Lesson Plans

Early Twentieth Century

The U.S. Involvement in the Paris Peace Conference: The Fate of Alsace-Lorraine

Author: Ian McDougall

School: Primarily Teaching

Grade Level: 10th

Time Estimated: 2 days (90 minute periods)

Historical Background

The United States was an unwanted participant at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. However, Woodrow Wilson was steadfast in not only attending, but reshaping Europe based on his 14 Points. The broad topic of the Paris Peace Conference would lead to a daunting array of information to sift through and for the purpose of this lesson I narrowed the focus to a small section of Europe known as Alsace-Lorraine. If unfamiliar, this is a section of land between Germany and France. This section of land had been hotly contested between these two European powerhouses dating back prior to the French Revolution. For this lesson, students will be exposed to documents, photographs, and maps. Through the use of aforementioned media, students will judge what should be done about the situation in Alsace-Lorraine. After examining the materials, students will work in groups to write a proposal to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson informing him on the best solution to Alsace-Lorraine's ownership. Students will have to think critically, examine primary sources, work cooperatively in a group setting, and create a written proposal. To conclude, students will be asked to compare and contrast their proposal with the actual Treaty of Versailles.


Objectives

The first objective is for students to identify important information from a variety of document types. The second objective focuses students on sequencing and rating the importance and/or usefulness of the documents to the overall theme. The third objective is for students to work in a small group setting to create a proposal for Woodrow Wilson as to what should be done with Alsace-Lorraine. The final objective allows students to compare their proposal to the actual Treaty of Versailles

  1. The learner will be able to identify key components and main ideas in a variety of texts.
  2. The learner will be able to analyze documents, maps, and photographs to place them by usefulness and relevance to the topic.
  3. The learner will collaborate within a group to create a proposal to Woodrow Wilson on what should happen regarding Alsace-Lorraine.
  4. The learner will compare and contrast their proposal to the actual outcome stated in the Treaty of Versailles.

Connections to Standards (Arizona)

  • Strand 2 (World History), Concept 1 (Research Skills), PO 1 (Interpret Historical Maps)
  • Strand 2 (World History), Concept 1 (Research Skills), PO 3 (Formulate Questions)
  • Strand 2 (World History), Concept 1 (Research Skills), PO 5 (Evaluate Primary Sources)
  • Strand 2 (World History), Concept 8 (World at War), PO 3 (Explain the End of WWI)

Connection to Standards (National)

  • History Standards for Grades 5-12 (World History) Era 8; Standard 2
  • History Standards for Grades 5-12 (World History) Era 8; Standard 3
  • History Standards for Grades 5-12 (World History) Era 8; Standard 4


Materials

Download complete Primary Source Packet

The primary sources provided range from State Department Communiques to Maps. Included with the lesson are photocopies of a large European map which shows language distribution in the area of Alsace-Lorraine. There is also a photograph of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace taken in Paris in 1919. There is microfilm photocopies provided as well as numerous documents relating to things happened at the time regarding Alsace-Lorraine. All maps, photographs, microfilm, and documents are available at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.


Procedures

Summary:

Students will be introduced to the topic by the teacher first to give some background information. Students will then work in small groups to evaluate the primary sources for important information and relevance to the topic. After they have sorted, organized, and analyzed the documents they will write a proposal to Woodrow Wilson. In this proposal they will explain to him what should be done with Alsace-Lorraine and the explanation must be defended with evidence from the documents. At the end of the lesson, students will be given a copy of the Treaty of Versailles and can use that to compare and contrast their proposal to what actually took place in 1919.

  1. Introduction: Write the following question on the board

    Why would the Europeans not want the United States at the Peace Conference?
    • Give students 3-5 minutes to come up with answers on their own.
    • Allow students 2 minutes to pair-share answers.
    • Using teacher led instruction, guide the students towards the answer that France and England wanted to carve up the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires and take as much as they could for themselves. They saw the United States as an entity that would oppose this land-grabbing or would want some of the territory for itself.
  2. Group Work
      Introduce activity: Students will be working in groups of 3-4 to create a proposal for Woodrow Wilson on what should be done with the territory known as Alsace-Lorraine. Explain to students where the territory is and that it is and has been hotly contested for many years between Germany and France. Explain to students that, prior to World War I, Alsace-Lorraine had been a German territory for more than 40 years. However, before it became a German territory, it belonged to France. Both countries feel they have claim on the land and it is up to the students to decide the fate of the people living there.

    • Have students form groups of 3-4.
    • Have each group formulate questions they will need to answer in order to focus their search through the documents. This will allow students to narrow their search and look for specific information. Some example questions are:
      • What is the language(s) of the area?
      • What are the German arguments for retaining possession ofthe area?
      • What are the French arguments for taking control of the area?
      • Why do both sides want to control the region?
    • Give each group a folder with the primary source documents included.
    • Allow each group 45 minutes with the documents. I provide each group with colored post-it notes to label useful information that they find.
    • After students have spent their time perusing the documents for information, have them discuss for 10 minutes in their groups on how they feel the territory should be awarded or divided.
    • Once each group has come to a decision based on the documents and discussion, they will then write a proposal/memorandum to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson explaining what should be done with Alsace-Lorraine. The proposal should be roughly 3-5 paragraphs. A good proposal would answer multiple questions, contain well defended decisions, and incorporate information from multiple documents. The groups will need another 45 minutes for this activity.
  3. Assessment: To conclude this activity, each student will be given a copy of Section V of the Treaty of Versailles regarding Alsace-Lorraine. They will then have an opportunity to compare and contrast what they created in their proposal to what actually happened. Once they have had some time to compare, they will need to answer the following questions on their own using specific details:
    • How was your group's proposal similar to the Treaty of Versailles?
    • How was your group's proposal different from the Treaty of Versailles?
    • What additional pieces of information would you like to have been provided with to make a better proposal? Please list 2-3 and be specific.

Assessment

Students will be evaluated on how they work in their groups, their proposal (with supporting evidence) and by a short questionnaire at the end of the activity. Students who participate and engage with their group will have no problem completing any of the exercises.

Evaluation Ideas:

    Informal: Classroom Debate/Discussion

      Create your own Paris Peace Conference in the classroom

    Formal: Questionnaire about the process

      Have students write a brief explanation of why they decided how they did


References: Web

United States Department of State, Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United State, The Paris Peace Conference, Voiume 1; Record Group 59; Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1919.
http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/FRUS/FRUS-idx?id=FRUS.FRUS1919Parisv01

United States Department of State, Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference, Volume II; Record Group 59; Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1919.
http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/FRUS/FRUS-idx?id=FRUS.FRUS1919Parisv02

United States Department of State, Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference, Volume III; Record Group 59; Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1919.
http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/FRUS/FRUS-idx?id=FRUS.FRUS1919Parisv03

United States Department of State, Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference, Volume IV; Record Group 59; Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1919.
http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/FRUS/FRUS-idx?id=FRUS.FRUS1919Parisv04

United States Department of State, Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference, Volume XIII; Record Group 59; Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1919.
http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/FRUS/FRUS-idx?id=FRUS.FRUS1919Parisv13

References: Books & Media

Brief Number 150, Slide FW. 850.000, Roll M820, Microfilm; 1919; American Commission to Negotiate Peace, Record Group 256; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Linguistic Map of Europe, Map 695 [Cartographic Record]; Loose Maps, 29th Engineers, U.S. Army, 1919; American Commission to Negotiate Peace, Record Group 256; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Photograph No. 159489; "American Commission to Negotiate Peace" June 1919; Signal Corps; American Commission to Negotiate Peace, Record Group 256; National Archives National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.