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Reenacting The Treaty of Versailles

Lesson Details

Subjects: Social Studies, English/Languages Arts
Learning Level: High School
Author(s): Ellen Fairbairn and Heidi Olivé
Submitted by:


Four years of warfare should have convinced the world powers that imperialism and militarism were poor substitutes for good diplomacy and negotiation. Unfortunately, the desolation and world-wide economic crisis spawned by the war left world leaders unwilling to abandon traditional attitudes. Germany, the conquered foe, was forced to accept blame for the behavior of all parties involved and could not repay its financial obligations to France, Great Britain or Italy. Left with a poor economy, fledgling democracy, and the loss of raw materials from its now defunct colonies and territories, resentment and revenge became motivators for electing a fascist leader to resolve the ever growing problems present in the early 1930s. The United States, now the world's economic leader, refused to join the League of Nations and abandoned the Fourteen Points of Woodrow Wilson. Many historians feel this lack of participation by the U.S. not only contributed to the death of its president, but also the ultimate fate of the League of Nations. Without worldwide acceptance of a global peaceful settlement of disputes, the world was faced with yet another international crisis when Hitler claimed most of Europe for Germany's humiliation at the signing of the Versailles treaty.

Lesson fundamental understandings:
Essential Questions:

By analyzing the state of mind of the participating nations at the Versailles Conference, it will become apparent that the psychological profile of each nation led the way to another world war which began on September 1, 1939. Shame, revenge, bigotry and greed are examples of emotions shared not only by individuals, but by the human institutions enacted by states to solve their problems, in other words can there be national shame? yes. Can there be national interest in seeking revenge? yes. Etc. Since warfare is brought about by conflicts over resources, values, or national security, it is natural to see countries behaving in similar fashions as individuals do in conflict.
*Essential Questions:
1. How did the provisions in the Treaty of Versailles contribute to the events in WWII?

2. How was Germany's treatment in the Versailles Treaty used by Hitler in his quest for world domination?

3. How did WWI change American society?

4. How did WWI change U.S. participation in world affairs?


National Standards

1. History Era 7-Standard 2: The changing role of the United States in world affairs through World War I.
2. History 7-12:Evaluate Wilson's leadership during the period of 1914-1917. Evaluate Wilson's Fourteen Points, his negotiations at the Versailles Treaty talks,and the national debate over treaty ratification and the League of Nations. [Evaluate the implementation of a decision]
Technology Standards: 5.Technology research tools. Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.Students use technology tools to process data and report results. Students evaluate and select new information resources and technological innovations based on the appropriateness for specific tasks.

State Standards

1. History 2.12.1: Frame and evaluate historical questions from multiple viewpoints.
2. History 2.12.2: Integrate, analyze, and organize historical information from a variety of sources.
3. History 7:Political and Economic Systems: Students explain the different political and economic systems in the world
3. History 7.12.17 Describe the causes, course, character, and effects of World War I, including: · imperialism · arms race and alliances · nationalism · weapons/tactics · Fourteen Points · Treaty of Versailles
4. History Performance Content Standard 2.0: Students will use social studies vocabulary and concepts to engage in inquiry, in research, in social studies analysis, and in decision-making.
5. History 8.12.6: Describe the causes, course, character, and effects of World War II, including: -legacy of World War I -significant military, political, and scientific leaders.
6. Language Arts 2.12.3: Plan, monitor, and assess the strategies used to ensure comprehension of a variety of texts.
7. Language Arts 3.6.1: Analyze the influence of setting on characters and on how the problem or conflict is resolved.
7. Language Arts 3.6.2: Make logical predictions about characters' actions based on evidence from the text.


Prerequisite Skills

This is lesson # 6 of 6 lessons. 1. As this is a closing activity: students should have prior knowledge on the subject in which they are debating. Students should have completed the background information on World War I and the players involved in this war(See lesson "Vocabulary Building" for suggested terms/words/key people).
2. Students should have basic forensics skills.
3. Students should have basic knowledge of English writing skills as they pertain specifically to persuasive writing. (Students will be providing a write-up of their groups' findings and position taken in the debate).
4. Depending on the instructor; students may opt to provide more detailed information which can be acquired from primary sources available on the Internet. (See a list of suggested URL's attached to the Unit overview).

Teacher Information/Situations/Setting/Time

· Time Frame: 1-2 class periods (50 minute period) for research, write-up and the debate.
· Materials: student texts, internet resources if available, unit notes.
· Teaching Strategies/Procedures:

1. The instructor will introduce the objectives as outlined on the assignment sheet (instructions are also provided on the powerpoint along with Mission Impossible sound track).
2. Students will be placed in cooperative groups of 3-4 students. Roles will be assigned in these groups (1 spokesperson, and 2-3 advisors with one advisors also acting as a time keeper for the group).
3. Students will be assigned national position.
4. Students will use materials outlined previously to research their assigned national position, and complete a write-up on that position.
5. Students will each be allowed 3 minutes to present their national position orally. After each national position has been presented-groups will be allowed to question each others positions and justifications for their role in the war.
6. At the conclusion of the debate groups will write up their own version of the Treaty of Versailles.


Assessment:Individual teachers can develop a rubric for grading this activity taking into account the following criteria:
1. Student's participation in the group research activity.
2. Student's ability to accurately present their national position.
3. Student's ability to argue effectively.
4. Student's ability to produce a write-up which is evident of use of materials resources and in-class information.
* Note that each groups' rough draft should reflect evidence of a basic understanding of the Treaty's provisions:
1. Responsibility for the war payments for damages.
2. Division of territories.
3. Who will have independence?
4. What kind of agreement will we make about sea travel?
5. What kinds of treaties will we allow in the future?
6. How many kinds of weapons will we allow each other to stockpile and how large will we make our standing armies and navies?

Student Activity/Tasks

Students overall task: "You are one of several diplomats attending the peace treaty conference in Versailles after the armistice is declared in November 1918. Your job involves arguing the position of your nation at the conference and gaining as much for it as possible within the wording of the Versaille Treaty."

Teachers should ensure the following during this cooperative activity:
1. Students will research their assigned nation and write a draft of what they feel their objectives will be at the Versailles Conference.

2. Students will work in cooperative groups for this section of the activity. (Students will be given a short overview of their country's position on the direction sheet provided by the instructor, attached to this lesson).

3. Students will present their nation's position at the conference. They may use their written draft, but they are strongly advised to speak about, rather than read from their paper.

Enrichment/Alternate Activity:

1. Have students listen to comments from Library of Congress website (see acknowledgements/resources outlined), in order to compare and contrast the speeches of the Anti-league and Pro-league leaders in the United States Congress.


· English/Language Arts · Forensics

Technology Requirements/Tools/Materials

1. Regular Classroom and or Computer Lab setting.
Video or digital video camera (optional) to film debate.
Internet resources (See resources outlined in acknowledgement/resources section)


1. American Leaders Speak: Recording from World War I and the 1920 Election-list of speakers (Newton Baker Pro-league) (Henry Cabot Lodge Anti-league)
2. Annal of America Volume 14 "Woodrow Wilson's perspectives on the 14 points".
3. Another great website that has numerous resources-look in the source section "digital classroom"
4. http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/1411/index.html
5. www.fmdc.calpoly.edu/libarts/mriedlsp/History315/WWI.html

Additional Resources

Main URL:

Related Lessons

Related Resources

World History Debate: Renegotiating the Treaty of Versailles

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