Lesson Plan For Causes Of Ww1 Essay

Stefanie Graefe's Master Portfolio                                                                                                                    University of Pennsylvania

Lesson Plan and Introduction

Lesson Introduction

In the previous lesson, students had explored the traditional explanations for the causes of WW1 (militarism, nationalism, etc.) In this lesson, I wanted the students to explore the alliance system more in depth. Instead of merely explaining the timeline of alliances and its impact on Europe, I challenged students to create their own visual representation of alliance system, documenting the timeline of events in their guided note packet as they created the alliance system with yarn, tape and desks. Students were organized in groups, and each group represented a different European country. I chose very tactile/kinesthetic learners to use the yarn to connect the desk groups with each alliance. Before each alliance was announced, I decided to challenge each group to assume the role of the country’s leaders, requiring them to suggest what alliances they would make and why.  I then had the students compare their suggestions to the actual alliances.            

By the end of the activity, the students had created a complex system of alliances with yarn. We had a short discussion to connect the notion of a ‘domino effect’ to their visual creation. The students then acted out that domino effect after I provided the ‘spark’, Gavrillo Princip’s assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Using their yarn alliances as a guide, each country group was asked to declare war on the appropriate countries. Students visually demonstrated this war declaration by standing and pointing at the countries they went to war with. The entire lesson was grounded in two map activities. At the beginning of the activity students were asked to fill in and analyze a pre-war map. After the activity, students were asked to color in and label a WW1 alliances map.

  • Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
  • Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?

    Students will be able to:

    • Identify the main causes of World War I, including the formation of European alliances and the roles of militarism, imperialism and nationalism
    • Integrate information from maps and charts with political cartoons and printed text to draw a conclusion
    • Craft an argument about which factor contributed most to the outbreak of WWI
    • Express their argument in the form of a well-written essay with the claim clearly established, including appropriate textual support from the documents for their claim, use of varied transitions to connect main points together, and a conclusion that wraps up the essay and supports the argument
  • Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?

    Essential Questions:

    • What were the M.A.I.N. causes of World War I?
    • Of the 4 M.A.I.N. causes, which factor contributed most to the outbreak of WWI?

    1. What advances in military technology contributed to the "aggressive" and nationalistic attitudes of European countries on the eve of WWI?

    2. In what ways did the Triple Alliance of 1882 and Franco-Russian Alliance of 1894 contribute to the outbreak of WWI?

    3. How did European imperialist policies and rivalries create tensions and contribute to the formation of alliances?

    4. What is "Nationalism," and in what ways did it contribute to the outbreak of WWI?

  • Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?

    1. Students should read the "Causes of WWI" section in their textbook and should be familiar with the following vocabulary:


    Triple Alliance

    Three Emperors League





    Balkan "Powder Keg"


    Franz Ferdinand

    The Black Hand

    Gavrilo Princip


    Schlieffen Plan


    2. The teacher can use this link for background information: http://www.firstworldwar.com/origins/causes.htm

  • Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?

    Day 1: 50 minute class

    1. Hook (10 to 15 minutes):

    • Bring 6 students to the front of the class, assign them a country (A-F), and give them one of six alliance cards.
    • Students should read the cards (to themselves) and arrange themselves into two "teams." The teams should end up as A,C,E ("Allies") & B,D,F ("Axis").
      • Make one side of the room "The Allies" & the other side of the room "The Axis."
      • Students choose a side of the room based on information on the card--if they don't know or can't figure it out, have them go with the side that has the most people.
    • Have them read the cards.
    • The teacher will present the scenario that Country D wants revenge for the assassination of an important person by Country E and asks Country B if it will back them up. Ask each country what they would do.

    This is meant as a quick, visual example of how alliances contributed to WWI.

    2. Activation of Prior Knowledge (5-8 minutes, including the discussion):

    • Have students complete the left side of the Hmmm chart ("What I know about the causes of wars").
    • Give students 3-5 minutes to write on their chart and then have them discuss their answers.
      • Feedback from the teacher during the discussion could include how the Napoleonic Wars began vs. The French Revolution, or wars of conquest vs. wars of religion.

