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The Great War Revisited:
Measuring The Costs Of Warfare

Unit Details

Subjects: English/Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Art/Music, English/Languages Arts
Learning Level: High School
Author(s): Ellen Fairbairn and Heidi OlivÈ
Submitted by:


Students will see how the turn of the century brought political upheaval throughout the world. Remembering the horrors of war, the United States refused, initially, to take part in the war and chose to enjoy the privilege of selling armaments to both sides. However, after students review the events that unfolded they will be convinced W. Wilson could no longer avoid war. The lessons of war made lasting impressions on both civilians and soldiers in World War I. Physical and psychological destruction rendered millions incapable of functioning in a world turned upside down. Harding's "normalcy" was a gross miscalculation of what lifestyles would be like for the next twenty years. The events of the Great War and reactions to the end result enabled fascism to gain a stranglehold on the world and lead to yet another world-wide war.

This unit focuses on using a PowerPoint slide presentation as a guide. Students are given direct instruction and participate in a variety of tasks including vocabulary, timeline, geography, political cartooning, propaganda, medical diagnosis scavenger hunt. All activities encourage the use of technology.

Invitation/Fundamental Understandings:
Essential Questions:
Knowledge and skills:

Fundamental Understanding:
The students should know that warfare leads to consequences more than acquiring or losing territory. Casualties can cause economic upheaval and social disorder in a nation, long after the war is over. The devastating effects of losing a war also cause psychological trauma for a nation, as well as for its individuals. How the nation and its citizens respond in world affairs after such trauma can lead to more horrendous events such as another war.

Essential Questions:
1. How do alliances determine the extent of warfare?
2. How did familial ties (royal families) contribute to warfare in much of European history, including WWI?
3. What impact did the media have on gaining public support for the war?
4. Does the media have the same impact today as in WWI or is the public less gullible than in the years, 1914-1918?
5. How did the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles contribute to events in WWII?
6. How was Germany's treatment in the Versailles treaty used by Hitler in his quest for world domination?
7. What are the costs of warfare and what generalizations can be made about war?
8. How did WWI change American society?
9. How did WWI change U.S. participation in world affairs?
10.How do political boundaries change as a result of war?
11.What means does a government utilize to aide in the human adaptation to a changed environment?

What Students should know:
- By 1900, imperialism had been a driving force in world affairs for around 200 years.
-Europe dominated most of the globe economically, politically and militarily at the turn of the 20th century.
-the U.S.A. was determined to become an imperial power but saw itself as a "big brother" to struggling new democratic nations in Latin America.
-intense rivalry existed between European powers in 1900.
What students will learn:
-WWI resulted in a restructuring of nation boundaries in Europe and ended the imperial powers of Austria-Hungary and Turkey.
-the war led to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the end of the Romanov dynasty.
-WWI devastated the world economy; especially in Germany.
-the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles significantly altered relations between the winning powers and losers; Hitler used the treaty to gain German support for his military goals in WWII.
-the U.S. became a reluctant participant in European affairs via Wilson's 14 Points; U.S. involvement significantly increased in foreign affairs throughout the 20th century after WWI.
-propaganda is a powerful national tool in waging war.

What should students be able to do?
1. Identify the events which led to the eruption of "The Great War".
2. Provide analysis of the positive and negative effects of warfare.
3. Investigate the differing facets of "The Great War",through various technology tools.
4. Utilize primary and secondary resources to strengthen an understanding in the influence of "The Great War" on world politics, technology, economics, and advances toward the modern era.


