Lesson Plans

Early Twentieth Century

Author: Tim O'Donnell
School: Northwest High
Grade Level: 9th
Time Estimated: 3 Days

Enduring Understanding

The early-to-mid twentieth century presented significant tests to the viability of the Democratic Experiment that is the United States of America. Rapid urban growth, massive industrial expansion, desire for global influence and seemingly indifferent government were only partially checked by the Progressive Era. In turn, progressivism was eclipsed by the U.S. involvement in the Great War, World War One, itself a departure from an understood and later concrete policy of neutrality. The interwar years found a nation grappling with its identity, shifting from rural to urban and from global in reach to reconsidering isolationism. As Europe and Asia suffered through the rise of communism, socialism and brutal dictatorships, the near economic collapse of the United States caused many Americans to turn their gaze internally. The Great Depression may not have crippled the American economy, but it certainly staggered it.

As the U.S. economy struggled to recover, the nation limped along and democracy endured. What came next would arguably pose the nation’s greatest test for both the individual citizen and the government’s leadership. As a result of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the people of the United States was stunned, but unified and the United States entered World War Two. Where many had argued for the U.S. to remain neutral in a war that involved distant problems in distant lands, (Asia and Europe), the attack on Pearl Harbor gave strong evidence that a crisis was at hand and America’s existence was at stake.

While the United States mobilized, it became clear that an invasion of the continent of Europe would be necessary to oust the Nazi Germans from power. This invasion would require tremendous preparation, and sacrifice. The industrial might of the United States and the resolve of its people to would be tested when this threshold was crossed. An invasion of Europe was tremendously risky and failure would result in a greatly lengthened war.

This lesson is designed to give evidence that in times of crisis, decisions are often made in the name of the common good. Additionally, this lesson will look at one significant turning point in the war, the invasion of Normandy, France in 1944. The words and perspectives of George Washington, FDR, General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Technical Sergeant Archie Britt, U.S. Army will be considered.


Students will be able to:

1. Analyze the Allied war aims, strategies and major turning points of the war by reading the prescribed text pages and participate in class discussions and by defining terms and names into notebooks. (US 2.2.2)
2. Describe the impact of events on the people at the home front by creating cartoons summarizing events depicted in the New York Times articles. (US 1.1.8, US 2.1.2)
3. Describe the role and sacrifices of members of the American armed forces by writing a letter home from the perspective of a D-Day survivor. (US 2.2.2, US 2.1.2)
4. Assess the credibility of primary and secondary sources, assessing the accuracy and adequacy of the author’s details to support claims and noting instances of bias, propaganda, and stereotyping through the SOAPing of the Archie Britt letter.


Unit 9.5: “The Common Good”
Lesson Sequence 2.3: War aims, strategies and turning points - Turning Points



Students need to complete the Pre-Assessment sheet on their own.

This assignment is to be preceded by reading pages 569—577 in The Americans. Reading these pages will provide a context for the following lesson.

Students are also expected to participate in class discussions related to summarizing main ideas.

Students will need to define all “Terms & Names” in their notebooks prior to the start of Day One.

Day One

Activity One:
Activity Two:
  • Distribute worksheets to the students.
  • Students will analyze General Eisenhower’s dispatch to General Marshall using the Eisenhower Memo to Marshall Questions sheet.
  • Students are to complete this sheet on their own, at first.
  • Students will then form teams of two (or three if necessary) in order to compare answers and opinions. (Each student will have to turn in a completed analysis sheet.)
  • The teacher will then review the answers with the class as a whole and post answers on the board.
Activity Three:
  • Distribute worksheets to the students.
  • Students will read FDR’s D-Day Prayer and then listen to it online at: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu//audiot7.html#dday.
  • Students will analyze FDR’s D-Day Prayer to the nation using the FDR’s Prayer Questions sheet.
  • Students are to complete this sheet with their team. (Each student will have to turn in a completed analysis sheet.)
  • The teacher will then review the answers with the class as a whole and post answers on the board.

Day Two

Activity One:
  • Review the analysis of Day One’s documents.
Activity Two:
Homework- Students will:
1. Complete rereading the document, if necessary.
2. Complete a SOAP for the document using the SOAP Graphic organizer handout.
3. Write a letter home using the Letter Home Assignment assignment sheet.

Day Three

Activity One:
  • Place students into groups of four.
  • Have students read their homework letters aloud to their group.
  • Students will then choose one letter from their group to be read aloud the class.
Activity Two:
  • Distribute assessment
  • Students will complete the Post Assessment Sheet


  • It may be necessary to read the textbook information on D-Day aloud to the class. This would also require having a class set of texts in the classroom for all students to use.
  • It may be appropriate for the instructor to model two documents with the class.
  • Larger groups may need to be created by the instructor so group leaders can be identified to assist less advanced readers in their reading and analysis of the documents.
  • Photocopies of documents may need to be copied with large print.
  • Some analysis questions may need to be skipped.
  • Background information may need to be condensed.
  • Individual work may need to replace group work.
  • FDR’s prayer may need further explanation regarding the separation of Church and State.
  • Archie Britt’s letter may require some visual support for students who are unfamiliar with seaside settings, such as the beach, dunes, etc…
  • Time management may need modification.


Students will complete the Post Assessment Sheet on Day Three

Students will be asked to read their letters home aloud.

References: Web

Images from U.S. Army archives. This site has excellent images and summaries of U.S. Army related history.
Excerpt from George Washington’s Farewell Address
This is a modestly challenging site to navigate. It has a large volume of text materials.
General Eisenhower’s dispatch to General Marshall
This site has ample resources. Many text documents and photo images.
FDR’s Prayer
Text: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/odddayp.html
Audio: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu//audiot7.html#dday
This site has a strong collection of FDR related items. Navigating this site is virtually effortless.
This is the National Geographic site. The images are excellent, but the text may not be too appealing to younger readers.
This site is useful for its images and summaries, as they relate to understanding the challenges of landing on a Normandy beach.

References: Books & Media

Danzer, Gerald A., J. Jorge Klor De Alva, and Larry S. Krieger. Americans: Reconstruction to the 21st Century. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell, 2005.
This is the Honors United States History textbook used by Montgomery County Public Schools