Because All Quiet on the Western Front offered a gruesome portrayal of a war lost by the Germans, it infuriated Adolph Hitler, who ordered the book banned and destroyed throughout Germany. Many critics, however, consider it the best antiwar novel ever written. Ask each student to research one famous work of literature that is generally revered by critics but that has been banned somewhere in the world or in another part of the country. (Make sure that they each choose a different book and that the books they have chosen are not currently banned by your school districtyou might want to consult your schools media specialist for a list of possibilities.) Students should investigate when, why, and by whom the book was banned, as well as any attempts that were made to defend it. They should also investigate sources of praise for the literature in question. What have critics said in favor of it? When their information is complete, have your students each write a paragraph describing the banning (and resurrection) of the book they chose. You can then combine copies of the banned books with their one-paragraph descriptions to create a banned books display in your school library.
World War I Montage and Poetry
One way to capture an important event in history is to create a multimedia montage that represents it. Ask your students to create a class montage of World War I that offers a comprehensive picture of the war years. Begin by having them research and collect a variety of primary sources relating to World War I. These might include authentic recordings of significant political speeches; sheet music or recordings of songs that were popular during the war; poetry, both patriotic and antiwar in nature; works of art; newspaper headlines and photographs; political propaganda like recruitment posters and political cartoons; uniforms; and newsreels of battle scenes. Each student should contribute one item to the montage. When students have gathered their materials, allow them time to decide how to arrange the various components. For example, they might want to project an old newsreel onto a propaganda poster surrounded by newspaper headlines and photographs while an early-20th-century song is playing in the background. When the montage is complete, allow your students time to write a poem inspired by the montage, by All Quiet on the Western Front, or by the subject matter of World War I. You may want to discuss various poetic techniques (rhyme, meter, etc.) before they begin working. When their poems are complete, stage a reading of their workyou can even invite other classes to come view the montage and listen to the poetry.
It may seem obvious, but the decision to wage war affects a great deal more than the members of a nations military. World War I was thought of as a total war, meaning that it involved civilians and civilian institutions in many different ways. Work with your students to create a war flowchart that will provide a visual representation of how a declaration of war in an industrialized nation filters down through political and military levels to influence all aspects of society. First, have your students brainstorm a list of all the different elements of society that are affected by a nations involvement in a war. Be sure that they take their thinking beyond the obviousnot only military industries, for example, but also families that lose their loved ones, women who enter the workforce, and so on. When the list is complete, divide your students into groups and ask each group to organize the items on the list into a comprehensive flowchart that traces the chain of influence down from the presidential declaration of war to the lives of millions of private citizens. Be sure to remind them that flowcharts can contain lateral connections and reverse connectionsthey need not be linear and hierarchical. When the groups are finished, ask each one to share its chart with the class. You can conclude with a discussion about whether war is ever justified, given the numerous effects it can have on a people.