National Standards

National History Standard
National History Standard 5: The student engages in historical issues-analysis and decision-making, elements D and F

Era 7 - The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
Standard 21:Understands the changing role of the U.S. in world affairs through World War I

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)1.Understands U.S. foreign policy and involvement in
foreign countries in the early 20th century

2.Understands the causes, course, and impact of World War I prior to U.S. entry (e.g., motivations of leading world powers, the relative success of nations in mobilizing their resources and populations, the relative success of their propaganda campaigns to influence neutral nations, the successes of military strategies,the general spirit of disillusionment)

3.Understands how the home front influenced and was influenced by U.S. involvement in World War I (e.g., the impact of public opinion and government policies on constitutional interpretation and civil liberties, the
events of Wilson's second term; the role of various organizations in the mobilization effort; the "Great Migration" of African Americans to northern cities)

4.Understands influences on the outcome of World War I(e.g., how point six of the Fourteen Points deals specifically with Russia, the effectiveness of the Versailles Treaty)

National Technology Standards
By the end of the 12th grade students will be able to:
Standard 5: Use technology tools and resources for managing and communicating personal-professional information (3,4).

Standard 7: Routinely and efficiently use online information resources to meet needs for collaboration, research, publications, communications, and productivity. (4,5,6).

Standard 10: Collaborate with peers, experts, and others to contribute to a content-related knowledge base by using technology to compile, synthesize, produce, and disseminate information, models, and other creative works. (4,5,6)

National English Standards:
Standard 3: Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

State Standards

1. Explain the sequence and relationship of events on tiered time lines. His (History 1.12.2).
2. Students will use social studies vocabulary and concepts to engage in inquiry, in research, in analysis, and in decision making.(History 2.0).
3. Describe the causes course, character and effects of World War I, including: Imperialism ,arms race and alliances, nationalism, weapons, tactics, Fourteen Points, Treaty of Versailles (History 7.12.17).
4. Describe the causes and effects of the Russian Revolution (History 7.12.18).
5. Discuss the effects on society of new technologies of this era including communication, transportation and manufacturing (History 8.12.3).
6. Describe the causes of World War II by examining the legacy of WWI (History 8.12.6).
7. Analyze and give examples of the expansion of the national government through the application of the enumerated and implied powers. (Civics 2.12.3).
8. Describe the creation of laws through the legislative process (Civics 2.12.2).
9. Describe the process by which public policy is formed and carried out (Civics 4.12.6).
10.Identify an historical event or cultural influence as portrayed in literature. (Lang. Arts 3.4.3).
11. Locate figurative language including simile, metaphor and personification in text. (Lang. Arts 3.4.5).
12. Identify author's purposes for writing (Lang. Arts 4.4.5).
13. Utilize problem-solving processes through the use of resources to reach a desired outcome. (Tech. 12.1).

Workforce Competencies:

1.INFORMATION MANAGERS (3.1)Students locate, comprehend, interpret, evaluate, maintain, and apply information, concepts, and ideas found in literature, the arts, symbols, recordings, video and other graphic displays, and computer files in order to perform tasks and/or for enjoyment.
2.NUMERIC PROBLEM SOLVERS (3.3)Students use numeric operations and concepts to describe, analyze, disaggregate,communicate, synthesize numeric data, and to identify and solve problems.
3.EFFECTIVE LEADERS (3.9)Students establish credibility with their colleagues through competence and integrity,and help their peers achieve their goals by communicating their feelings and ideas to justify or successfully negotiate a position, which advances goal attainment.
4.CULTURALLY SENSITIVE LEADERS (3.10)Students appreciate their own culture and the cultures of others, understand the concerns and perspectives of members of other ethnic and gender groups, reject the stereotype of themselves and others, and seek out and utilize the views of persons from diverse ethnic, social and educational backgrounds.
5.RESOURCE MANAGERS (3.6)Students appropriately allocate time, money, materials, and other resources.

Unit of Practice


The Great War had a profound influence on our global society. The war changed boundaries, changed methods of warfare, established alliances beyond familial ties, created new global leaders, changed foreign policy in the United States which was more complex and participatory. The Great War set the stage for future warfare both positively and negatively. The Great War ushered in the modern world. The Great War will aide student's understanding of twentieth century politics, and foreign policy.


The previous unit in class covered Imperialism and United States Expansionism. Even though the nation experienced a temporary and active role in world affairs, the country returned to its traditional stance of isolationism. Sixty yers before, the Union endured four years of internal, bloody warfare. The lessons learned from the Civil War were that of active avoidance, not active involvement. Students shall have the ability to access the internet, read text at a high school reading level and reached the maturity level of being able to draw conclusions and recognize fallacies in thinking.


