World War 2 Unit Plan
A Complete Unit Plan for World or US History in Middle School or High School
Both my US History and World History curricula have engaging units on World War 2. While both cover the causes, events, and effects of the war, the American History course focuses on America's role and the homefront, while the World curriculum looks at the global impact of the war and the Holocaust.
No matter which course you teach, this World War 2 unit plan will be wonderful for your middle school or high school students.
The unit starts off with a lesson on the rise of fascism and review of some of the dictators who took power in the 1930s. A PowerPoint with interactive pop-up notes (with "flipped classroom" video options also available) introduces students to Hitler, Stalin, Franco, and Tojo. Then, US History students can analyze a speech on isolationism from Charles Lindbergh, while World History students can review one from Hitler or analyze a political cartoon on the dictators.
Next up is a lesson on the Allied leaders during the war, including FDR, Churchill, and key generals like Eisenhower, Patton, and MacArthur. A reading on Eleanor Roosevelt can be used next as well as an activity to analyze appeasement and how it led to the war.
Lessons 3 and 4 are an overview of the main battles and events throughout WWII. An in-depth PowerPoint (with guided notes, Google Slides, and video) can be broken up over the two class periods to cover everything students need to know about the 6-year war. A variety of engaging video clips are also provided to use before moving on to a reading activity. There are variety to pick from and use as differentiation, including one on Dorie Miller at Pearl Harbor, another on the "Pied Piper of Saipan", Four Chaplains of the Dorchester, or a simple battles Worksheet or idea web activity.
If you want a project to give students a lengthier interactive experience, the WW2 battles radio show project is a fantastic one to use here.
The next few lessons for US History focus on the homefront during the war. First, is a PowerPoint and guided notes on the Homefront (also with Google Slides and video options). A detailed packet of primary source excerpts on the homefront can be used next to ensure students understand all the key issues going on in America. Next, students review readings on the Navajo Code Talkers, Tuskegee Airmen, Nisei Soldiers, and female workers before completing an honorary service plaques project.
A riveting lesson on Executive Order 9066 and Japanese Internment is next with students moving through stations on this controversial decision by FDR. Following the review of images and documents, students watch a video clip on Japanese Internment and then review a primary source speech from Yuri Kochiyama.
The World History curriculum takes a deep look at the Holocaust. A PowerPoint and guided notes (plus Google Slides and video) covers this horrifying moment in history and helps students to understand precisely why WW2 is so important. Students then break into groups for a cooperative learning simulation on the Nuremberg Trials before finishing the lesson with an essay prompt on genocides in history.
Next in the unit is a lesson on the atomic bomb and the end of the war. There are several video options here as well as interactive activities available to help students better grasp America's decision to drop the bomb. These include a quick analysis of Truman’s Diary Entry on the decision, a reading about a man who survived BOTH atomic bombs, and a reading on the last Japanese soldier to finally surrender. Lastly, students move through stations to decode Post War occupation poster in Japan to better understand America's role in post-war Japan.
Finally, the unit closes with a lesson on the Double V, a movement that promoted "victory over enemies abroad and over racism at home." Students review a set of primary source documents related to African Americans' experiences during the war and then after the war as they pushed for equality.
The unit concludes with review games and activities followed by an editable test, with a Google Forms version also included for easy grading.
You can download many of the activities individually through the links above and also see reviews or each. You can download the whole unit here and have everything saved to your desktop immediately. You can also download the resources through a subscription, which grants you access to the ENTIRE US History curriculum.
If you’re unsure which option might be best for you, you can read about the differences between subscriptions and TpT purchases here.