Snapshots are starter lesson plans, built around themes found in THE WAR, which can be specifically tailored to your teaching style and classroom needs. The Search & Explore database feature of this web site will be a valuable tool to help students research topics suggested in the snapshot activities.
The Changing Roles of Women
Focus: What was the ultimate effect of World War II on women’s lives during and after the war? Take a broader look at the role of women in the war, including “Rosie the Riveter,” the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WACs), nurses, entertainers, photographers and civic organizers.
Activity: Have students create a blog. Ask women (family members, neighbors, etc.) from each decade starting with World War II to submit a story based on how their roles in and out of the household evolved throughout the years. Students can provide their own commentary as to how these women’s lives contributed to some of the social changes described in THE WAR.
Memorials to World War II
Focus: Many World War II memorials have been constructed around the world and depending on the location, commemorate different people and events.
Activity: Divide students into groups. Give each group a specific location, some in the U.S. and some abroad. Have each group use Google Maps to find a World War II memorial in each location. As a class, create a Web site that includes all of the memorials, along with descriptions of where they are and what they commemorate.
Dissemination of Information
Focus: Government newsreels played an important role in getting information to the American public during the war and as a propaganda tool.
Activity 1: Have groups of students play the role of newsreel producers. Students will make decisions about what to show, what not to show, how to spin the news and why as they work together to create a documentary. Contrast uncensored combat scenes from THE WAR with the propaganda broadcasts also shown in THE WAR. The student documentaries can then be turned into podcasts.
Focus: Nationwide food rationing was instituted in the spring of 1942. Suddenly items such as sugar, butter, coffee and beef-steak became hard-to-obtain commodities. Ration stamps became a type of currency, and “victory gardens” were planted across the country.
Activity: On a spreadsheet, have students make a list of the foods and goods that were rationed during the war. Compare the costs of the goods before, during and after the war to the cost of the same goods today. Research web sties:
Census Bureau Price & Prices Index PDF (see page 31): http://www2.census.gov/prod2/statcomp/documents/CT1970p1-06.pdf
The Food Timeline: http://www.foodtimeline.org/
Focus: American foreign policy shifted dramatically during World War II and reverberations are still felt today.
Activity: Have students do some preliminary research on how America went from its isolationist policy to become an “undeclared ally” in the war effort, a full-time combatant, a post-war leader and Cold War warrior, and eventually a superpower. Generate a list of specific questions about America’s transition and email it to a historian or foreign policy expert. Use students’ findings to create an interactive timeline of events that points out and explains these specific shifts.
A “Just” War
Focus: Generally, Americans view war as a “necessary evil,” a job that has to be done to get on with normal life. In studying World War II students can explore some central philosophical questions about war and its impact on society.
Activity: Copy the two quotes below on large sheets of paper and place them on opposite sides of the room. Run a line of tape on the floor between the two quotes. In the middle of the room place a small line of tape perpendicular to the large line and label it “neutral.” Have students review the quotes individually and reflect on their thoughts about the justification for war. Have students stand on the long line where they feel their view falls between the two quotes. No one should take a “neutral” stand. Have students explain the reasons for placing themselves along the line.
Quote 1: “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” – Ernest Hemingway
Quote 2: “I don’t think there is such a thing as a good war. There are sometimes necessary wars. And I think one might say just wars. And I never questioned the necessity of that war. And I still do not question it. It was something that had to be done.” – Sam Hynes, THE WAR
Connecting to World War II
Focus: THE WAR tells the story of World War II through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four American towns and allows the viewer to explore the most intimate human dimensions of the greatest cataclysm in history.
Activity: Arrange students in small writing groups. Instruct students to compose a short personal reflection that expresses any connection they can make between their personal, family or historical experience and World War II. Some connections students may make include discussing relatives with military and home front experiences, stories or films they have seen about World War II, or more recent U.S. military engagements. Encourage students to explore their own personal emotional connections to the concepts of war and peace.
Medics, a Biology Lesson
Focus: There are many clips throughout THE WAR that deal with the physical dangers of the war –– tropical diseases in the Pacific, the perils of cold at the Battle of the Bulge –– as well as the many quick-thinking rescue efforts that saved lives.
Activity: Have students use the Search & Explore feature this web site to find information on medics and medical treatments during the war. Compare how the wounded were treated then versus how the same injuries would be treated today.
Music and Movies
Focus: Music and movies played an important role for both civilians and military personnel during the war to inspire and give hope. For many soldiers and civilians they were lifelines back to loved ones.
Activity 1: Have students explore some of the music and movies that were produced during the war. Love songs, music that reminded people of home and more peaceful times, and patriotic, inspiring songs that provided inspiration and encourage morale. Have students analyze the lyrics and melodies of these songs and explain their effect on the audiences. (There are many sources on the Internet that catalogue these songs, most with the lyrics and some with brief recordings of the tunes.)
Activity 2: Have students look at movies produced during the war and analyze the messages depicted in the movies’ plots, dialogue and even the sets for messages about the war effort.