Lesson Plans

The Lessons and Legacy of World War II:
A Collaboration Between The Friends of the National WW II Memorial and
the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

The primary source based lessons here explore five themes of World War II and utilize the vast collection and resources of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History. Each lesson includes important historical background and context for the teacher, cross reference to the National Standards of United States History, an essential question to be explored by students, objectives for student learning, related documents, learning activities for student engagement, and a culminating activity called, “World War II at the Memorial” connecting the lesson directly to features of the National World War II Memorial addressed in the lesson.

WWII Memorial Lesson

Lesson One

The Beginnings of World War II: U.S. Entry into the War
In this lesson students and teachers explore the background of how the United States entered World War II, the results of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the resolve of the American people under the leadership of President Franklin Roosevelt to see the war through to the “inevitable triumph.”

WWII Memorial Lesson

Lesson Two

The United States Home Front During World War II
In this lesson students and teachers examine the Home Front with an analysis of documents related various components of the home front including war bond drives, victory gardens, the expansion of the role of women workers in factories and shipyards, creating the iconic America image of Rosie the Riveter, the role of African Americans on the Home Front, and the unity that was created among all Americans in an effort to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

WWII Memorial Lesson

Lesson Three

Letters from American Men and Women on the Battle Front
Here students and teachers read and reflect upon the wartime letters sent from the battlefront to loved ones. These poignant letters explore the inner world of American service men and women, providing a glimpse of life on the battlefront facing the enemy. From expressing sheer terror to the necessity of doing ones duty to mundane daily activities, students interacting with these letters will come to understand what these men and women endured while liberating much of the globe ensnared by tyranny.

WWII Memorial Lesson

Lesson Four

Pivotal Battles and the Turning of the Tide
Assuring victory over the Axis was no easy task for the Allies. After some early setbacks in 1942, the Allies began to take the offensive and roll back Axis expansion. These lessons lead students and teachers to understand the overall American strategy to secure victory. Maps, details of crucial battles in Europe and the Pacific, and a wide variety of additional primary materials help students to recognize and understand the enormity of the Allied war effort and places it in a global context with regard to combat at the Battles of Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa in the Pacific to American operations in North Africa and the Mediterranean, the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

WWII Memorial Lesson

Lesson Five

Victory and the Legacy of the War
The Allied victory in World War II had a profound impact on American life. While many Americans presumed the end of the war would return the nation to another depression what emerged was a period of unprecedented prosperity in human history as industry, bolstered by the war effort continued to expand. After the war, aided by the G. I. Bill millions of Americans returned from the battlefield to the classroom, filling the ranks of students who attended colleges and universities. In this lesson students explore the ramifications of the American victory during the war studying a variety of documents related to what gave Americans came to believe as “the good war.”

The History Channel WWII Teaching Manual

The History ChannelWe are pleased to be able to make The History Channel WWII Teaching Manual available here to help teachers bring the history of World War II alive in the classroom.

The manual is intended to help promote the study and understanding of World War II in elementary and secondary schools. It also assists students to become familiar with the National World War II Memorial, located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The World War II Memorial welcomes thousands of school groups annually. For those students who will visit the Memorial, it is our hope that these materials will enrich their visit.

For each grade level, the manual includes readings, discussion questions, activities and portfolio projects that are designed to be used to enrich any curriculum. Also provided are a resource guide and a selection of primary source materials.

The Friends of the National World War II Memorial’s education programs are generously supported by the Jack C. Taylor / Enterprise Rent-A-Car WWII Memorial Education Endowment.

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World War II Memorial

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Friends is grateful to the following Founding Sponsors for their ongoing commitment to preserving the legacy, lessons, and sacrifices of our Greatest Generation.

Friends of the National WWII Memorial Sponsor AT&TFriends of the National WWII Memorial Sponsor F. Haydn WilliamsFriends of the National WWII Memorial Sponsor WalmartFriends of the National WWII Memorial Sponsor Crawford Taylor Foundation