Tuesday, April 15, 2014

World War I (Great... War...)

The Indiana State Standards for social studies are very good...  overall.  For real.  But there are several standards dealing with World War II, and not one standard on World War I.  I think it's difficult to gain any understanding of one without at least some background knowledge of the other.

So, yesterday I taught my yearly WWI lesson.

I grew up learning that WWI was fought over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand II.  And that's partially true.  But I teach that the war was more about the (faulty) system of alliances that were in place.

Before class (during bellwork) students are going around gaining alliances.  They're supposed to get 4: a friend, someone of the opposite sex, someone they don't know very well, and someone of their choice.

Then, I start off by asking if any student wants a Jolly Rancher.  Of course, a thousand hands go up.

I'll call on a rather delicate young lady to take the Jolly Rancher.

When she comes up to the front and sits down, I then ask if there's anybody who thinks they can beat her in an arm-wrestling match for the Jolly Rancher.  I'll choose one of the strongest guys in the class to go against her.

Now, when she volunteered, she didn't realize she was going to have to arm-wrestle someone...  In one class, she actually just tossed the Jolly Rancher at the guy in a huff of defeat.

I'll say, "now hold on.  I'll tell you what.  You can call on a couple of your allies to come and help you out."  So, she then brings up several of her friends to help in this arm-wrestling match.

Now, the guy feels like this isn't fair either.  He thought he was arm-wrestling a petite little girl, not her and 4 friends.  So, I say he can call some friends as well if he wants to.  And he does.

Things escalate quickly.

The Jolly Rancher represents the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  When viewed against all of WWI, it's a relatively minor incident.  You wouldn't expect 15 million deaths (and many, many more recognizing that WWI set the stage for WWII)  to come from this one assassination.

And you wouldn't expect a class to fight an armed conflict (get it? ...Armed...?  ...heh... seriously...)  over a Jolly Rancher.  Just like Serbia called Russia to come to her aid when attacked by the Austro-Hungarians, the girl called her allies to her aid.  

And Austria-Hungary wasn't expecting to fight against the Russians, so they dialed up the Germans as well.  And next thing you know: BAM!  WWI.

If nothing else, I hope the students understand the concept of how the system of alliances escalated a minor incident into WWI.

I took some pictures too.

I hope you like them.

If you want the extra credit, you were supposed to read and discuss the blog post with an adult.  If you did this, find a piece of paper and write down two sentences telling me what they thought about the activity.  Then, have them sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

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