Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

WWI Poetry: Wilfred Owen
Josh Lefeber
US History
Time Frame:
1 period - 50 minutes (Likely 2 periods - 100 minutes)
World War I

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:


  • Cooperative Learning - Cross Curricular - Whole Class Discussion


  • Students will be paired with a classmate and possibly a third partner if an odd number exists. Once students are paired, they will be tasked with reading the short biography from BBC and video provide on Wilfred Owen. This background information will help set the stage for students to grasp the background of the author they are about to read. After students review the background information they will be tasked with reading the authors two poems. Once complete, students will engage in a classroom discussion over the poems and author.


  • All websites and primary and secondary sources are posted in the lesson.



High school students frequently lack the necessary skills to analyze, critique, and understand the role of literature in history. This lessons aims to present an event in history through the eyes of Wilfred Owen to the students, so they can understand the pain, struggle, and consequences of war. Students will then also see how literature can portray history.

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


  • T1S5A - Using a United States’ historical lens, describe how peoples’ perspectives shaped the sources/artifacts they created.


  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 - Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.



Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:




Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:



Full description of activity or assignment.


  • Once students arrive to class, we will introduce the idea of studying literature to understand history. These questions will be posed to the students, how might literature portray history and what can we learn from literature?


  • After a short discussion (or longer if students extend the conversation), the video introduction over Wilfred Owens will be presented.


  • After the video, students will be paired and log into their chromebooks to read the short biography on Wilfred Owens from the BBC link.


  • Students will then read the first poem by Wilfred Owens (“Anthem for a Doomed Youth”) and journal as partners about the tone, mood, and context of the poem. Students will be looking for context clues to determine the tone and mood of the author, while also looking for clues that tie the poem to WWI.


  • Once students complete their journaling, they will read the second poem by Wilfred Owens (“Dulce et Decorum Est”). Students will be looking for context clues to determine the tone and mood of the author, while also looking for clues that tie the poem to WWI.


  • After students have journaled about the two poems, the pairs will be paired to small groups of four. In these groups, students will be tasked with comparing and contrasting their information from each poem.


  • After 5-10 minutes, whole group discussion will conclude the lesson. Students will be challenged to discuss the poems openly and as a class compare and contrast the poems, their analysis, and why literature is a powerful way to illustrate the past.


  • As class ends, students will be assigned an individual assignment where they will need to journal about how Wilfred Owens used his own experiences to shape his poems and the views of his reader.


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


  • No formal assessment will be utilized that requires a rubric or assignment sheet.


  • Student learning will be informally monitored by canvassing the room during the readings and discussions of the poems, both in pairs, small groups, and whole groups.


  • The assignment assigned at the end of the class will be informal, collected the following day, and graded based on effort.