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Teaching WWI Technology Using Student Centered Learning Stations

Updated on March 19, 2017

Author's Note

Sometimes students need a change up from the regular classroom routine. If you have a tendency to perform the traditional lecture, but notice students becoming less and less involved or attentive, then try switching things up! This lesson was well received by my students because it got them active and moving while also working in groups. This lesson is about the technology used in World War I and the impact the technology made on the war. This lesson consists of a lot of prep work up front, but will make your day a lot easier as you're not lecturing for the entire class period. For all materials, please see the Files Section at the end of thus hub. Feel free to use or modify any part of this lesson. These use New York State standards, but they may need to be updated. This lesson plan includes a Central Focus and Academic Language. Station 1 "Trench Warfare" I created a mini diorama of a trench using an old pizza box, dirt, popsicle sticks, and toy. It was approximately $5 and 10 minutes of setup.

WWI British Vickers Machine Gun Crew
WWI British Vickers Machine Gun Crew | Source

Lesson Data

Subject/Content Area: Social Studies
Grade Level: 8th grade
Unit Topic: World War I
Lesson Topic: Advancing Technology
Duration of Lesson: 40 minutes
Materials: Stations worksheets, laptop, airplane video, trench diorama, exit ticket handout

Instructional Process

A. Standards:

8.4 WORLD WAR I AND THE ROARING TWENTIES: Various diplomatic, economic, and ideological factors contributed to the United States decision to enter World War I. Involvement in the war significantly altered the lives of Americans. Postwar America was characterized by economic prosperity, technological innovations, and changes in the workplace.

8.4c New military technologies changed military strategy in World War I and resulted in an unprecedented number of casualties.

Students will examine the effects of the changes in military technologies used during World War I, including trench warfare, chemical weapons, machine guns, and aircraft.

Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6–12

Grades 6-8

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

7. Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts

B. Central Focus: The purpose of this lesson is to display information to students about the advancing war technology of World War I, how this new technology affected the outcome of the war, and how this technology affects war today. By linking the technology of World War I to the technology of today, students are better able to understand the brutality of war along with the corresponding casualty statistics at the end of World War I.


1.) Students will have a summative assessment where they illustrate how the advancing technologies of WWI affected the outcome of the war and caused the death of 8.5 million soldiers. This summative assessment is worth 5 points for a complete answer using information from the stations activity.

2.) Students will have a summative
assessment where students will formulate their own opinion on which technology affected the war the greatest, and which technology affects them the greatest today. Summative assessment is collected at the end of class. This summative assessment is worth 5 points for a complete answer using information from the stations activity and the students’ prior knowledge.

3.) Students have a summative assessment where students are asked to explain how advancing technology is not always “good”. Summative assessment is collected at the end of class. This summative assessment is worth 5 points for a complete answer which includes an example from the stations activity.


1.) By the end of this lesson, students
will be able to illustrate how the advancing technologies of WWI affected the outcome of the war and caused the death of 8.5 million soldiers.

2.) By the end of this lesson, students
will be able to formulate their own opinion as to which advancing technology affected the war the greatest. Students will also formulate their own opinion as to which of the technologies of WWI affects them the most today.

3.) By the end of the lesson, students will be able to explain how advances in technology is not always “good”.

Assessment Plan

At the end of the lesson, students are asked to write down their answer to three questions: Explain how technology can be a bad thing, what advancing technology affected the World War I the greatest, and which technology used in World War I affects the world the most today. This is a summative assessment that is collected at the end of class as an exit ticket. The summative assessment is based on three, five point questions.

Opening/Anticipatory Set

Students walk into the classroom and read the SmartBoard for their assigned groups. When students are settled in their groups the teacher will start:

Teacher: “Please get out your homework so that I may come around and collect it.”

Teacher walks around to each group and collects students’ homework.

Teacher: “We are in stations today! By now you should know how to move around the room.”

Students at Station 1 will move to station 2. Station 2 moves to Station 3. 3 will move to 4. 4 will move to 5. Students at Station 5 will move to station 1.

