World War I: What Are We Fighting For Over There?
Back to Lesson Plans
Teachers | Students
Preparation | Procedure
Lesson One – Introduction to American Memory and Primary Sources
This lesson will introduce you to the resources of American Memory. American Memory consists of more than 100 collections of digitized documents, photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures, and text from the Library of Congress. You can browse a listing of all collections and use the search tool to locate primary source material. Do not think of American Memory as an encyclopedia or textbook as it is more like a museum or archive with some unique resources or treasures to be found.
You will view several "Today in History" pages that focus on World War I events. How do you search for relevant primary source material? How can a photograph, newspaper article, song, or speech enrich your understanding of the Great War?
- Today in History has an archive search feature to locate material by full text, specific day, or month. Searching for "World War I" yields the following key pages:
- June 28, 1914 is an important date usually associated with the start of World War I. Browse the page.
- Look closely at the photograph of Ypres Belgium.
- Study this photograph using the Primary Source Analysis tool.
- Click on the link to Panoramic Photographs.
- You can search for other WWI-era photos in this collection by using keyword search, typing in "world war 1914-1918."
- The subject index browse feature suggests many useful subheadings under World War, 1914-1918.
- July 15, 1948 provides important background material on General Pershing.
- July 15, 1948 also has a link to Pershing's speech From the battle fields of France. Review this speech using the Primary Source Analysis Tool. You will be able to examine additional speeches from American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election in the next lesson.
- April 6, 1917 concludes our survey of World War I related pages in Today in History.
Lesson Two – American Leaders Speak
Actual sound recordings from the World War I era are available to us through American Leaders Speak. The Library of Congress holds fifty-nine recordings of speeches by U.S. leaders at the turn of the century. The speeches focus on issues and events surrounding the war and the subsequent presidential election of 1920.
- The American Leaders Speak collection is made up of recordings from The Nation's Forum. The collection represents an effort to preserve the voices of prominent Americans. In most cases, these audio files are the only surviving recordings of a speaker. The Department of State's Committee on Public Information (a governmental propaganda ministry) endorsed the Nation's Forum.
- The Gallery of World War I Speakers allows you to link to a particular speech and display the audio file and text. Listen to Franklin K. Lane's The Nation in Arms. This speech will be further studied in class using the Primary Source Analysis Tool.
- You will be assigned a speech to analyze for homework using the Primary Source Analysis Tool. There are eighteen speeches in the gallery. The speeches of Pershing and Lane (already analyzed by the class) will not be assigned to individual students.
Lesson Three – Newspaper Project
In this lesson, you will use your familiarity with American Memory and prior knowledge of WWI to create two WWI-era newspapers each with an opposing viewpoint regarding American involvement in the war effort.
Each member of the class is serving on the staff of a World War I-era newspaper. One newspaper supports the war, the other paper opposes the war. If you are a reporter, it is your job to complete the sequence of tasks listed below. Additional instructions for just the publisher and editorial board are given in italics.
- Check with the Publisher of your particular newspaper and receive your assignment.
- View the newspaper Department Assignments page and note your duties and responsibilities.
- Go to the Newswire page of suggested American Memory links. Begin your research and be ready to report back on two potential sources to use for the basis of your newspaper article. Analyze these two sources by means of the Primary Source Analysis Tool.
- Share your initial findings when the Publisher reconvenes your newspaper staff. Discuss the links which you explored via the Newswire and analyzed via the Primary Source Analysis Tool.
- Publisher and Editorial Board meet to determine specific topic assignments for reporters. The assignments for the Photographic and Print Division are coordinated with the stories being covered by the reporting staff.
- Study the Newspaper Guidelines. Develop one particular article in depth as directed by your Publisher. Conduct additional research using Student Resources.
- Submit a rough draft of your article to the Publisher and Editorial Board for review.
- Publisher and Editorial Board prepare comments, suggestions for revision.
- Rewrite, polish and fine tune your article or photograph or print, following the feedback supplied to you by the Publisher and editorial staff.
- The Editorial Board is directed by the Publisher to produce a final version of each newspaper and to distribute copies to the entire class.
