Outfitting a World War I soldier: Teaching US history with primary sources
What do soldiers wear? Students will say a uniform and mention boots. However, many of the necessities of soldiers are often overlooked by civilians whether the items be standard issue or personal.This lesson gives students the opportunity to not only look at William B. Umstead's artifacts from World War I, but gain insight into how and why each item was used.
Students will examine artifacts of a World War I soldier and gain insight to technological advances of the times. Students will analyze uses of the artifacts by completing an artifact analysis chart.
Time required for lesson
One class period
- Tar Heel Junior Historian - “Kiffin Rockwell: Aristocrat of the Air” by Jerry L. Cross p.4-8
- Chronology of William B. Umstead 1895-1954
- “Outfitting a Soldier”: Images and descriptions of William B. Umstead’s equipment and personal effects
- Copies of the Artifact Analysis Sheet — one per student
- Computer connected to a multimedia projector
- Computer lab or individual student computers
- Artifact analysis worksheet
- A worksheet for students to use when analyzing a physical artifact. It may be used directly on the computer as a PDF form. Additional education resources from NARA are available on the NARA for Educators and Students.
- Open as PDF (145 KB, 1 page)
Students should have already learned about the causes of WWI, why the US became involved, what life was like on the home front, and technological advances prior to and during WWI.
- Have students read the article from the Tar Heel Junior Historian.
- Divide students into groups of four and have them brainstorm a soldier’s needs during WW I.
- Each group will share their ideas with the class.
- Tell students that they will view a website that will show them artifacts of a WW I soldier from NC.
- Share information about the life of William B. Umstead (best to project on the board).
- Students will view the “Outfitting a soldier” collection of images in order to fill in the artifact analysis worksheet.
- Facilitate a whole-class discussion about what the students learned through this activity.
Assess students based on their responses on the artifact analysis sheet.
As a teacher you will need to decide what to include in lessons on World War I. Use of Docsouth can provide you with a wealth of material. What is available to you ranges from diaries, letters, and music to technology. It is best for the teacher to view the websites so that you can better direct your students. The information available would also be useful in planning learning stations related to WW I.