Lesson Ideas for Teaching World War 2
At 11:15 am, on the 3rd September 1939, the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain announced to the country that Germany had not withdrawn their troops from Poland. As a result, the country was now at war.
Many children associate war as something that only happens abroad and only involves the armed forces. The teaching of World War 2 shows that 61 countries and 1.7 billion people were involved in the war. That was ¾ of the world’s population. Over 50 million people were killed, and hundreds of millions of people were injured.
World War 2 can be taught as a cross-curricular topic. It covers all areas, just as the war affected every aspect of life. Gas masks were issued, rationing started, bombings commenced, The Blitz, children in London and other big cities were evacuated to the country with parcel labels, men and women were enlisted.
There are so many small but interesting facts, including how the Blitz lasted 8 months. During that time St Paul’s Cathedral remained (mainly) unscathed. Some say it is because the Germans used the dome of the cathedral as a navigational aid for the Germans.
Children were affected by the war in many ways. In London and the big cities, they were evacuated to the country, labelled, scared and unsure if or when they would see their families again. The Diary of Anne Frank is most probably the most famous of diary highlighting the affects of war on children.
The Children’s War: The Second World War through the eyes of the children of Britain by Juliet Gardiner was published in association with the Imperial War Museum. It puts the story of the children throughout World War 2, on the centre stage. Highlighting in actual accounts, photos and images.
With rationing taking place, what was rationed? Why? Discuss how clothes were handed down, and repaired endlessly. What do the children think the clothes felt like?
The Royal British Legion has key dates and battles on its website. They also have memories from soldiers who fought in the war (Link).
Army and air force bases were to built across the country. Websites like Lancashire at War, Scotlands History, World War 2 and Wales show how the war has had a lasting impact on the regions, as well as the roles they played in the war. These local websites, also link in to local museums and artefacts. The local museums may have lots of information and resources that either can be loaned out or can be used there within a workshop setting. It gives the children the ability to see how life could have been.
Discuss with the children recent news reports about how bombs are still being found. How and why could this happen? How are they now being found?
Diaries, memories, letters, poetry and recounts are all great ways to get creative writing in through the topic.
These can be started with the Diary of Anne Frank, or by recounts from people who were children during the war. Show the children some pictures? What do they the story is behind the pictures? How do you think people felt?
There are lots of opportunities for role play and drama. Have the children role play being at the station, some children being the parents, some being the children being sent away and leaving their parents behind.
The children can also do a recount of an actual event, such as the D-Day, or VE day.
During the war, morale for the troops was needed to be kept up. This is where some people who would entertain the troops. Those who became famous for this include the Glenn Miller Band, Vera Lyn and the Andrews Sisters. Dance halls became popular; the new music of jazz and swing music was born, the Jive and the Jitterbug became popular dances.
Get the children to listen to the music, how has it changed? Teach the children some of the basic dance steps. Ask the children why did they think dance and music was important?
Teach children some of the songs including, “It’s a long way to Tipperrary”, “Pack up your troubles in your old tin hat”, “We’ll meet again”.
Design and Technology/Art
Children enjoy getting creative here. There is a chance for cooking, designing, and building here. Children can recreate some of the recipes of meals from World War 2. There is a website called CookIT that has some recipes that could be used. This also brings in the subject of rationing and why recipes had to be adapted. It could also bring in the topic of healthy eating. Would meals have been healthier during the war, and until rationing ended? Why?
Children could also create their own air raid shelter. Make their own box for their gas masks, design a poster about how their country needs them.
The spider diagram at the top just touches on the variety of areas that could be covered in this topic. It can be a really enjoyable subject. Shame to teach it only in History.
The BBC has some resources and videos about World War 2, specially created for Key Stage 2.