Teacher: “We are now digging deeper, like the soldiers on the front lines, into the battle tactics of World War I. Station 1, will be about trench warfare. There is a diorama that you will use to answer the questions here. Station 2 will be about chemical warfare. You’ll see how it was used back in 1914.”

Teacher: “Quick question, is there still chemical warfare today?”

Student answers may vary from yes or no.

Teacher: “It’s not the exact same as WWI usage, but yes, we do still have chemical warfare. For example, the terrorist group Al-Qaeda used chlorine gas as a nerve agent in 2007.”

Teacher: “Station 3 is about machine guns used in WWI. Show of hands how many of you think machine guns were the number one cause of death in WWI?”

Some students may or may not raise their hands.

Teacher: “I’ll tell you. Machine guns were not number one cause of death. It was actually artillery cannons that fired massive projectiles. When they hit the ground, they exploded.”

Teacher: “Station 4 is about the first use of the airplanes for war. You’re going to read a short paragraph about their use and answer the questions. You will then watch a video about a man who was called ‘The Bloody Red Baron’.”

Teacher: “Finally there’s Station 5 where your group will be looking at the final casualty numbers from the war and answering the corresponding questions. We’ll start now.”

Students begin working at their assigned station first.

Main Body/Procedure

Students will be at one station for 5 minutes before being told by the teacher to move onto the next station.

The teacher will be responsible for time management of the classroom activities. 5 minutes at each station.

The teacher will walk around the room and formatively assess student work and to ensure students stay on task. The teacher is also available to answer any questions that students may have.

The main portion of this lesson is student driven. Students answer questions based on the material presented at each station.

If there are any students that will be working alone due to an I.E.P., they are given all station materials in one packet to work on at their desk. The student will be able to view the diorama easily because it will be located close to their desk. The student will also be able to view the video at station 4 on their own device.


After all groups have been to their stations, the teacher will redirect the class towards the front of the classroom.

Teacher: “I am now handing out your exit ticket. There are three questions on it that pertain to today’s stations. The first question asks you to explain how technology can be a bad thing. The second question asks which advancing technology affected World War I that greatest. The last question asks which advancing technology used during World War I has the most affect on life today. For all of these questions, you are also asked to provide an example of how. Your exit ticket will be counted as a grade and it will show me what you learned today. When you are done or when the bell rings, please place the sheet on the front desk.”

Teacher models where students should place their answer page.


Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT): Throughout the lesson, the students are in control of their own learning. Each station brings new content for them to focus on. One of the stations, station 4, deals with airplane use during WWI. Comparing the airplane use in 1914-1918 to today’s use is vastly different. Comparing and contrasting technologies of the past to today’s uses brings in prior knowledge by the student to refer to. Another example is with machine guns used in WWI and comparing them to today’s machine guns. Modern rifles are semi-automatic or fully-automatic and are extremely portable. Machine guns used in WWI were still in their early stages of advancement from Gatling guns from the Civil War and were very heavy and were not used as a portable weapon.

Accommodations: There is one student in the class that has ADD. In order to keep them on task, their I.E.P. States to have them work alone. Two stations (Trench Warfare and Airplanes) have different media sources. The student is given their own computer to view/hear the information in order to maintain consistency with the class.

Prerequisite Skills: A prerequisite skill needed for this lesson is to recall the causes of World War I. Militarism, alliance system, nationalism, imperialism, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand all contributed to the start of WWI. Students will need to know militarism specifically for this lesson because this lesson has information regarding the buildup of weapons.

Misconceptions: A misconception students may have about World War I is that most soldiers were killed with machine guns. In fact, an estimated 2/3 of all soldiers died from artillery.

Academic Language: Students will be able to display their understanding of the content by formulating a response to the questions “Which advancing technology affected the war the most?” and “Why is new technology sometimes a bad thing?”. The language function is to display. The language demand is to formulate. Vocabulary includes militarism, trench warfare, and chemical warfare.


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