Teaching World War One

World War One ideas for primary and secondary school teachers.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of a pivotal moment in recent British history – the day of the first German attack of World War One on the British mainland. There will be more key WWI anniversaries over the next 4 years, and teachers of all subjects can incorporate these events into the curriculum.

While there isn’t enough time for extensively teaching World War One on this day or in this month alone, World Class Teachers offers advice to both primary and secondary school teachers to tackle this subject during the centenary.

We have put together some teaching tips and resources, from the incredible exhibits at the Imperial War Museum to utilising BBC and more, to help you through until 2019.

Teaching World War One: Choosing Where to Begin

Modern history conflicts are always complex, but teaching the First World War offers plenty of material to include in studies. From the causes of World War One to the road to World War Two, secondary school history teachers have decades to cover.

Women in WWI

WWI female workers at Kincaids / Flickr Creative Commons / Ballast Trust

Instead of starting at the beginning of the war, why not choose topics to cover such as changing gender roles during the war, or poetry written in the trenches if you teach English. Using resources from institutions like the British Library and Imperial War Museum can help you find tonnes of topics to introduce.

Dive into Topics

In Key Stage 4 and A-level you can really delve into the political aspects of the war and challenge students to think what they would have done in the shoes of the leaders of Europe. Follow the lives of individuals during the course of the war with learning packs from The Royal British Legion or BBC and discover the national events that shaped Britain’s history.

However, teaching World War One to primary school students does not have to be as intricate or revealing. Concentrate on the roles of children during the war, the impact of the evacuation of children from London and what it was like to live in Britain during this time.

Incorporate the Arts

Films and photography from the era help add faces to names and places, and most are suitable for primary school students as well. For older children, debates, re-enactments or even seeing performances such as War Horse or Birdsong in person allows pupils to connect to the material in a different way.

WWI propaganda

Your Country Needs You / Flickr Creative Commons / drbexl

Design and technology teachers can discuss the evolution and implementation of war machines while art teachers can open up a forum for students to evaluate the effectiveness and messages of WWI propaganda.

Take a School Trip

Using multimedia has always assisted in conveying points, but putting students into the situations that are being taught allows them to develop a different type of understanding and shape their critical thinking.

Consider visiting a battlefield on the Western Front or a more local location such as the Royal Air Force Museum’s new permanent exhibition: First World War in the Air, open now.

Whether you are teaching in London and have the luxury of the capital’s museums or not, there are plenty of resources for teaching World War One at your disposal.

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