• Edward Hopper's House by the Railroad: From Painting to Poem

    16-A Edward Hopper (1882–1967)

    After a close reading and comparison of Edward Hopper's painting House by the Railroad and Edward Hirsch's poem about the painting, students explore the types of emotion generated by each work in the viewer or reader and examine how the painter and poet each achieved these responses.

  • Lesson 1: Postwar Disillusionment and the Quest for Peace, 1921–1929

    Senator William E. Borah, (R-Idaho), was a prominent American isolationist who  gave a speech on "outlawing war" in 1924.

    Although antiwar organizations existed even before World War I, it was during the interwar period that pacifism became the fastest-growing movement in America. Numerous American politicians, businessmen, journalists, and activists made proposals for multilateral agreements on arms control and collective security. Through an examination of memoirs, photographs, and other primary source documents, students examine the rise of antiwar sentiment in the United States, as well as some of the concrete measures taken during the 1920s to prevent the outbreak of future wars.

  • Lesson 4: The Failure of Diplomacy, September–December 1941

    A Japanese torpedo bomber over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941.

    Faced with crippling economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the Japanese government decided in September 1941 to prepare for war to seize the raw materials that they were now unable to obtain from America. Students in this lesson will put themselves in the shoes of U.S. and Japanese diplomats in the final months of 1941.

  • Lesson 4: Victory in the Pacific, 1943–1945

    The dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki

    The U.S. victory over the Japanese Navy at Midway succeeded in stopping the Axis advance in the Pacific, and by early 1943 the Marines had driven the Japanese from Guadalcanal. This lesson will guide students through the military campaigns of the Pacific theater, tracing the path of the Allied offensives.

  • Lesson 3: U.S. Neutrality and the War in Europe, 1939–1940

    Famous aviator Charles Lindbergh

    The outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 posed a serious challenge to U.S. neutrality. On the one hand, Americans' sympathies lay overwhelmingly with Great Britain and its allies; on the other hand, public sentiment overwhelmingly favored staying out of the war. Through a study of contemporary documents, students learn about the difficult choices faced by the Roosevelt administration during the first fifteen months of World War II, culminating in the decision to provide direct military aid to Great Britain.

  • Lesson 3: African-Americans and the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps

    Barracks Door, Civilian Conservation Corps.

    The Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal recovery and relief program provided more than a quarter of a million young black men with jobs during the Depression. By examining primary source documents students analyze the impact of this program on race relations in America and assess the role played by the New Deal in changing them.

  • Lesson 1: FDR's Fireside Chats: The Power of Words

    Franklin D. Roosevelt having a fireside chat in Washington, D.C, April 28, 1935.

    In this lesson which focuses on two of FDR's Fireside Chats, students gain a sense of the dramatic effect of FDR's voice on his audience, see the scope of what he was proposing in these initial speeches, and make an overall analysis of why the Fireside Chats were so successful.

  • Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech—Know It When You See It

    19a. Norman Rockwell (1894–1978)

    This lesson plan highlights the importance of First Amendment rights by examining Norman Rockwell’s painting of The Four Freedoms. Students discover the First Amendment in action as they explore their own community and country through newspapers, art, and role playing.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    The United States in World War II: "The Proper Application of Overwhelming Force" (4 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    After learning that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, thus ensuring that the United States would enter World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill breathed a sigh of relief. "Hitler's fate was sealed," he would later recall. "Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force."

    Churchill's sentiment was easy to understand. In terms of raw materials and industrial capacity the United States alone was far superior to Germany, Italy, and Japan combined. Now that America had joined Great Britain and the Soviet Union in the fight against the Axis, victory seemed assured.

    Yet it was neither raw materials nor industrial capacity alone that was able to overcome the Axis Powers. No doubt the Allies had tremendous advantages in terms of technology and productive capacity, but ultimately World War II was won by members of the armed forces—real, flesh-and-blood men (and sometimes women) who risked death and dismemberment in the name of freedom. They fought everywhere from the steppes of Russia to the jungles of Southeast Asia, from the icy waters of the North Atlantic to the sun-drenched deserts of North Africa. And after nearly four long years they achieved victory.

    In this unit, students will examine the role that the United States played in bringing about this victory. They will learn about the strategies that were developed, and how they played out in reality. They will become familiar with the two major theaters of the war—Pacific and European—and how developments in one affected the course of the fighting in the other. Finally, they will learn how the various military campaigns—on land and sea, and in the air—all contributed to the war's successful conclusion.

    Guiding Questions

    • How did the Allies manage to turn back the Japanese offensive of 1941-42?
    • How did the United States contribute to the turning of the tide against the Axis Powers in Europe in World War II?
    • How did the Allies manage to defeat and occupy Germany in 1944 and 1945?
    • How did the Allies manage to defeat Japan?

