Remembering Veterans Day with WWI trench poetry

November 2, 2017

British troops in a trench on the Western Front during World War I. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.)

Encourage advanced literacy skills through the analyzation of figurative language in your middle and high school students with the following Veterans Day lesson created for 6-12 grade social studies classrooms.

World War I trench poetry: A middle and high school activity

It is hard to overstate the enduring effect of World War I on the arts, given the cultural blossoming of the Weimar Renaissance and the emergence of the Lost Generation of writers in the 1920s (to name just a couple notable examples).

The mood during the war itself, however, is perhaps best captured by the poetry of the period, which reveals a progression of popular sentiment from patriotic idealism to anger, despair, and disillusionment. Some of these works are made especially poignant on Veterans Day by the fact that their authors did not survive the conflict that they chronicled.

Overview: Students will gain a deeper understanding of a World War I soldier’s feelings and state of mind through informational text and poetry.

Suggested Resources:

Strategy: Analyzing Figurative Language and Annotating Connections

Activity: Ask students to read the poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, found in the World War I - The Battle of Ypres-Passchendaele LaunchPack. Then have them read it again, using the graphic organizer, to determine the meaning and effect of the piece.

Next, have students read the articles about the Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele, and World War I.  Using the annotation tools, ask students to annotate connections they find to the poem.

Extra Credit: There are several other trench poems found in the primary source document. Ask students to choose a poem and research its origins, including the setting, reference, and author.