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Teaching Guide

Teaching World War II

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World War II was a long, violent, brutal event, but teaching it doesn't have to be. And if your students are resisting involvement in this lesson, we can help you persuade them.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity examining the rivalry between FDR and Charles Lindberg.
  • pop culture resources, including everyone's favorite documentarian (i.e., the only one they can name), Ken Burns.
  • related literary resources like Slaughterhouse-Five and Catch-22 (World War II novels love their hyphens).

And so much more.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

After World War II broke out in Europe in 1939, Americans spent the next two years debating whether or not they should get involved. Most supported the non-interventionist recommendations of celebrity aviator Charles Lindberg. President Franklin Roosevelt, on the other hand, tried to convince Americans that the European war was also their own war, and that they should assist the British and French and prepare for an even larger role in fighting against fascism. 

In this exercise, your students will assume the position of either Charles Lindberg or Franklin Roosevelt and debate the American policy response to the war in Europe.

1. Briefly review the neutrality policies adopted during the 1930s and American reactions toward German acts of aggression in 1937 and 1938.

2. Sort your class into two groups: Roosevelt interventionists and Lindberg America First Committee
members.

3. Direct the Roosevelt camp to these for Roosevelt radio speeches.

Direct the Lindberg camp to the material available here.

4. Debate the following resolution:

America should continue to steer clear of European involvement. America's interests are best advanced by a policy of strict neutrality.

TEKS Standards: §113.41. United States History Studies Since 1877 b1, b2, b6, c2D, c7A, c7B, c29A, c29B, 30A, c30B

Instructions for Your Students

In retrospect, it's hard to believe that most Americans wanted for the United States to play no part in World War II, even after Nazi Germany had conquered France and launched an aerial attack on Great Britain. 

President Franklin Roosevelt tried to convince Americans that Britain's fight was America's, but the vast majority agreed with another American hero, aviator Charles Lindberg, who argued that a policy of neutrality best served American interests.

You will be recreating their debate. 

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING WORLD WAR II?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary & Analysis    Timeline    Battles    People    Facts    Photos    Best of the Web    Citations    Test Review    
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