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This lesson plan uses primary sources to help students explore what life was like at the height of World War II on an operational military base in Greensboro, North Carolina. Students read articles from the base newspaper, make inferences about life on the base, and write about an experience they had as comparison. Primary sources are available directly from this collection, made available through the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, and the contributions of the Greensboro Historical Museum.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • find direct quotes from a newspaper article that reveal what life may have been like on an active military base in Greensboro during World War II and use a graphic organizer to analyze those quotes.
  • demonstrate an ability to make inferences by explaining the inferences they made while reading to others.
  • work collaboratively with peers by discussing in small- and large- groups what effects wartime had on this base and the surrounding area.
  • compare their findings from reading articles to their own real-life experiences.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

30-60 minutes

Material/resources

  • Paper
  • Pencils/pens

Technology resources

Handouts

Says/Means chart
Students use this chart to analyze direct quotes and infer meaning from the newspaper articles.
Open as PDF (29 KB, 1 page)
Writing organizer
Students use this organizational chart to think about their personal experience in small chunks and organize their writing.
Open as PDF (31 KB, 1 page)
Life on a North Carolina military base rubric
You may use this rubric to assess the students’ work from this lesson.
Open as PDF (34 KB, 1 page)

Pre-activities

Students should have some background knowledge about World War II. This lesson may work best amid a larger World War II unit.

Activities

  1. Introduce the assignment by sharing the learning objectives for the assignment, the steps you will take to complete the assignment, and distributing the handouts as you go through these steps. Students should have access to the Says/Means Chart, the Writing Organizer, and the Life on a North Carolina Military Base Rubric for the entire assignment.
  2. Start the lesson by projecting the Says/Means Chart for students to see and copy onto their own paper or hand out copies.
  3. Lead students to the Greensboro World War II Military Base Newspaper website from the Digital Heritage Center. Have these step-by-step instructions on the board or do it with them via projector:
    1. Navigate to http://www.digitalnc.org.
    2. Hover over the “Collections” tab at the top of the page.
    3. Scroll down and click on “North Carolina Newspapers.”
    4. Scroll down to the “Explore Newspapers by Title” section.
    5. Find and click on “Greensboro World War II Military Base Newspaper” within that section.
  4. At this point, it is helpful to model using the Says/Means Chart for students by finding a quote that can be used to make inferences and listing some of those for students.
    1. For example, in an article from the first paper listed in step five, the writer discusses a variety show coming to the base and says “Girls, music, snap, glamour and good healthy humor will be combined in the new USO-Camp Shows production to give four performances.”
    2. To model, start by copying that quote into the first column of the chart.
    3. For the second column, have students brainstorm what this quote tells the reader now. Write down at least one possiblity, but you do not have to stop the brainstorm at one. They might come up with things such as:
      1. Being away from home was difficult and stressful.
      2. Living on a base can be boring and repetitive.
      3. Living on a base can be boring and repetitive.
      4. Working on a military base is stressful.
    4. For each answer that a student gives, have them explain how they decided that was something you could take away from that quote. Add those in column three. For example, the inferences above could have been made based on the base bringing in entertainment. If the base is bringing in entertainment, it suggests they are trying to combat things like boredom, loneliness, and stress.
    5. Finally, in the fourth column, ask students if this is an important revelation to their assignment and add their answers. Is this something that indicates how a larger event far away can affect you personally even when it’s not occurring to you personally? In this case, specifically students should say yes; without the war, the men would never have had to leave home or live on the base and would not be in this situation that is causing them stress.
  5. Either assign the students an issue/date of the paper to look at or let them pick their own issue. Letting them choose an issue will take more time.
    1. Possible issues to choose from:
      1. June 9, 1944 – D-Day
      2. March 23, 1945 – GI Janes
      3. November 17, 1944 – Eleanor Roosevelt visits
      4. March 30, 1945 – Easter
      5. April 20, 1945 – Truman becomes president; discussion of German plans on page 2
      6. May 11, 1945 – VE Day
      7. August 3, 1945 – Information on how to be involved in elections back home
      8. August 10, 1945 – POWs brought to base
      9. August 14, 1945 – Japanese surrender
      10. August 1946 – Historical Issue
  6. Allow at least fifteen minutes for students to go through the issue, read an article, and complete the Says/Means Chart.
    1. Students should browse the newspaper to find an article they’d like to read. They should be allowed to read multiple articles if desired.
    2. While reading, students should find quotes that can help them make inferences about what life was like on the base.
    3. They should copy the quotes into the chart, then explain what the quote suggests about life on the base in the second column.
  7. Have students engage each other in partners or small groups to discuss their thoughts and the inferences they made from the quotes on the Says/Means Chart. They should compare what they discovered in different articles for similarities, common threads, and points to bring to the whole group.
  8. Bring the class together for a whole-class discussion to share their discoveries from the small groups. The discussion should focus on how and why the soldiers on base and the community around the base were affected by the war. The goal is for students to understand how and why something occurring thousands of miles away can still affect people and communities, despite the fact that those events may not be occurring directly to or around them. Start by having students share what they read, perhaps the specific quotes, and what they got out of them. Discussion will snowball from there; students will find common threads in their own readings.
  9. Have students go back to their pairs to share experiences of their own, something that affected them even though it did not happen to them or near them personally. They should be thinking in terms of coming up with one experience of their own to write about for the rest of this lesson. For example, they might use their experiences with:
    1. natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, the Japan earthquake).
    2. wars or revolutions on foreign soil (e.g., Afghanistan and Iraq, Libya, Arab Spring).
    3. death of a well-known person (e.g., a political activist or high-level politician, an influential singer).
    4. major historical events (e.g., Felix Baumgartner’s space jump.)
  10. After students choose one of their experiences to focus on, project the Writing Organizer and have students copy it on their own piece of paper. Students complete the chart to help them organize their thoughts for the post activity.
  11. Using the chart, students should write a one page analysis of their personal experience, explaining the experience, specific ways that the experience affected them, and, most importantly, why it affected them it that way. This can either be done in the remainder of the class period or as a homework assignment. The organizational chart should be turned in with the final product.

