World War I Activities for High School

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has taught high school history in several states with a master's degree in teaching.

After teaching your high school students about World War I, use the following activities to help students dig deeper and review the information. Students will work collaboratively on these projects.

World War I

After talking about the events of World War I with your high school U.S. or world history students, use the following activities to help students dig deeper into the events of the war. The first two activities are designed to be used after students already have a basic understanding of the war. The final activity will be worked on throughout the unit as you learn about the war.

Gallery Walk

For this activity, you will begin by printing off six to eight full-sized images from World War I. You will want to find a variety of primary source images that show things like weaponry, life on the home front, daily life for soldiers, government changes, etc. Although you can find the images anywhere, the Library of Congress and National Archives are a great place to begin. Put these pictures on walls around the classroom or in the hallway.

Next, break students into small groups of about three. You want to create the same number of groups as images. Each group will begin at a different image. Once at the images, students should answer the following questions:

  1. What is going on in this picture?
  2. How does this event tie into the broader story of the war?
  3. What surprises you about this image?
  4. How does this image change the way you perceive the war?

You may also add questions that are unique to each image. If adding unique questions for the images, be sure to paste these below the picture so that students have an easy time remembering what they are looking for in the image.

After about five minutes, have the groups rotate through to the next image until students have seen all of the primary sources.

You can either collect the answered questions or use the information for a class discussion.

  • Materials Needed: Primary source images, questions

U.S. Involvement in World War I

For this activity, students will be looking at the way the United States decided to become involved in World War I. Students will be comparing the text of Woodrow Wilson's ''Peace without Victory'' speech of January 1917 with his ''War Message'' speech from April 1917.

Print out a classroom set of both speeches and give students time to read the speeches. Then, in small groups, students should discuss the following questions:

  1. What was the main message of the first speech?
  2. What was the main message of the second speech?
  3. How were both speeches similar?
  4. How did the speeches differ?
  5. With what you know about historical events of the time, what accounts for such a dramatic change in only about three months?

After the groups have discussed these questions, come together as a class to discuss the speeches. Help students think critically to combine what they know about rhetoric and speech writing with what they know about the history of World War I.

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