I've talked about the arm wrestling match in previous years. It's one of those lessons I'm pretty proud of, so if you're here as a teacher and looking for it, click here.
We did that, and we also read how the system of alliances played out. We looked at a section from THIS PAGE, starting at the line, "One Thing Led to Another."
This year, we did a close reading of that section. Our school has been trying to build a common language and incorporate "close readings" in all content areas. Students put a box around words they don't know, question marks for things they don't understand, exclamation points for things they find interesting or want to come back to, and they underline main ideas, key points, etc...
I told the student they had to write their thoughts in the margins at least 4 times.
As we discussed it, I tried to translate some key points into junior high metaphors. That's what junior high teachers do, right? We try to take these complicated subjects and simplify them - indeed, oversimplify them - while students are being introduced to them. Then, in high school, they get to make them complicated again.
A couple analogies I used that are oversimplified. (You already know the arm-wrestling and jolly rancher...)
Ultimatum: Charlie is going out with Sierra. They've been going out for 2 weeks. They're in love. It's frfr. Sierra tells Charlie, "You need to unfriend Veronica. Now. If you don't unfriend her, we're breaking up." #ultimatum
Neutrality: You are friends with Charlie, Sierra, and Veronica. (Actual friends, not just on social media.) You don't want to lose their friendship. Charlie starts talking to you, "Can you believe Sierra?" he says. "I can't believe she made me unfriend Veronica. Is that crazy, or what?" ...If you say she's crazy, you're taking her side. Sierra won't be happy about that, and she finds out everything. If you say that maybe Charlie's over-reacting, you're taking Sierra's side. And Charlie's sitting right in front of you... You continue eating your takis and pretend you didn't hear the question. #neutrality.
On the war starting in 1914 and the U.S. entering in 1917: You have a dentist appointment, and miss the first half to three-fourths of gym. You get back at the end. The kids are playing basketball. Winning team gets ice cream sandwiches. The good kind. Mrs. Kelly says that with this much time left, you can just go wherever you want. The score is 45-12. You join the team with 45. When they win three and half minutes later, you congratulate yourself on helping win the game. You did take an elbow to the chin, but the rest of the team thinks you're giving yourself too much credit.
(Again, let me reiterate that I'm really over-simplifying these today...)
On Japan being on our side in WWI, and bombing us a mere 20 years later - not long in the lifespan of nations: Do you know anybody who was friends with someone in 5th grade, but then wasn't friends with them anymore in 7th grade? ...If that happens, you may ask yourself, "What happened?" Indeed, when you did the close reading, and you saw that Japan was fighting with us in WWI, you should have realized they bombed us at Pearl Harbor and said, "I wonder what happened in those 20 years..."
There are plenty more thoughts to think, and I'd love to hear them. Can you think of any better analogies? Can you think of more I should share that would help us understand WWI or WWII? Where do these analogies fall apart? (The basketball one, for instance has what I believe to be a glaring problem.) Students can get extra credit if they read and discuss this with an adult. When they're done, they should write some thoughts answering the questions from this paragraph. Have the adult sign the paper when they've finished discussing/writing.
*Edit* Also, if you notice any typos, let me know.