Assessment

Students should be assessed based on the rubric (included as a PDF above). The rubric includes assessment for the Says/Means Chart, participation in discussions, and the writing portion of the assignment.

Supplemental information

If students are unfamiliar with making inferences, this lesson can work for teaching that concept, but students will require more input from the teacher at the beginning of the lesson. The teacher could add a pre-activity to introduce making inferences, if necessary.

Websites

Useful issues
This is a list of issues of the base newspaper that could work for this assignment if the teacher would like to assign relevant articles rather than have students search for them. The list is the same as listed above in the Activities section.
North Carolina Digital Heritage Center
The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is a statewide digitization and digital publishing program housed in the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Digital Heritage Center works with cultural heritage institutions across North Carolina to digitize and publish historic materials online.

Comments

  • This lesson assumes that students already have a working knowledge of World War II and that the lesson is probably part of a larger unit on or involving World War II in general.
  • This lesson could be adapted for use in a United States history class during a larger unit on World War II.
  • Peer assessment or editing could be added to this lesson plan.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • History/Social Studies

        • Grades 6-8
          • 6-8.LH.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
      • Reading: Informational Text

        • Grade 8
          • 8.RIT.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
        • Speaking & Listening

          • 8.SL.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. 8.SL.1.1 Come to discussions...
        • Writing

          • 8.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences. 8.W.3.1 Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing...

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 8

        • 8.H.1 Apply historical thinking to understand the creation and development of North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.1.1 Construct charts, graphs, and historical narratives to explain particular events or issues. 8.H.1.2 Summarize the literal meaning of...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 8

  • Goal 2: The learner will use and evaluate information from a variety of sources.
    • Objective 2.01: Analyze and evaluate informational materials that are read, heard, and/or viewed by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard and/or viewed.
      • recognizing the characteristics of informational materials.
      • summarizing information.
      • determining the importance of information.
      • making connections to related topics/information.
      • drawing inferences.
      • generating questions.
      • extending ideas.

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 8

  • Goal 6: The learner will analyze the immediate and long-term effects of the Great Depression and World War II on North Carolina.
    • Objective 6.02: Describe the significance of major events and military engagements associated with World War II and evaluate the impact of the war on North Carolina.