    Learning Objectives

    • Articulate the various strategies developed by Anglo-American military planners, as well as the reasons behind them.
    • Evaluate the strategies used, in terms of how successful they were in meeting their objectives.
    • Discuss anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States, and how it affected the way the Pacific War was fought.
    • Explain the magnitude of the U-Boat threat in the Atlantic in 1942 and early 1943, and how it was overcome.
    • Assess the effectiveness of the strategic bombing campaign against German cities.
    • Explain the reasons behind the dropping of the atomic bombs, and why the use of these weapons was controversial.
    • Articulate the reasons behind the Japanese surrender, and the role the atomic bomb played in that decision.
    • Identify on a map locations of importance to the war, both in Europe and the Pacific.
    • Identify the most important military engagements and explain their significance.

    Preparation Instructions

    Review each lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing. Alternatively, excerpted versions of these documents are available as part of the downloadable PDF, such as this one for Lesson Plan One (see sidebar under "Additional Student/Teacher Resources" for full list of files).

    Download the blackline masters for each lesson, available as a PDFs, such as this one for Lesson Plan One. This file contains excerpted versions of the documents used in the first and second activities, as well as questions for students to answer. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of the handouts you plan to use in class.

    Perhaps most importantly, you should become familiar with the interactive maps which accompany this unit, and which show the locations of important events in both the European and Pacific theaters:

    Clicking on these locations will bring up pop-ups that include a paragraph or two of basic information about what happened there, as well as links to pages with more in-depth coverage, plus relevant campaign maps, photographs, and/or personal accounts by those who were there.

    Working with Primary Sources

    If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets. Finally, History Matters offers pages on "Making Sense of Maps" and "Making Sense of Oral History" which give helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.

    The Lessons

    • Lesson 1: Turning the Tide in the Pacific, 1941–1943

      American dive bombers over Midway. The Battle of Midway was crucial to turning  the tide in the Pacific war against Japan.

      In December 1941, Japanese armed forces launched a massive offensive, attacking targets as far East as Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and as far West as Burma. This lesson plan will focus on the overall strategies pursued by the Japanese and the Allies in the initial months of World War II in Asia and the Pacific.

    • Lesson 2: Turning the Tide in Europe, 1942–1944

      American tank crew in North Africa, 1942.

      Although it was the Japanese who attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, U.S. military planners decided that Germany, not Japan, was to be the primary target of operations. This lesson plan will focus on the overall strategies pursued by the Americans and their British allies in the initial months of World War II in Europe.

    • Lesson 3: Victory in Europe, 1944–1945

      American troops landing at Normandy, June 6, 1944.

      Although the campaign in the Mediterranean was successful in forcing Italy out of the war, Allied military planners by late 1943 had concluded that it would not be enough to defeat Nazi Germany. This lesson plan will focus on the overall strategy pursued by the Allies in the final months of World War II in Europe.

    • Lesson 4: Victory in the Pacific, 1943–1945

      The dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki

      The U.S. victory over the Japanese Navy at Midway succeeded in stopping the Axis advance in the Pacific, and by early 1943 the Marines had driven the Japanese from Guadalcanal. This lesson will guide students through the military campaigns of the Pacific theater, tracing the path of the Allied offensives.

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
    Skills
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    • Vocabulary
    • Writing skills
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    From Neutrality to War: The United States and Europe, 1921–1941 (4 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    In the years after World War I Americans quickly reached the conclusion that their country's participation in that war had been a disastrous mistake, one which should never be repeated again. During the 1920s and 1930s, therefore, they pursued a number of strategies aimed at preventing war.

    At first the major players in this effort were American peace societies, many of which were part of larger international movements. Their agenda called for large-scale disarmament and an international treaty to abolish war. Their efforts bore fruit, as 1922 saw the signing of a major agreement among the great powers to reduce their numbers of battleships. Six years later most of the world's nations signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, in which the signatories pledged never again to go to war with one another.

    However, events in the early- to mid-1930s led many Americans to believe that such agreements were insufficient. After all, they did not deter Japan from occupying Manchuria in 1931, nor four years later did they stop the German government from authorizing a huge new arms buildup, or Italy from invading Ethiopia. The U.S. Congress responded by passing the Neutrality Acts, a series of laws banning arms sales and loans to countries at war, in the hope that this would remove any potential reason that the United States might have for entering a European conflict.

    When in 1939 war did break out between Germany on the one hand, and Britain and France on the other, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dutifully invoked the Neutrality Acts. However, he believed that this was a fundamentally different war from World War I. Germany, he believed (and most Americans agreed with him) was in this case a clear aggressor. Roosevelt therefore sought to provide assistance for the Allies, while still keeping the United States out of the war. He began by asking Congress to amend the neutrality laws to allow arms sales to the Allies. Later on, after German forces overran France, the president asked Congress for a massive program of direct military aid to Great Britain—an initiative that Roosevelt dubbed "Lend-Lease." In both cases the legislature agreed to FDR's proposals, but only after intense debate.

