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The Battlefield Landscape of the First World War

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Author:
Connie Wyatt Anderson, 2014 recipient of the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Article Title + Magazine Issue: “Fighting for Freedom” by Stephen Sharpiro on p.8 to p.13 in the 2016 Remembrance Day digital issue of Kayak: Canada’s History Magazine for Kids.

Grade Level: Elementary (4-6)

Subject Area: Social Studies

Theme(s):

• War and the Canadian Experience
• Peace & Conflict

Lesson Overview:
In this lesson students explore several seminal Canadian First World War battles with an emphasis on the experiences of soldiers in the trenches.

Time Required: 1 – 2 lessons

Historical Thinking Concept(s):

• Use primary source evidence
• Take historical perspectives

Learning Outcomes:

Student will:
• Recognize the physical landscape for Canadian soldiers in the trenches of the First World War.
• Distinguish the similarities and differences for Canadians in the battles of Ypres, The Somme, Vimy Ridge, and Passchendaele.
• Compose a letter taking the historical perspective of a Canadian soldier at the battle of Passchendaele.

Background Information:
Historical topics covered: The First World War, trench warfare, battles of Ypres, The Somme, Vimy Ridge, and Passchendaele.

The Lesson Activity:
Activating: How will students be prepared for learning?
• Divide the class into groups of three or four; distribute the 2016 electronic Remembrance Day issue of Kayak: Canadians History Magazine for Kids as a print out, on a laptop or other electronic device
• Draw the students’ attention to the First World War battles on pages 10 and 11: Ypres, The Somme, Vimy Ridge, and Passchendaele
• Assign each group a battle to read about; give them several minutes to read and discuss in their groups
• Check for understanding by asking: Describe what you see in the photographs
[soldiers wearing gas masks, muddy trenches, soldiers looking down a ridge; shell hole, etc.]

Acquiring: What strategies facilitate learning for groups and individuals?
• On the whiteboard write the names of the four battles as column headlines; note the month/year of the battle.

Chart



• Hold up the battle descriptor cards one at a time. Explain that these words describe the battlefield experience.
• Ask: based on your readings, where best does this card fit?
• Affix the card under the column the students chose
• Ask: do you think these words apply to the First World War battle experiences as a whole? What do you think life was like in the trenches for Canadian soldiers?
• Draw the student’s attention to the column marked “Passchendaele.” Read the battle descriptor cards in that column [TRENCHES, MUD, RAIN]
• Read aloud the Passchendaele section on page 11.
• Ask: What conditions made the battlefield at Passchendaele a horrible morass for Canadian soldiers? Consider: Date [1917 – the war had been going on for three years]; Month [October brought incessant rains and cold].
• Ask again: What do you think life was like in the trenches for Canadian soldiers?

Applying: How will students demonstrate their understanding?
• Instruct students to take the perspective of a Canadian soldier in the First World War and write a letter home to a friend of relative describing their experiences in the trenches on the Western Front.

Materials/Resources:
• Battle descriptor cards: on several large pieces of paper write these words: POISONOUS GAS, BARBED WIRE, ARTILLERY SHELL FIRE, UNDERGROUND TUNNELS, TRENCHES, MUD, and RAIN.
• Several copies of the 2016 Remembrance Day digital issue of Kayak: Canada’s History Magazine for Kids.

Extension Activity:
• Post the students’ letter as part of a class bulletin board display alongside photographic images of First World trenches.

Download the print friendly version of the lesson plan

 

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