- Read the opposing viewpoint newspaper. Evaluate the other paper. The evaluation process is done at the departmental level. In other words, if you are a Mobilization Unit reporter on one paper, you review the work of a mobilization reporter on the other paper.
- Join in a general question and answer session and voice your concerns to the Publisher or Editorial Board. Engage in a discussion of the essential questions.
- What can be learned about the American character from the manner by which the United States mobilized, prepared, and participated in a world war?
- Were the political and military goals of the Great War worth the staggering loss of human life and social disruption?
- How does the World War of 1914-1918 validate or contradict our feelings of patriotism and reinforce or tear down our pride and gratitude as Americans?
- How does the unfolding of World War I foreshadow the role of the United States as a prominent world power of the twentieth century?
As Ms. Hinton put it in a recent interview, “That concept of the ‘in crowd’ and the ‘out crowd’ is universal. The names of the groups may change, but kids still see their own lives in what happens to Ponyboy and his friends.”
Ponyboy’s story has spoken to so many over the decades because balancing on a precipice between hope and despair is, for many young people, a daily reality. For most young people coming-of-age, learning to fit in and find their place in the world is a big enough challenge. But for the young men in these texts, gangs, with their promise of brotherhood and belonging, add additional allure and danger.
Ms. Hinton wrote the book as a high school student, living the conflicts that became central to her book. Times reporter John Eligon wrote about Chicago gangs after spending weeks with current and former members. Both pieces raise questions about identity and belonging, manhood and respect — and introduce us to young men who “defy easy caricature” as they wrestle with those issues.
Key Question: What can we learn by seeing the world through the eyes of outsiders?
Activity Sheets: As students read and discuss, they might take notes using one or more of the three graphic organizers (PDFs) we have created for our Text to Text feature, which matches often-taught texts with Times articles and other content.
• Comparing Two or More Texts
• Double-Entry Chart for Close Reading
• Document Analysis Questions
Text 1: Excerpt from The Outsiders, Chapter 7
... As I lit up, the Socs who had jumped Johnny and me at the park hopped out of the Mustang. I recognized Randy Adderson, Marcia’s boyfriend, and the tall guy that had almost drowned me. I hated them. It was their fault Bob was dead; their fault Johnny was dying; their fault Soda and I might get put in a boys’ home. I hated them as bitterly and as contemptuously as Dally Winston hated.
Two-Bit put an elbow on my shoulder and leaned against me, dragging on his cigarette. “You know the rules. No jazz before the rumble,” he said to the Socs.
“We know,” Randy said. He looked at me. “Come here. I want to talk to you.”
I glanced at Two-Bit. He shrugged. I followed Randy over to his car, out of earshot of the rest. We sat there in his car for a second, silent. Golly, that was the tuffest car I’ve ever been in.
“I read about you in the paper,” Randy said finally. “How come?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I felt like playing hero.”
“I wouldn’t have. I would have let those kids burn to death.”
“You might not have. You might have done the same thing.”
Randy pulled out a cigarette and pressed in the car lighter. “I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. I would never have believed a greaser could pull something like that.”
“ ‘Greaser’ didn’t have anything to do with it. My buddy over there wouldn’t have done it. Maybe you would have done the same thing, maybe a friend of yours wouldn’t have. It’s the individual.”
“I’m not going to show at the rumble tonight,” Randy said slowly.
I took a good look at him. He was seventeen or so, but he was already old. Like Dallas was old. Cherry had said her friends were too cool to feel anything, and yet she could remember watching sunsets. Randy was supposed to be too cool to feel anything, and yet there was pain in his eyes.
“I’m sick of all this. Sick and tired. Bob was a good guy. He was the best buddy a guy ever had. I mean, he was a good fighter and tuff and everything, but he was a real person too. You dig?”
Text 2: Excerpt from “Bored, Broke, and Armed”
The young men who call themselves Gangster Disciples skirted by an empty lot. They marched past a “Stop the Violence” mural painted on a corner store, coming to a halt when they saw members of a rival gang, the Black Disciples.
It was late September on a busy South Side intersection, and now tensions were escalating, gang members who were there recalled.
There were glares, they said. Then words.
“You’re a rat,” a Black Disciple said to one of the Gangster Disciples who he believed had given the police information about him.
Things were about to blow.
