World War II Teaching Ideas

OLRC Reading Group
September, 1999

More than 20 books in the Recommended Trade Books database (; Publications) are related in some way to World War II. Because GED materials typically deal with this important time in our history in a brief or cursory way, teachers may want to use some of these trade books (all available at public libraries) to help learners explore and learn with more depth.

The collection (see chart linked below) provides some information about these WW II books. More information may be found on the WWW database, including specific teaching ideas for individual titles. More general teaching suggestions follow for using many of the books simultaneously.

bullet World War II Books Chart - (pdf format)

    bullet Use your GED material as the centerpiece of the unit. Supplement with other Trade Books.

    bullet Use Rylant's I Have Seen Castles as a core book. Supplement with other Trade Books.

    bullet Look for poems (Volavkova; Hamanaka, On the Wings of Peace) to share with learners, perhaps one per day. The teacher can simply read some aloud. Others may be good choices for response activities (e.g., Bleich's Heuristic (pdf format)).

    bullet Collect all books related to one issue (e.g., concentration camps, the Holocaust, bombing Japan). Ask learners (or pairs, depending on the size of the group) to select a title. They may then find and share what they consider to be the "most powerful" (or "most" something else) excerpt from the book. Or they can make notes about what they learn about the issue (e.g., concentration camps) during reading. The teacher may then collect these ideas for the class by recording student ideas on the chalkboard or chart paper. Discussion or writing can follow, in which learners reflect on what the books have in common, how different authors address similar issues, or what difference perspective makes (e.g., child's perspective, adult's perspective). If you use GED materials as the centerpiece, learners can compare and contrast what the GED materials describe with the focus found in their trade books. Charts or Venn diagrams may help learners organize their thoughts.

    bullet Separate books by setting (theater) - Europe and Asia/the Pacific. Ask pairs of learners to select one book from each group. After reading, they can compare and contrast war-related issues. If you use GED materials as the centerpiece, learners can also compare and contrast what the GED materials describe with the focus found in their trade books. A preliminary discussion of categories (e.g., adversaries, types of battles, natural hazards) may help learners organize their thoughts.

    bullet Other possible pairs for comparison/contrast: Adler (One Yellow Daffodil) and Morimoto, My Hiroshima-the perspective of survivors; Besson, October 45 and Hall, The Farm Summer 1942-life for children away from the battlefront; Innocenti, Rose Blanche and Oppenheim, The Lily Cupboard-the resistance, courage, ordinary people in war. A K-W-L (pdf format) chart may help learners organize their thinking. Charts, matrices, or Venn diagrams may provide additional support.

    bullet Separate books into fiction and nonfiction (see chart, "Type" or use the GED materials as the nonfiction). Ask learners (or pairs) to read one of each. Focus after-reading discussion or writing on genre differences: which kind of text is most compelling? Which helps us learn best about WW II? How can fiction enhance our understanding of history?

    bullet The OLRC Reading Group considered a couple of these books controversial (Besson,October 25 and Wild, Let the Celebrations Begin!). Learners may want to read them and discuss the controversies.

    bullet Several of the books are set in the U.S. (see chart, "Setting"). Ask learners to read one. Focus discussion/writing on views of war from afar.

bullet World War II Books Collection

We welcome your comments
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