The Zimmermann Telegram Lesson Plan

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson plan provides your class with numerous discussion topics, quizzes, and an activity that will help them understand how Germany tried to exploit other nations to their advantage via the Zimmermann Telegram.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students should be able to:

  • describe the life of Arthur Zimmermann
  • discuss the details of the Zimmermann telegram
  • understand the impact of the Zimmermann telegram on the U.S. and Zimmermann himself


1-2 hours


Curriculum Standards


Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.1

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Key Vocabulary

  • Arthur Zimmermann
  • Consul
  • Zimmermann Telegram/Note
  • Great War
  • World War I

Warm Up

Use the following questions as a warm-up, allowing 3-5 minutes for discussion:

  • When did World War I occur?
  • Who fought during World War I?
  • How did the U.S. become entangled in WWI?

Instructions & Discussion Questions

  • Write the key vocabulary on the board.
  • Pass out the handouts of the lesson text for the following lessons:
  • Allow students a few minutes to read through these text lessons. Have them highlight the key vocabulary and important sections.
  • Now as a class, read Arthur Zimmermann: Biography & Facts, pausing after the section 'Early Life and Career.'
    • Have the students describe the early life of Arthur Zimmermann.
    • Describe the role of a consul for the class in more detail.
  • Now read 'Becoming German Foreign Secretary.'
    • Who shot Ferdinand? Why was this significant?
    • Discuss the effect German submarines had on Atlantic voyages.
    • How did Zimmermann manage to become foreign secretary?
  • Read the 'Zimmermann Telegram' section.
    • What was Zimmermann's plan/hope with respect to Mexico? Why was he hoping to get Mexico involved?
    • How was Zimmermann trying to get the Japanese involved?
    • Describe for students how the British decoded the Zimmermann telegram.
    • What was the effect of the Zimmermann telegram?
  • Read 'The End of Zimmermann' section.
    • What personal effect(s) did Zimmermann's telegram have on the man himself?
  • After finishing the discussion, proceed to reading The Zimmermann Telegram: Definition & Summary as a class, pausing after the 'Europe's Problems' section.
    • What was the other name for World War I?
    • Which countries fought in this war and on which side?
    • How was the U.S. initially involved (if it was)?
  • Pause after the 'What was the Purpose and Promise of the Message' section.
    • Discuss why the Germans thought Mexico would agree to their offer.
    • Which states did the Zimmermann telegram promise to Mexico?
  • Pause after the 'What Did the U.S. Think of the Zimmermann Telegram? section.
    • Under what slogan was Wilson re-elected?
    • How did Germany try to provoke the U.S. into war (excluding the Zimmermann telegram)?
    • Discuss how likely it would've been for the U.S. to enter the war, given the prior question, without the Zimmermann telegram?
  • After you've finished the discussion, have the students take the lesson quiz on 'Arthur Zimmermann: Biography & Facts' as well as the lesson quiz on 'The Zimmermann Telegram: Definition & Summary.' Discuss the questions and answers for added retention and understanding.

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