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
FreshPlans enjoyed a visit to the World War I memorial in Kansas City. Visit the 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).
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? (pride, fear, love of family, pity for soldiers, etc.)
- 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 I 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. We’re updating this during the coronavirus pandemic to suggest “Stay Home” posters.