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Teacher's Guide: Suggestions for Active Learning

Troops on beach D-Day offers insights into American history topics including World War II, military strategy, the importance of technology in war, first-person accounts of war, unilateralism or multilateralism in foreign policy, and the role of the military in a democratic society. You can use part or all of the film, or delve into the rich resources available on this Web site to learn more, either in a classroom or on your own.

The following activities are grouped into 4 categories: geography, economics, history, and civics. You can also read a few helpful hints for completing the activities.

Geography | Economics | History | Civics

  1. Divide the class into groups of three persons each. Within each group, one person should create a map showing Germany's borders as of 1938; one should create a map showing the territory controlled by Germany as of 1942; and one should create a map showing the postwar division of Germany. Post these maps around the class and discuss the events that caused Germany's expansion and later defeat and division. List these events on a timeline on the board.

  2. A major factor in the Allied efforts in Europe was air power. Today, air power remains a vital part of American military strategy. Prepare a brief report comparing a specific element of the United States' use of air power in World War II and recent conflicts, such as those over Kosovo, Afghanistan or Iraq. For example, you might compare the capabilities (for example, range, speed, and armament) of American military aircraft in these two eras, or you might examine how technological advances have improved the accuracy of bombing since World War II.

Geography | Economics | History | Civics

  1. What percentage of its economy, usually expressed as its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), do you think the United States devoted to the armed forces during World War? What percentage of its economy do you think the United States devotes to the armed forces today? Take an informal poll of five classmates, friends, or family members on these two questions. Combine your results with those of your classmates, keeping in mind that no person should respond to the poll more than once. What is the range of guesses for each question? What is the average? Now look up the answers to these questions. How accurate were people?

  2. The greatest "cost" of World War II was in lives. Find out the number of persons (both soldiers and civilians) killed in the war in each of the major nations that took part in the war. (a) Present this data in two forms: as a bar graph and as a pie chart. (b) Divide the number of American deaths by the total U.S. population at the start of the war to find out roughly what percentage of the total U.S. population died in the war. Now, multiply this percentage by the current U.S. population. American deaths during World War II were equivalent (as a share of population) to how many deaths today?

Geography | Economics | History | Civics

  1. What if Eisenhower's D-Day plans had failed and Germany had defeated the Allies in the West? Imagine that you are a historian in 1960 looking back on D-Day. Write a brief article in which you describe Germany's victory on the Normandy beaches and the effects that the victory had on subsequent events.

  2. D-Day was neither the first nor the last time that U.S. military forces faced a desperate situation. Divide the class into 6 groups and assign each group one of the following: Valley Forge (1777-1778), the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863), the Battle of the Little Bighorn (1876), the Japanese invasion of the Philippines (1941), the North Korean invasion of South Korea (1950), and the Tet Offensive (1968). Each group should prepare a brief oral report for the class, answering the following questions: Why was the U.S. situation desperate? How did the U.S. forces respond? What was the outcome, both in the short term and over the course of the conflict as a whole?

Geography | Economics | History | Civics

  1. The United States fought World War II as part of an international coalition. Similarly, the United States sought allies in its war against terrorism. Divide the class into two groups and hold a debate on the following question: Should the United States generally pursue its foreign policy goals by cooperating with other nations, or should it generally act on its own? Support your view with specific examples from past and current events.

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