Pretest to find students prior knowledge in regards to The Great War. Pretest will be in the form of a dialectical journal. Students will be asked to describe the influence The Great War had on world affairs.

Formative Evaluation:

1. Student-created political cartoons and other propaganda sources to illustrate the power and influence of the media-could use printshop or other draw/paint programs as well as web sources as examples.
2.Role play- in lively class discussion about the problems encountered at the Versailles Conference and how decisions made after World War I led to another worldwide conflict later in the century(World War II Sept. 1, 1939) and, use critical thinking skills to evaluate the positive and negative consequences of warfare.
3. Reading primary and secondary sources to identify changing global perspectives.
4. Student-created model of trench warfare; could use sand box with military action figures or draw a scene with the use of computer draw/paint software.

Summative Evaluation:

1. Content -related short answer test.
2. Projects: Desktop-published, annotated timeline with dates and descriptors of pictures and events represented.
3. Utilize selected web sources to complete medical charts on fictitous patients.
4. Projects (group): Desktop-published workbook on World War 1 with news articles, pictures, visual representation and cartooning, and group's editorial commentary.


Day 1-3: Powerpoint presentation, interactive slides, poetry, pictures and timeline events
Day 4-6: Patient diagnoses, statistical analysis of war casualties, predicting outcome of heavy casualties
Day 7-8: political cartoon analyses from WWI
Day 9-10: Treaty of Versailles debate
Day 10: Conclusion of unit: evaluating the war
Components of the unit:
The unit including activities will take approximately 11 days.The following is a suggested outline. Download the PowerPoint, The Great War. After the download has been completed familiarize yourself with the content of the PowerPoint presentation.
Day One: Present slides 1-4. These slides provide an introduction to the unit and the unit objectives. On slide four students will be presented with 23 vocabulary terms which they will need to define. (See lesson: vocabulary building)
Day Two: Present slides 5-6. Students will be given specific dates that they will need to utilize in order to create a chronological time line. (See lesson: Timeline Construction)
Day Three: Present slides 7-9. Students will be introduced to the complicated web of players involved in the war. (See lesson: What it means to be an ally-a cooperative learning activity)
Day Four: Present slides 10-11. Students will be introduced to the geography of the war. (See lesson: Map Skills)
Day Five and Six: Present slides 12-13. Students will be presented statisical information (graph) of the casualties of WW1. Students will also be asked to research the Medical front of WW1. (See lesson: The Medical Front)
Day Seven: Present slides 14-16. Students will have the opportunity to visualize the effects of human carnage. Students will be introduced to a mathematical calculation of human carnage (slide 14) as well as pictures of the war (slide 15). The final slide provides the definition of "Total War". This slide sets students up for an important aspect of "Total War" presented the following day-Propaganda. Discussion on this day should be centered on the photos.
Day Eight: Present slides 17-22. Students will be introduced to the concept of propaganda. after today's lesson students will understand that we are all influenced by propaganda daily, it affects our every move. On slide 22 students are given an assignment which should be collected the following day. (See lesson: Selling Warfare)
Day Nine: Present slides 23-25. Students will participate in the discussion of today's slides which address the turn the war takes when the United States becomes involved. On slide 23 students will have the opportunity to listen to a primary source (Senator Warren G. Harding) on the necessity for Americans to "awaken" and support the war effort and to protect their national identity of "democracy". This primary source provides the central theme for the United States involvement in WW1. Instructors may facilitate further understanding by assigning additional readings provided by the instructor.
Day Ten: Present slide 26. On this day students will participate in a cooperative learning activity. The slide explains the activity. The slide has the "Mission Impossible" sound track attached. Students are taking a mission to the Treaty of Versailles table. Unlike the original "Big Four" we have allowed Germany to participate at the bargaining table.
Day Eleven: Present slide 27-28. The students will individually be able to evaluate the pros and cons of warfare, based upon the events and consequences of the Great War.

Additional Resources

Main URL:

Related Resources

World War One PowerPoint Presentation

Related Lessons

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