    The question of how involved the United States should become in the European war deeply divided the country. On the one hand, Roosevelt and the so-called "internationalists" claimed that a program of aid to Great Britain and other countries fighting against Germany would make actual U.S. participation in the war unnecessary. On the other side stood those who were called "isolationists," who believed that the president's policies were making it increasingly likely that the country would end up in another disastrous foreign war. This debate was still raging when Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. At this point it was clear that, like it or not, the United States would be a full participant in the Second World War.

    Guiding Questions

    • How did Americans' disillusionment with World War I help to shape U.S. foreign policy during the 1920s?
    • Did the neutrality laws of the 1930s represent an effective U.S. response to world affairs?
    • How did the American conception of "neutrality" change during the first fifteen months of World War II in Europe? Was this change a positive or a negative development?
    • Which side offered the better approach to U.S. foreign relations—the "internationalists" or the "isolationists"?

    Learning Objectives

    • List the main reasons for the growth of antiwar sentiment after World War I.
    • Identify the U.S. foreign policy initiatives of the 1920s that aimed toward the prevention of war.
    • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Five-Power Treaty and the Kellogg-Briand Pact as means of preventing war.
    • Explain the "Merchants of Death" thesis and how it shaped the U.S. approach to neutrality.
    • List the main terms of the neutrality laws passed during the 1930s.
    • Identify the major events of European history between 1935 and 1941, and how they shaped the debate over U.S. neutrality.
    • Assess the overall effectiveness of U.S. neutrality policy during this period.
    • Explain Roosevelt's concept of neutrality in the context of the European war.
    • Articulate how Roosevelt sought to revise the neutrality laws in line with this understanding.
    • Explain the arguments both for and against Roosevelt's decision in late 1940 to extend military aid to Great Britain.
    • Articulate the main arguments used in 1941 for and against greater U.S. involvement in the European war.
    • List the Roosevelt administration's major foreign policy initiatives regarding the war in Europe, and explain the significance of each.
    • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the "internationalist" and "isolationist" positions, and advance an argument as to which was the better approach.
    • Identify on a blank map the locations of the major events in Europe from 1935 to 1941.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the lesson plans in the unit. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites used in these lessons. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing. Alternatively, excerpted versions of these documents are available as part of the downloadable PDFs.
    • Download the Text Documents for the lessons, available as PDFs. These files contain excerpted versions of the documents used in all each lesson, as well as questions for students to answer. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of the handouts you plan to use in class.
    • Finally, familiarize yourself with the interactive timeline "America on the Sidelines: The United States and World Affairs, 1931-1941" that accompanies this lesson. This timeline will, through text and maps, guide students through the major events in Europe from 1933 to 1941, and will ask students for each event to identify (choosing from among a menu of options) how the United States responded to it.
    Analyzing primary sources

    If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets.

    The Lessons

    • Lesson 1: Postwar Disillusionment and the Quest for Peace, 1921–1929

      Senator William E. Borah, (R-Idaho), was a prominent American isolationist who  gave a speech on "outlawing war" in 1924.

      Although antiwar organizations existed even before World War I, it was during the interwar period that pacifism became the fastest-growing movement in America. Numerous American politicians, businessmen, journalists, and activists made proposals for multilateral agreements on arms control and collective security. Through an examination of memoirs, photographs, and other primary source documents, students examine the rise of antiwar sentiment in the United States, as well as some of the concrete measures taken during the 1920s to prevent the outbreak of future wars.

    • Lesson 2: Legislating Neutrality, 1934–1939

      President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to keep the U.S. out of World War II as  long as possible.

      Americans in the mid nineteen thirties turned increasingly pessimistic about the possibility of preventing the outbreak of wars through international cooperation and instead moved toward measures designed to prevent the United States from intervening in any foreign war that might occur. In this lesson students examine a series of primary source documents that will help them understand why these laws were passed, and how they were applied in the mid- to late-1930s.

    • Lesson 3: U.S. Neutrality and the War in Europe, 1939–1940

      Famous aviator Charles Lindbergh

      The outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 posed a serious challenge to U.S. neutrality. On the one hand, Americans' sympathies lay overwhelmingly with Great Britain and its allies; on the other hand, public sentiment overwhelmingly favored staying out of the war. Through a study of contemporary documents, students learn about the difficult choices faced by the Roosevelt administration during the first fifteen months of World War II, culminating in the decision to provide direct military aid to Great Britain.

    • Lesson 4: The Great Debate: Internationalists vs. Isolationists

      Senator James Byrnes of South Carolina defended the U.S.'s aiding of Great  Britain prior to America's entry into World War II.

      President Roosevelt's proposal to provide direct military aid to Great Britain launched a nationwide debate over foreign policy that lasted through most of 1941. Should the United States observe its traditional policy of non-involvement in European affairs (to which World War I had been a notable exception), or should the United States take whatever steps were necessary (up to and, perhaps, including direct involvement in the war) to prevent a German victory?In this lesson students are introduced to the main arguments used by both sides in this great debate. Through the use of an interactive map and primary source documents, students trace the events of 1941, and think critically about what foreign policy would have best served national interests.

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
    • History and Social Studies > Place > Asia
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    • Writing skills