Teacher Notes Grade Level/Unit 10th or 11th grade unit on World War II Purpose

A simulation for high school world history classes exploring the causes of and complexity of the origins of the second world war. WARNING: This simulation will get into some intense issues and question all sorts of assumptions about the causes of the second world war.

Grade 10 Standards
World History and Geography: The Modern World
10.4.2 Discuss the locations of the colonial rule of such nations as England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Portugal, and the United States.
10.4.3 Explain imperialism from the perspective of the colonizers and the colonized and the varied immediate and long-term responses by the people under colonial rule.
10.6.2 Describe the effects of the war and resulting peace treaties on population movement, the international economy, and shifts in the geographic and political borders of Europe and the Middle East.
10.7.3 Analyze the rise, aggression, and human costs of totalitarian regimes (Fascist and Communist) in Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union, noting especially their common and dissimilar traits.
10.8.1 Compare the German, Italian, and Japanese drives for empire in the 1930s, including the 1937 Rape of Nanking, other atrocities in China, and the Stalin-Hitler Pact of 1939.
10.8.2 Understand the role of appeasement, nonintervention (isolationism), and the domestic distractions in Europe and the United States prior to the outbreak of World War II.
10.8.3 Identify and locate the Allied and Axis powers on a map and discuss the major turning points of the war, the principal theaters of conflict, key strategic decisions, and the resulting war conferences and political resolutions, with emphasis on the importance of geographic factors.
10.8.4 Describe the political, diplomatic, and military leaders during the war (e.g., Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Emperor Hirohito, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower).


1 ) To explore the complex and interrelated causes of war in the mid twentieth century.

2) To develop and apply criteria of assessing source material and documents, and of using source material to form conclusions from conflicting viewpoints.

3) To sift through a controversial and emotional situation and explore real options given intense feelings and limited information.

4) To develop generalizations about the origins of war that could be applied to other situations.


Two to four weeks, depending on the desired depth of research and analysis.

Teacher Materials

It would be helpful if the teacher were generally familiar with the list of books given in the resource section so that he/she can direct student teams to the materials they will need. There are many documents, letters and speeches on the Internet.

Simulation design

Students will work in small groups, maximum of four per group. Each group represents a nation or a strong interest group. The groups will present the views of the their nations and see if they can negotiate a settlement to a major international crisis before it gets worse and widens into a general war. Each round of the conference is followed by time for additional research, caucusing, and behind-the-scenes secret negotiating.

Select some strong students for the British, German, Soviet, Indian and Japanese delegations. These will carry most of the conference and these delegations should be larger than the others. Generally two students can do the work of the smaller delegations. Additional students can take the role of journalists from around the world who will be interviewing delegates throughout the conference; delegates will be very much 'in the public eye'. If the class is large, create news teams from many of the major players, and have news teams 'broadcast' radio reports to their home countries in between negotiating sessions.

It works best when the teacher serves as Secretary General and facilitates the meeting. Select two student assistants from the class or from another class to serve as Assistant Secretary-Generals or recorders to get down the key points of each delegation on the board, an overhead or chart paper. This is particularly essential when this simulation is done in a regular 50 minute class and continues for several days.

Students will need several research periods between each session of the simulation.

Special note: Students seem to have a difficult time with some of the colonial points of view. It seems to be easier if students research the actual people named in the simulation, and then figure out what their perspectives were. This works best if students who represent a colony begin with the viewpoint of the Indian Congress Party. Students then can move some of the Indian views to the other colonies.

Adaptations for Special Needs
This simulation does require a pretty high level of reading and speaking ability. Less able readers would best serve on the teams other than those of Britain, the Soviet Union, Japan or India. Students who participated in the simulation the previous year might serve as coaches. Students might also do "radio broadcasts" or political cartoons.

Background Information
The teacher needs to be fully familiar with the Versailles Treaty and the information in each of the country background sheets given in this simulation.

Credits Author:
Jim Hill,
College of Education
California State University San Bernardino

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1) Mid Way Check Ups (also called 'benchmarks')

These assignments help students organize their ideas and materials, and also focus their analytical thinking on the issues of the simulation.

1 ) Compare and contrast your country or independence movement with the major European states and other independence movements. Use a Venn diagram, with your group in one circle, one or two European states in another circle, and one or two independence movements in a third circle.

After listening to all the preliminary presentations, summarize briefly (one paragraph each) the essential points made by each state or independence movement.

2) Write a maximum two-page essay on following topics as appropriate:

Which two states or independence movements are likely to be my best allies in the conference? Why

Which two states or independence movements are likely to be my strongest opponents in the conference? Why?

If a European state: Are any independence movements potentially my allies in the conference? Why?

If an independence movement: Are there any European states potentially my allies in the conference? Why?

11) Closing essay topics:

Could this war have been stopped in fact had a real conference taken place? Why? What is the most important piece of information that convinces you of your conclusion?

At what moment in the European scene after World War I did World War II become not just probable but inevitable? At what point was war no longer preventable? What evidence convinces you of this?