World War I Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

Don't get left in the trenches teaching about World War I! In this lesson plan, drawing on materials from, you'll have what you need to make sure your students truly understand the Great War.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson students will be able to do the following:

  • Analyze the beginning of World War I
  • Describe the new changes to warfare that came about as a result of the war


40 minutes, plus 40 minutes for the activity

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Key Terms

Students should watch out for these key terms throughout the lesson:

  • Triple Alliance
  • Triple Entente
  • Mechanized Warfare
  • Trench Warfare
  • League of Nations


Start by reviewing the status of Europe's great powers at the beginning of the war? Who was doing well? (Britain and France) Who was rising quickly? (Germany) Who was outdated? (Austria) Who was facing trouble at home? (Russia) Who was the sick man of Europe? (Ottoman Empire) Why were all these true?


Watch the video World War I: Causes, Characteristics, & Effects, pausing for key terms and at the following times for points of discussion:

  • 2:55 - Look at this map. Which group do you think also became known as the Central Powers? If you had to guess, who do you think was the most unstable of the big empires? Pay special attention to the smaller ethnicities listed.
  • 4:33 - How do you think the onset of the war encouraged so much technology to be developed so quickly? Remember that armies rode to war on horseback in bright uniforms in 1914, but by 1918 were wearing camouflage and using tanks.
  • 6:50 - From this political cartoon, who is being blamed for the failure of the League of Nations? Also, discuss the status of Germany and Russia after the war. Did either of these powers resemble the idea of 'stability' that could prevent another war? Why or why not?

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