World War I Battle Comparisons
Begin first by dividing students into mixed-ability groups. I begin by using the GroupMaker app then going to Edmodo and creating the groups there. That way when students log in to the site, they already know who is in their group and can receive instructions from me.
Via Edmodo, have students go to the Canadian War Museum's brilliant interactive WWI Soldier's Life simulator. (Not yet on Edmodo but available at http://www.warmuseum.ca/overthetop/). It's essentially a "Choose Your Own Adventure" type story with limited animation. It also features the option to have the narrations read aloud which might be nice for English learners or for people who just like narration.
The assignment's final activity is to create a children's book about World War I online with narration so this initial step really lays the groundwork for the ultimate product they will produce.
An advantage to using Edmodo is that you can divide students into groups prior to class and their own experiences online will be customized by you. Therefore, Johnny can login to his Edmodo account and have a message intended just for him and his group that gives specific instructions along with a link showing him where to go to begin the assignment. It also eliminates the need for paper handouts which is good for people like me who work at a site where the copiers are always down. It saves the environment too, I guess. So that's nice.
In the case of this assignment, I divided up the groups into different Battles that they were to research:
1) Battle of the Marne (1914)
2) First Battle of Ypres (1914)
3) Battle of Tannenberg (1914)
4) Battle of Verdun (1915)
5) Battle of Bolimov (1915)
6) Battle of Gallipoli (1915)
7) Battle of Isonzo (1915)
8) Battle of the Somme (1916)
9) Battle fo the Cambrai (1917)
10) Battle of Passchendaele (1917)
If fewer groups are desired, the key battles can be condensed to the Marne, Verdun, Gallipoli, and the Somme. I included multiple fronts instead of just the Western one. What's more, I felt that the "first battle" of each series was the one I wanted to focus on, more for simplicity's sake than anything else.
Once assigned, the students are given an instruction sheet with general questions that are to be answered. They are to do this part with paper and pencil as it is a notetaking type activity. I suppose you could use Evernote or some other note-taking app if you wish, but it seemed ungainly to me.
The general questions that the students are to discover for every battle:
1) Who fought in the battle?
2) Where (specifically) did the battle take place?
3) What was the goal of the battle? (Beyond just to kill each other, obviously. What were the strategic aims?)
4) Type of fighting that took place (this includes unusual tactics or new weapons such as poison gas or tanks)
5) What was the result of the battle? (land gained/lost, casualties, etc.)
6) Why is the battle considered signfiicant?
7) Is the battle considered a success? Why or why not? (This question requires a bit of thought--each student would need to analyze the aims of the battle and then look at whether those aims were met)
This step is considered complete after the students have filled out their information on a separate sheet. I also direct them to resource sites like http://www.firstworldwar.com/battles to avoid having everyone run to Wikipedia.
3 Book Assembly
When the students arrive the next day, they discover a new message on their group-specific Edmodo website that says:
A publishing company has hired your company to develop a book that explains to young readers what World War I was all about. The book is aimed at 5th - 7th graders studying World History so the writing should not be too complex. Additionally, you should include an illustration on every page to make the assignment more “friendly” and inviting to your audience. After all, you have to make sure that kids would want to read it!!! Keeping this in mind, the books should contain no graphic or disturbing imagery or text.
The students are to create an electronic draft of the book, complete with narration. On their Edmodo, underneath the assignment, there is a seprate link for each group in a Google Drive Presentation file that I had already created. I know some teachers have students create their own presentations but I find it easier to do the work ahead of time on their behalf so that I avoid errors and other annoyances.
Students then begin the process of creating a picture book about their assigned battle that answers all of the questions I tasked them with finding out. Many students will simply take pictures from google images (and cite them using your citation program/website of choice. I personally like Citelighter because it makes things easy for them). Students also can draw their own pictures and take pictures of them via Instagram and/or the camera on their phone. Some nice filters can make things look old and weathered enough to fit into a gritty early 20th century vibe.
4 Wrap Up
Text combines with the images to create the children's book in Microsoft Powerpoint. The students, having created something special, must narrate their books by reading the text aloud. This step (hopefully) helps students find clunky writing so that they may streamline the work. For this assignment I've used Microsoft Office 365 but you could substitute Google Presentation (available as part of the Google Drive suite free). Sadly, Google has not yet added narration as a feature in their presentations so this step would need to be omitted.
Now it's the fun part: publishing and sharing. In Microsoft Office 365, the students would
1) Go to File and select "Save & Send"
2) Under "Save & Send", select "Create a Video"
3) Click "Create Video" and create an mp4 of their children's book.
Next this video can be shared on the platform of your choice, be it YouTube or Youth Voices. Once they're uploaded, be it to Google Drive or some other website, they post the link on Edmodo so that other students in the class can see it.
In Edmodo, each student then must watch the other student's video then take an accompanying "quiz" (I use this as a check for understanding more than anything else). In Edmodo the students can specify a quiz that is open ended with multiple choice answers so I essentially boil down my initial seven questions for each battle into a few (Describe the Battle, Who Fought, Etc.). Ideally every Powerpoint is viewed by every student, either at home or at school.