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World War I Trial

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
• 5-10 minutes of each class over 2-3 weeks. Culminating project 30 minutes class on final day.
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will conduct a trial based around the question “How should instigators of war be held responsible for their actions?”

Students will conduct a trial based around the question “How should instigators of war be held responsible for their actions?”

Rationale (why are you doing this?)
  • Students will develop a greater in depth analysis of leaders and their actions as well as responsibility for those actions.
  • Students will evaluate primary source documents and media.
Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Review content material discussed in class.
  • Enhance research skills for necessary additional material.
  • Practice debate and public speaking skills.
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met

WHII.T5S1B  Trace the origins, and relationships among the world wars, revolutions, and global conflicts of 20th century to determine their impacts on the world today.

Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed

See full list of materials here

Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

Students will facilitate a courtroom trial focusing on which country is to blame for starting World War I.  Students will choose roles to fulfill the trial (judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, countries involved in WWI, and jury). Students will browse the evidence to provide familiarity to case.  Students will research WWI and teacher will provide input with classroom notes focusing on MAIN (militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism).  The prosecution will choose one country to accuse for the crime of starting WWI.  Students will divide into Allied and Central Powers and help the attorney on their side of the trial build a case.  Each side will write questions to use on in the trial with evidence they will cite.  Judge and jury will write items to look for and evidence that should be brought forth in the trial.  Throughout the unit, student content knowledge will be supported by bell ringers, additional input, quizzes, exit slips, and other activities.  Students will conduct the trial with the teacher only fulfilling the role of bailiff and instruct students on rules of procedure.  Students will write a reflection essay with the focus varying depending on the role they fulfilled in the trial. 

Optional:  Throughout the trial students will develop also visual representation of the causes of WWI.  A model of flow charts will be presented, but students may present any type of product that includes visuals.  A comparison to current events can also be incorporated throughout the unit to further bring relevance to students.

 See full list of materials above.

Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide

Students will be evaluated based on participation in the activity, completion of pre-trial questions, and completion of summarization essay and visual representation (optional-time permitting).