Start the lesson with a quick-write to introduce the overall essential question. The quick-write will be "If I could go back and change one event, what would it be?" Leave it ambiguous as to whether the question is referring to events in the students lives or historical events; this will give the teacher an idea as to whether the student is focused on bettering themselves or the world – a useful litmus test to help guide future conversations and try to tie in bettering themselves with bettering the world (the two cannot be mutually exclusive).
Once the class has shared a few examples, continue on to the assessment of prior knowledge (attachment #1). The teacher may have found opportunities to informally assess background knowledge of World War One or the unit novel (
All Quiet on the Western Front
) before now in casual classroom discussion. However, a formal assessment of background knowledge will give the teacher concrete evidence of the students knowledge and understanding, as well as written evidence to look back on at later dates. Remind students that assessments are not graded based on correctness, but rather participation.
Once the students have completed their assessments, inform the students that all of the questions on their assessments should be answered by the time the unit is completed or they will have gathered enough knowledge and understanding to formulate their own answer.
At this point, give the students copies of the news article from the day of Archduke Franz Ferdinands assassination (attachment #2). Have students read aloud the article, going over difficult/antiquated vocabulary. Using a world map (one appropriate to the era, if possible), have a student-volunteer identify Austro-Hungary on the map. After identifying Austro-Hungary, see if the students can identify any of Austro-Hungarys neighbors. Ask questions to see if any of the students know any background regarding these nations (Russia was a tsarist monarchy with internal conflict, Germany was a new nation, Italy had only just been unified in the past century, Switzerland was/is neutral, etc.).
Once that has been completed, introduce the "major players." Present the terms "Allies" and "Central Powers." Have the students look at the term "Central Powers" to form a theory as to who would comprise the "Central Powers." The Central Powers were centrally located in Europe: Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy. See if anyone can identify the Allies – the nations that fought the central powers. If any students have World War Two background understanding, inform them that the major Allied powers remained largely the same (British Empire, Russia, France, United States).
Tell the students that eventually they are going to have to independently research a single country involved in the war, so they should start paying attention to each countrys involvement right now.
Homework: The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand precipitated the First World War. What conflicts are going on in the world right now that could possibly precipitate a third world war? (responses to terrorism, the global financial crisis, North Koreas armament, human rights/civil rights issues, etc.)
Place the daily quick-write on the board: "If the United States announced war today and dropped the enlistment age to sixteen (or the youngest age of students in the class), would you enlist? Why or why not?" Once again, leave the quick-write ambiguous as to who the United States is fighting, what the cause of the war is, etc.
Once the students have completed their quick-write, go over student responses. Use the responses to why or why not as a bridge into why people choose to/not to get involved in war. Generate a list of reasons with the class as to why people choose to go to war and a list of reasons people choose not to go to war. If any student says an immeasurable word such as honor, freedom, pride, etc. underline this/these word(s).
Pick one of the underlined terms and create a philosophical chair debate regarding this word (hand out attachment #3 to remind students of the rules for philosophical chair). The first philosophical chair question the students must debate is: What is [underlined word]? Once debate has finished arguing the meaning of the word (no one is contributing any longer, a definition has been agreed upon, things get out of hand, etc.), put the next question on the board: Is [underlined word] worth dying or killing for? Once this debate has ended, send students back to their seats.
Instruct the students that when people go to war, they have to constantly ask themselves these same questions about [each of the underlined words]. Hand out excerpt from
Johnny Got his Gun
(pgs 110-119 ["Somebody said lets go fight for liberty and so they went…Youre dead mister. Dead"]). Have student volunteers read it aloud to the class. In a turn and talk, ask the students whether or not that they agree with the author that nothing is worth dying for and discuss why. Ask a few student-volunteers to share their reactions/responses.
Pass out copies of
All Quiet on the Western Front
and inform the students that the main character must ask himself these same questions as he finds himself in a war the likes of which the world had never seen before.
Homework: Students should read chapter one, paying careful attention to characters and, more specifically, their actions.
Place the daily quick-write on the board: "Is Kantorek responsible for the boys involvement in the war?" as a secondary follow-up to the first question, write "Are the boys right for being angry with Kantorek?"
Once the class has responded to the quick-write, both written and orally, begin going over the main characters with the students. Use attachments #4 and #5 to remind students how to begin character analysis. Copies of the attachments can be distributed to the students to assist them in starting their analysis. Depending on their learning style, some students may be more comfortable with the graphic organizer, others may be more comfortable with the notes organizer, still others may be more comfortable free writing in a journal/notebook. Leave it up to the individual student to choose their own method of keeping track of the characters – but remind the students that they will be responsible for the information. Model analyzing characters with Paul then give the students some in-class time to start taking down notes on other characters. Allow students to talk amongst each other and go back to their books to make sure they have the correct details.
As a class, discuss Joseph Behm. Joseph Behm did not want to go to war and was pressured into going by his teacher. Whose fault is it that Joseph is dead? Allow the class to pair and share their opinions, giving them a few minutes to look at different perspectives. As a whole class, discuss some different responses. If conversation lulls, prompt further discussion by posing questions that may not have been addressed:
- Who is responsible for Behms choices in life?
- Would he still have gone to war if it had not been for Kantorek?
- (If students blame the teacher) Germany later instituted a draft; had Behm refused to go to war at 19, wouldnt that just delay the inevitable?
As an exit slip, have the students respond to the following questions:
How responsible is an individual for their actions when their government sends them to war? Should the individual be held responsible for the deaths of soldiers, should the government be held responsible, or is it the dead soldiers fault for choosing to go to war?
Homework: Have the students find a relative/neighbor that has been to war or served in the military during war or consciously made the decision not to go to war (if they dont have a relative or neighbor, tell them to find an anecdote online that answers the following questions). Ask them how they felt about the war. Did they support it at the start of the war? Did their opinion change by the end? What affected their feelings about the war before, during and after the war?