    3. Divide up the class into groups and assign one part of the article"The Origins of WWI" to each group. Have students prepare to explain at least three main ideas from their assigned section. (Option: Teachers may want to use or adapt a Jigsaw technique for this activity.) 

    • Have each group present their section and its main ideas to the class--3 minutes max.
    • Some possible clarification questions or related information can include:
      • What is imperialism? How would it contribute to nations being rivals? (Competion for resources) How would it contribute to alliances? (Mutual protection)
      • Why would Germany build up its military? (Defense against rivals on two fronts: Russia/France)
      • What is nationalism?  Why did nationalism spread? (Success of revolutions in France/Americas)
      • What impact did nationalism have in Europe? (Slavic countries wanted sovereignty)
      • Why was Austria threatened by Slavic nationalism? (Loss of empire power/prestige) What was the "Balkan Powder Keg"? (Tensions in the Balkan peninsula that could explode)
      • Why did the Assassination of Ferdinand lead to WWI? (Alliance system caused a chain reaction)
    • Students will complete the right side of the Hmmm Chart as presentations are being given.
    • Have students complete the bottom of the Hmmm Chart on their own.
    • As an exit activity, spend a few minutes discussing answers to the Hmmm Question: What do you think are the causes of WWI?
  • Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?

    Day Two: 50 minute class

    1. Hook (5 minutes):

    •  Display the following picture or hand out copies to students. A link to the photo is also available here.

    • Ask students to describe what they see.
    • Explain that the prominent figures are Archduke Franz Ferdinand (heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne) and his wife in Serbia. They were visiting Sarajevo to "project" Austrian power.
    • Hours later, he and his wife were assassinated by a member of the "Black Hand," a Serbian nationalist group.

    2. Hand out the WWI Document Based Question packet  (30 minutes).

    • Have the students read the documents and answer the questions. (20 minutes)
    • Lead a discussion analyzing each document based on the questions. (10 minutes) A possible answer key to assist with this discussion has been included.

    3. Have the students organize the documents by M.A.I.N. Causes.  Which document(s) demonstrate militarism?  alliances?  nationalism?imperialism? (5 minutes)

    4. The exit activity should require students to write a clear but brief introductory paragraph that answers the WWI Document Based Question prompt: Which M.A.I.N. factor contributed most to the outbreak of WWI? (10 minutes)

  • Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?

    Day Three: 50 minute class

    1. Hook (5 minutes):

    • Have students share their introductions from the end of the previous day's lesson.
      • Review: a good introduction should include elements of the question, but should not just be a restatement of the question. It should address all parts of the question. It should provide a "road map" of the essay (in other words, a preview or outline of the writer's argument and the evidence that will be used to support it).
      • Students should strive for 3-5 sentences for their introductions.
    • Go over the DBQ Rubric with students.

    2. The independent practice--the essay--will serve as the summative assessment for the lesson. Students will take 45 minutes to write a well-developed essay using at least 5 of the documents as evidence.

  • Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?

    There are several options to close this lesson. These options are designed to help students grow in their writing skills based on the rubric used in the lesson; then students can apply this growth to the next writing assignment with a similar rubric.

    1. Have students read and peer review each other's papers based on the rubric.

    2. The teacher can choose the "best" essay (with student's name removed), make copies, and distribute it to students. They can then grade the "anchor" paper using the rubric. The teacher can go over how students scored the essay and offer corrective feedback or clarification based on how the teacher scored it using the rubric. This will help students have a better understanding of the rubric and the expectations of it. Students can then grade their own essay using the rubric and even provide justifications for each category they marked on the rubric. The teacher could collect these and compare them with the teacher's assessment of their writing and provide feedback to students to clarify any misunderstandings that remain.

    3. The teacher can choose a "high 9/10," a "medium 7/8," and a "passing 6" essay and then have the students grade the three (without knowing the real grades). Then, the teacher and students can go over the actual grade each received according to the rubric.

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