Students will be able to understand issues behind the German mindset at the end of WWI.
I decided this week to go into full history mode. We’ve already watched a few episodes of “Band of Brothers,” so I’ve been in a mood to teach the World Wars. Conveniently, they are just starting WWII in their world history classes, so rather than blowing off English to teach my favorite subject, history, in fact I am “reinforcing curriculum in other disciplines.” I am having a blast, and have had two very successful lessons in a row. I measure my lesson success by how many students feel it’s okay to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of class. On the average day, it’s probably 2-3 kids per period. Yesterday, 2 kids left the room all day. This morning, not a single kid has left. My class must be pretty good if they don’t want to miss anything 🙂
Yesterday, I printed out a few pages of my curriculum and laid a class set on each desk. I also printed out black and white maps of Europe and taped them to each desk, highlighting the country that student was going to belong to. It was not a super in-depth lesson: the countries were limited to Russia, Serbia, Austria-Hungary, Germany, France, USA, Belgium, and Great Britain. They had a study guide for notes, and as we went through the packet, I paired a power point with my lecture/discussion. We made sure to note every major mustache in the presentation. I also brought a pound of yarn and painter’s tape. As different countries started forming alliances, I taped the yarn to desks and connected them to the desks of their allied countries. I had two colors, one for the Central Powers and one for the Allies. For example, the Triple Entente connected Russian desks with French and British desks. I purposefully placed Germany and Austria-Hungary between French and Russian desks. Belgium connected to the UK, and the US hung out by itself because, technically, it was “neutral” for most of the war. By the end of class we had yarn crisscrossing around the room, which was tricky for me because I like to pace, and had a tendency to trip and break alliances.
We started the lesson with Otto von Bismarck (apparently this name never came up in their world history class) and ended with America entering the war and Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen points. Some of my usually distracted boys had a blast; they were Germany, and tracked every move made in the war. One boy, who I once kicked out of class for not surrendering his phone, marched into my room today and announced that, “the archduke of Australia-Hungary (close enough) was killed in in 1914 and Germany got screwed when they didn’t even start the war! I remember that all from yesterday, Miss!” I was so proud of them.
Today I checked out the iPads and posted their readings onto my teacher site; in lieu of making dozens of copies, they got to use the iPads to switch back and forth between my PowerPoint and my reading. They all became German citizens today; half were German soldiers, and half of those were fired when the Treaty of Versailles dictated that Germany’s army couldn’t exceed 100,000. Those unemployed joined the Freikorps. I quizzed them on how they felt about the Treaty, and we divided into the many political parties of Germany in 1919 and elected Friedrich Ebert as president of the Weimar Republic. We totally ran out of time; this 5-day lesson plan might turn into a 6-or 7 day plan. Anyway, they’re learning and I’m having a ball.
|Kaiser Wilhelm II’s mustache|
|German general Erich von Ludendorff’s mustache|
|Otto von Bismarck’s mustache|
|Woodrow Wilson’s total lack of mustache|
Numerous times over the last two days, students have shouted how I should be a history teacher, or how they’ve learned more from me than from their history teacher. I don’t think the history teachers at our school are bad; quite the contrary, I’ve had many conversations with them about potentially collaborating on projects next year. Still, I think my students complete a lot of packets and watch a lot of movies, possibly because many of our history teachers are also coaches and spend a lot of time on the road with their teams. I am in a bit of a quandary because I would love to teach history; however, I also love my English classes. If the state keeps our testing requirement, sophomore English is going to be more important than ever, as our test is a graduation requirement. Even if there were a history slot open, I don’t want to leave my students to someone who might not care as much or worse – be mean to them. I also love my department; my fellow English teachers are super supportive and creative and I love learning from them and with them. Most are veteran teachers, and they inspire me to continue to work each day. This summer I plan to compare my curriculum with the world history department’s so I can see where I can insert more history. Perhaps I can pull a few primary sources during each unit and use those instead of short stories from the textbook. My students have 7 classes a day; the more reinforcing I can do, the better they’ll learn in both subjects. Hopefully 🙂
P.S. My husband glanced at my blog title and at my pictures and said of the mustachio’d, “Except they lost.” True. But they did have awesome mustaches.