World War I Learning Activities for 5th Graders

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World War I was an international conflict that shaped the world in the early 20th Century. The Great War as it was called, until it was eclipsed by the even larger conflict of World War II, saw Europe collapse into one of the most deadly wars in history. There are plenty of lessons for a fifth grader to learn from this conflict.

1 Maps

The map of the world changed significantly in many places after World War I. Assign your fifth graders to learn the boundaries of the countries at war during World War I. Have them make maps of these countries before, during and after the conflict. They can color code their maps to show the allegiance between the nations, learning the concept of the Central Powers and the Allied Powers. Ask them to find any new countries that formed or significant borders that changed as a result of the war.

2 Communication

Begin a lesson on how people communicate today. Survey the class to see what ideas the students have about communication in the armed forces today. Then, introduce the fact that most of the communication devices known today were not available during the World War I. Introduce the concept of dashes and dots in selected formations to form words, then teach the concept of Morse Code, its origins and how it was used in World War 1.

3 Media

World War I was the first modern conflict to be significantly photographed. Painters and sculptors also made art in response to the war. There are images in movies recreating World War I dating back to the silent era. Assign your fifth graders to find images from the war and explain what the image shows. Trench warfare was a significant aspect of World War I strategy and was frequently photographed and documented. Emphasize the importance of learning just how important the images were to the governments and civilians of the nations involved.

4 Vocabulary

Assign a vocabulary lesson of words that came into national and international politics because of the war and the United States entrance into it. For instance, the Cold War specifically refers to the time after World War II, but has its origins in World War I when the United States first became an international power and the Soviet Union was first formed after the Russian Revolution. Isolationism is a word still used in American politics that comes from the era when the nation first became heavily involved in international conflict.

  • 1 "World War I;" Simon Adams; 2007