Folk Center’s printer showed us how he takes metal type, small metal letters, from wooden cases, puts them together, and then prints with his printing press. No electricity required. One of the things he printed was a set of rules for students from 1872:
It was fun to visit a pioneer town. It was interesting to see how people worked and went to school more than a century ago.
Here’s Lefty, one of the lucky sheep living at the Ozark Folk Center. Lefty, like all sheep, grows wool. Sheep have been raised for wool, as well as for milk and meat, for centuries. In fact, sheep are among the earliest domestic animals.
Wool is removed from sheep by shearing, which is a lot like getting a haircut with clippers, as many boys do. Wool comes in different colors.
The wool is washed and carded (which is like combing), and the resulting wool is called roving . We got to play with some roving at the Ozark Folk Center.
Once the wool is clean and ready, it is spun into yarn with a spinning wheel like the one below, or with big machines in a factory. Spinning is a matter of twisting all the fibers together into one long strand of yarn.
The yarn may be left in its natural color or dyed. At the Folk Center, yarn is often dyed with plants like onions or flowers to give it color.
We also learned how to dye wool in a Zip-loc bag of Kool-Aid, though!
Once the yarn is ready, it can be woven into fabric on a loom.
The yarn can also be knitted into sweaters or socks. Both knitting or weaving are now mostly done by big machines in factories, but chances are good that you could find someone in your community who knits of weaves. Let kids try it out, if possible.
We are very thankful to the Folk Center for showing us all these things and letting us share them with you. If possible, give your students a chance to experience some of these steps in the classroom — maybe not a live sheep, but certainly wool yarn is readily available. Chances are good that someone in the class will own some wool clothing, and the path from sheep to sweater is an interesting one.
Younger students can enjoy reading about the steps from raw materials to finished product in these books:
- Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie de Paola
- The Goat in the Rug by Charles L. Blood
- Weaving the Rainbow by George Ella Lyon
- Songs from the Loom: A Navajo Girl Learns to Weave by Monty Roessel
Once students understand the process and have had a chance to experience wool to whatever degree is practical in your classroom, have students illustrate the steps from the sheep to their socks. Students should draw each step from sheep to socks onto a card. Add roving for 3-D fun. Stetch yarn across your bulletin board and let students pin their cards in order with clothespins. You could also make a class book or PowerPoint, or an infographic.
The simplest economics lesson here is the path from raw materials to finished goods. There are some other interesting lessons available, though:
- An infographic shows how price changes have affected the kind of sheep raised in New Zealand over time. This data compares wool and meat prices and production. Have students figure out the case and effect shown in the infographic and write a paragraph.
- Matt Bailey made an infographic showing wool production by country. Have students find the countries represented and see whether there is a connection between the size of the country and the amount of wool produced.
- Do you have 4-H or County Extension agents nearby? They’ll be happy to come talk with your class about raising sheep. Urban classrooms, try this powerpoint presentation instead: