Elizabeth Bohl Unit on Germans in Wisconsin in wwi and the 1920s Lesson 1

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Elizabeth Bohl

Unit on Germans in Wisconsin in WWI and the 1920s
Lesson 1: WWI and Wisconsin Citizens (enrichment activity)
Description of the institute content utilized in this plan

For this lesson plan I plan on using the institute materials that are related to how the immigrants, specifically Germans, were treated during World War One. I would like to teach my class about how the nation’s attitude and fears affected Wisconsinites. One of the ideas I try to convey to my students is the fact that the World Wars were “total wars” which meant that everyone was affected, whether you were a soldier or not. During the institute we discussed how life changed for German-Americans during the war years, and I plan on using the document handed out in class entitled “Total War and the Boundaries of Dissent: The Response from the Heartland.” I have borrowed a couple of the documents and added others and I plan on having my students analyze them to come to some conclusions about the times and the affects on people. Another of the resources I plan on utilizing is the video we were shown in class, “The Making of Milwaukee,” it is available through the Marathon County Public Library System. Again, for my purposes I plan on showing the portion of the video that deals specifically with World War One. However, after I get a chance to view it in its entirety I might find other parts useful as well.
Placing my lesson in the larger context of my class

The class that I intend on using my lesson is “20th Century U.S. History,” a required course for high school sophomores. The course is taught in themes and this lesson will be used during the “World Wars” period. This lesson will be used near the end of the WWI unit, so the students will have sufficient background information to make some connections and generalizations about the documents they will be looking at. The general information that will be covered previously in the unit includes the following:

  • Causes of WWI

    • Immediate causes – assassination of Archduke Ferdinand

    • Underlying Causes – militarism, alliance systems, imperialism, nationalism

  • Warfare

    • trench warfare

    • weaponry

  • US Involvement/Tactics

    • neutrality & attempts to remain neutral but help

    • events leading up to involvement: submarine warfare in Atlantic, Zimmerman Note

  • US Mobilization

    • Selective Service Act

    • Impact on society – men, women, children, minorities

The document analysis exercise, that is the heart of my lesson, is designed to get students looking at how the mobilization and war efforts affected our country, and more specifically our state. By using the primary sources I hope that the students will be able to interpret history and come to their own conclusions, as opposed to taking it from a textbook or me for a change. I find that many students find it difficult to interpret and come up with their own ideas – many prefer for you to just tell them what to think (or what they should learn for the test). After having the students work in pairs to analyze their document, they will share their findings – what they looked at, what it told them about the period, etc. – with the rest of the class. The following brief explanation of the documents that are available for use:

  • A German-American Pledge of Loyalty, 1917 – The document is addressed to the German-American population and addressed the difficulty of the War for them, fighting family and friends. It urges them to support the war to fight the Germany that is evil and in the end they will be helping the German people break free from the oppressive rulers.

  • The Wisconsin Defense League Urges a Loyalty Pledge, ca. 1917 – This document was created by the Wisconsin Defense League and is an actual pledge for people to sign that states you support what the U.S. government is doing. It explicitly states that it is not an enlistment form, but it asks for information that relates directly to skills and armed service preferences, and it gets mailed to the Army and Navy recruiting Office in Milwaukee.

  • Sedition Map – This map was taken from the New York Sun, on March 21, 1918 and shows the “disloyal” pockets in Wisconsin. It was actually created by the Wisconsin Loyalty League.

  • A Singing Nation Welcomes A Singing Army – This pamphlet was put together by the War Camp Community Service, Milwaukee unit. It is a collection of popular and patriotic songs that people are encouraged to sing to welcome the boys when they get home.

  • “Food Will Win the War” poster – The propaganda poster that I believe was created to target immigrants. The picture shows a dock with the Statue of Liberty in the background and new immigrants on the dock and the part of the caption reads, “You came here seeking Freedom. You must now help to preserve it.” Put out by the U.S. Food Administration it promotes the conservation of wheat.

  • “Professor of Northland Tarred and Feathered” - This article comes from Ashland Wisconsin and reports the kidnapping and tarring of Professor E.A. Schimler, whose only apparent “crime” was to have a German name and teach the German language. I believe it does an excellent job highlighting just how high the anti-German sentiment ran, and how far some people were willing to go. Plus I think there can be some parallels made to other periods of U.S. history – Japanese-Americans during WWII, blacks during most of the first half of the 20th century, communists/immigrants during the Red Scare and McCarthyism.

  • Burning of German Textbooks – This a picture of a book burning in Baraboo. Much like the article, previously listed I believe it highlights the anti-German sentiments and fear of anything German.

  • Wisconsin Food Administration Press Releases (March – April 1918) – I’ve actually taken 6 different releases for students to look at. The releases discuss a variety of topics: loyalty of German-Americans, a daily ration example, the development of community councils, the conservation of specific foodstuff, actions taken to promote conservation of food, and the affects on industry.

After sharing what they have learned I have assigned a journal assignment for students to comment on the effects of WWI on the various parts of the population and also it calls for them to make some connections to other periods of history that may have some similar experiences – so it is my way of trying to get them to make connections and comparison of other periods we have discussed.

Lesson 2: Prohibition in Marathon County (enrichment power point)
Description of the institute content utilized in this plan

The inspiration for this lesson came from the reading “When John Barleycorn Went Into Hiding in Wisconsin,” by Paul W. Glad. I found the article very interesting, and thought that the premise of the article was a good way for me to tie in the institute content into my 20th Century U.S. History curriculum. The article discusses the German immigrant population and their 2nd and 3rd generation children in Wisconsin and how the prohibition fight began long before the passage of the 18th amendment. It also ties in well with my WWI lesson, in looking at how the German immigrants were targeted during and after WWI, which I believe that prohibition in also in a sense target immigrant populations. The power point I’ve created takes a look at German customs in the Central Wisconsin region and how the people in the area received Prohibition.

Placing my lesson in the larger context of my class

Again, this lesson will be taught in my 20th Century U.S. History class, during the 1920s & 1930s unit. This is one of my shorter units, we really go through the material quickly, which is why I like that this lesson gives us the opportunity to slow down and look at things at the local level. During the unit we discuss the explosion that is the 1920s, and some of the major events that come about during this period – jazz, Harlem Renaissance, flappers, Scopes Trial, popular culture, and of course Prohibition. Originally I had hoped to have the students do some research on Prohibition in Marathon County, but in doing my own research I found that it was somewhat limited and definitely not very accessible to the students. So, the power point I’ve created is a presentation of my research on Prohibition in Marathon County, and perhaps keeping the focus of this power point at the local level some students will bring their own background knowledge of this era into our discussion I’ve had a number of students relay their family/neighborhood stories to the class during this period in the past, so I’m hoping that the information given will get the students talking at home and perhaps come across some of their own history.

Lesson Plan Title: WWI and Wisconsin citizens (enrichment activity)

Unit: World War I

Time: ~ 2 class periods

Concept / Topic To Teach: I would like students to look at how the war affected civilians

Wisconsin Standards Addressed/Objectives:

 B.12.1 Explain different points of view on the same historical event, using data gathered from various sources, such as letters, journals, diaries, newspapers, government documents, and speeches

B.12.2 Analyze primary and secondary sources related to a historical question to evaluate their relevance, make comparisons, integrate new information with prior knowledge, and come to a reasoned conclusion

  • After the lesson the student will be able understand and explain how WWI affected citizens in Wisconsin.

  • After the lesson the student will be able to formulate at least two generalizations about the effects of WWI on people at home.

General Goal(s): During this lesson I would like students to examine various primary and secondary sources that will help students create an understanding of what it was like to live in the United States during WWI. In looking at these documents student will gain a better understanding of some of the issues that were directly affecting the everyday lives of Wisconsinites.


Required Materials:

  • Reading Handout – “WWI – The War at Home” (handed out as homework prior to lesson)

  • Reading Quiz Handout

  • Handout – “Mobilization the United States”

  • WWI Documents: German-American Pledge of Loyalty, The Wisconsin Defense League Urges a Loyalty Pledge, Singing Naiton Welcomes a Singing Army, “Food Will Win the War” poster, “Professor of Northland Tarred and Feathered” article, “Burning of German Textbooks” picture, Sedition Map, Wisconsin Food Administration Press Releases (Mar – Apr 1918) – 6 excerpts

  • Document analysis handouts (includes one designed by National Archives and Record Administration, and the one created by me)

  • Powerpoint of WWI documents


Anticipatory Set (Lead-In): Reading Quiz – 8 question quiz about assigned homework reading, take and correct in class


Step-By-Step Procedures:

  1. Take quiz “The War at Home” and correct.

  2. Hand out “Mobilizing the United States” and explain task:

    1. Read through text boxes and the questions on page one

    2. Have students pair up with one other person and complete the questions from page on a separate sheet of paper – give them approximately 10 minutes to complete this portion of the assignment

    3. After groups have completed answering the questions on page one turn the sheet over and read the text at the top of the page together.

    4. Listen to the song “Over There” by George M. Cohan

    5. Students will answer the last question from the worksheet on their separate sheet of paper

  3. After completing the analysis of posters and patriotic song, as a class talk about what they learned from them (discuss the questions and answers the students came up with)

  4. Now explain to the students that they will be examining some local (Wisconsin) documents that come from this time period and they will be analyzing the documents and then they will share their findings with the class.

  5. Have the student pairs/groups come to the front to select their documents. After they have selected their document they will then choose the corresponding document analysis sheet and spend the rest of the time analyzing their documents.

  6. Once the groups have completed their analysis I will then instruct them to create 3 generalizations about their document and the effects / ramifications they felt the document had for citizens (rest of their WS)

  7. After they have analyzed their documents they will share some basic information with the rest of the class in regards to their document

    1. What it is

    2. Who created it

    3. When it was created

    4. What the document tells us – The three generalizations they created after their complete analysis

  8. While sharing their findings I will have a power point that shows the documents that each group was looking at, so the rest of the students get an opportunity to look at other documents as well.

  9. Watch portion of video “Making of Milwaukee,” the section entitled The war to end wars.

Closure (Reflect Anticipatory Set): Journal: Write a ½ to ¾ page response to the following question: How did WWI affect Wisconsin citizens? Be sure to address various groups of the population: Men, women, teens, children, ethnic groups, etc. Think of another example of something like this happening at any other time in history? (Explain)


WWI Lesson Plan – materials used on following pages 6-28

WWI – The War at Home
Winning the war required a combined effort – soldiers & citizens at home… Our entire economy needed to be focused on the war effort. Congress therefore approved a measure that would allow President Woodrow Wilson complete control over the economy. This allowed President Wilson to fix prices and to regulate and control certain industries that were important for the war effort.
The War Industries Board was the designed to regulate the industries of our country and make sure they were producing as much as they could for the war effort. This government organization taught businesses how to be more productive. WIB taught businesses ideas about mass-production, standardization of parts, and how to ration goods. Under WIB production rose along with prices for consumer goods. People started to observe “gasless Sundays” and “meatless Mondays” to help conserve goods for the war effort. In the spirit of conservation the government first used daylight savings time to take advantage of the longer days of summer. (Benjamin Franklin first proposed this idea in the 1770s)

During this prosperous time in the U.S. things changed for “blue-collar” workers - both good and bad. The average hourly wages increased; however because of the increase cost of everything, it felt like people were earning less money because they couldn’t afford everything. Another interesting event taking place is the growing discrepancy (difference) in pay between workers and management. Child labor increased and work days got longer – this lead to the popularity of unions. Once the unions formed they worked to get workers better pay, hours, working conditions, and to prevent the exploitation of children through strikes and collective bargaining (compromising).


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