Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


World War One Trenches
Author:
Mary Barcroft
Course:
American History, Wars of 20th Century, World History
Time Frame:
This activity can be completed in one class period, as long as students do outside reading prior to the assignment. Teachers can either assign the two books to the class (maybe half reading Remarque, while the other half reads Barbusse) or choose specifi
Subjects:
Trench Warfare
,
World War I
,
Analyzing Primary Sources

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Students will use Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Henri Barbusse’s Under Fire, and letters written home by American soldiers to compare the experiences of different participants in World War I.  Remarque describes life in the trenches from a German perspective, the losing side; Barbusse’s book approaches the same time and place from the French viewpoint, the winning side.  The letters, as primary source material, will provide an experience from the outlook of the American soldiers, coming fresh to the fighting, not as weary and worn as their European counterparts.  This lesson plan can be done as a group or individual project, and certainly can serve as a cross-curricular activity with the Language Arts department.  It makes use of primary sources, literary sources, and provides the students with the opportunity to analyze and synthesize information.

Rationale:

Students can often use literature contemporary to an era to determine facts about a specific time or event.  World War I lends itself readily to this exercise since a great deal of classic literature came out of the war. 

Through this activity, students will learn to analyze primary source materials such as letters and diary entries, and literature contemporary to the period.  It exercises reading, analyzing, and writing skills, and allows the students to visualize the war experiences of the soldiers of World War I.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:


SHOW ME STANDARDS

2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)

KANSAS STANDARDS (High School-US History)

Benchmark 1: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the emergence of the modern United States (1890-1930).

6. (A) analyzes the reasons for and impact of the United States’ entrance into World War I.

7. (A) analyzes how the home front was influenced by United States involvement in World War I (e.g., Food Administration, Espionage Act, Red Scare, influenza, Creel Committee).

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

3. (A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in U.S. history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, evaluating on its meaning (e.g., uses provided primary and secondary sources to interpret a historical-based conclusion).

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Books and films selected by the teacher in reference to World War I. 

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Henri Barbusse, Under Fire
  • Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Letters from website:  American Letters and Diary Entries

http://www.theworldwar.org/s/110/display.aspx?sid=110&gid=1&pgid=892&sparam=letters&scontid=0 

Technology Required:

Computer to type paper

Full description of activity or assignment.

During the unit on World War I, the teacher will provide the Remarque and Barbusse books to the students to read as homework.  Both books are relatively short, and should be easy for the students to read.  It would be advisable to divide the class in half, with each group reading one of the two books.  As an alternative, the teacher may provide certain chapters for students to read, for example, in Remarque, Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 10 are very useful.  Give the students about a week to read their book.  The night before this exercise takes place, provide the students with copies of the letters from the Liberty Memorial Website to read.  Have students bring all materials to class on the day of the lesson.

 

The teacher will place the students into small groups, making sure that each group has representatives who have read both books.  Each student will fill in their own chart (see attached) comparing each documents descriptions of life in the trenches and hospitals of World War I.  At the end of class, have each group share their findings with the class, allowing students to make additional notes on their charts

 

For homework, have each student, individually,  write a three to five paragraph essay detailing their findings and providing their own explanation as to the reason for differences in perspective between the three sources.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

SCORING RUBRIC FOR Life in the Trenches

 

 

 

Strong

Moderately

Strong

 

Average

Moderately Weak

 

Weak

 

Forms a clearly stated thesis as to the reason for differences in the sources

 

5

4

3

2

1

Provides specific examples from the book or letters to support opinions

 

5

4

3

2

1

Demonstrates understanding of life for a World War I soldier through analysis of sources (see chart)

 

5

4

3

2

1

Conveys clear meaning by using proper grammar, spelling and punctuation

 

5

4

3

2

1

Follows instructions with regard to mechanics of writing the paper

5

4

3

2

1

 

 

 

A 5 paper presents a well-developed story and demonstrates good control of the elements of effective writing.  A typical paper in this category

  • clearly identifies important features of the analysis and develops them in a generally thoughtful way.
  • develops ideas clearly, organizes them logically, and connects them with appropriate transitions
  • sensibly supports the main points of the analysis
  • demonstrates control of the language, demonstrating ability to use the conventions of standard written English but may have occasional flaws.

A 4 paper presents a competent analysis and demonstrates adequate control of the elements of writing. A typical paper in this category

  • identifies and analyzes important features of the analysis
  • develops and organizes ideas satisfactorily but may not connect them with transitions
  • supports the main points of the analysis
  • demonstrates sufficient control of language to convey ideas with reasonable clarity generally follows the conventions of standard written English but may have some flaws. 

A 3 paper demonstrates some competence in analytical writing skills and in its control of the elements of writing but is plainly flawed. A typical paper in this category exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • does not identify or analyze most if the important features of the discussion, although some analysis is present
  • devotes most of its time to analyzing irrelevant issues
  • is limited in the logical development and organization of ideas
  • offers support of little relevance and value for points of the analysis
  • does not convey meaning clearly, or contains occasional major errors or frequent minor errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

A 2 paper demonstrates serious weaknesses in analytical writing skills. A typical paper in this category exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • does not present a critique based on logical analysis, but may instead present the writer's own views on the subject
  • does not develop ideas or is disorganized
  • provides little, if any, relevant or reasonable support
  • has serious and frequent problems in the use of language and in sentence structure, containing numerous errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that interfere with meaning.

A 1 paper demonstrates fundamental deficiencies in analytical writing skills. A typical paper in this category exhibits more than one of the following characteristics:

  • provides little evidence of the ability to understand and analyze
  • provides little evidence of the ability to develop an organized response
  • has severe and persistent errors in language and sentence structure, containing a pervasive pattern or errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics that results in incoherence

0----Off-topic