It had been exactly 90 days since some of these same men had sat across from one another in an airy church hall to broker peace and confront a hard truth: The gang war they had inherited and were viciously continuing was helping to unravel parts of this city, where the levels of violence were reaching horrific new heights.
... The Times spent several weeks this fall with gang members to get a better understanding of what it means to be in a gang. They were often days of boredom, punctuated by bursts of drama and bravado. Gang life means animated debates over whether the guys on the next block meant to insult you or not. It means worrying over how to make enough for your next meal or your next high. And it means mourning the loss of loved ones, retaliating in their honor, yet wanting the cycle to stop.
Ron, a 23-year-old Black Disciple who uses the nickname Kaos, and for safety reasons asked that his last name not be used, explained the relentless cycle of violence: I’ve already lost friends. If we are making money, I can ignore the urge to retaliate. “But if we’re sitting here bored, getting high and we got guns around, it ain’t nothing else to do,” he added.
Still, these are young men who defy easy caricature. They are the sales associates who help you find shoes at a sportswear store or factory workers next to you on the assembly line. They kiss their young children on the lips and cry when someone close to them dies.
And, yes, they do use and sell drugs, and sometimes lash out in inexplicable bursts of violence over disputes like a battle for a girl’s attention, or disrespectful words uttered on a rap video posted to YouTube.
Or, as was the case in front of the corner store in late September, over an insult hurled on a busy intersection.
For Writing and Discussion
1. The article observes that gang members are “young men who defy easy caricature” and that boredom contributes to the cycle of violence in Chicago’s neighborhoods. Where do you see similar themes in the novel? What other parallels do you see?
2. Both “Bored, Broke and Armed” and “The Outsiders” are based on firsthand observations. An adage for writers advises us to “write what you know.” Why might that be especially important when telling the stories of cultural outsiders? What other outsider narratives can you think of? How were they told?
3.Research shows that, for many, belonging to a gang can fill the role of family. How do both the article and the novel show this? What lines or scenes from the article on this theme echo lines or scenes from the novel? How?
4. In describing how gangs emerged in Chicago neighborhoods, Mr. Eligon writes, “Boys, with little supervision, money or education, formed cliques. They hung out socially, and got into fights and other petty trouble. He continues: “Now they were everywhere and nowhere — gangsters by name, but kings only of corners and blocks.” How do power and powerlessness play a part in these two texts? How do these power dynamics contribute to cycles of violence? What questions do the texts raise about manhood? Why?
5. In a section of “Bored, Broke and Armed” called “A Red Hoodie on Enemy Turf,” Mr. Eligon writes:
The clique worried that the war was about to flare again, said Antwine White, 24, a Gangster Disciple who is called Weedy. “You just get prepared for the worst,” he said. “They can walk over here. We can think it’s cool. They shoot.”
That defines day-to-day gang life in Chicago. The young men bound around with their chests out, but their heads are on constant swivels, eyeing everything around them.
What does the article reveal about how perceptions and expectations can contribute to cycles of violence? Do you see similar attitudes playing a role in cycles of violence elsewhere, whether in your own personal experience or as you read headlines in the newspaper about conflicts around the world? How?
6. How do both the article and the novel feature people who defy stereotypes of gang members? What can you learn from them?
Gangs and Law Enforcement
The Times recently reported that shootings in New York had fallen to the lowest number since the ‘90s, with most of the credit going to new policing tactics that increase focus on gang-related issues. But in one town in Long Island, gang violence is running rampant — and drawing attention to the effects of gangs even on young people who are trying to avoid them.
Based on what you read in these two articles, list specific steps that law enforcement might take to improve life in communities troubled with a history of gang violence. Which of these steps might make good immediate priorities and which make better long-term goals? Which might work best in a community near you?
“The Outsiders” at 50
Writing in the Book Review in 2007, Dale Peck reassessed “The Outsiders” on its 40th anniversary. He pointed out that Ms. Hinton’s book was in many ways fresh, original, and exciting for young readers, changing the Young Adult genre forever:
Hinton, earnest teenager that she was, wrote to reveal the universality of her Greasers, just as Wright and Ellison did for African-Americans, or Paley and Roth did for Jews.
The review noted, however, that Ms. Hinton also borrowed techniques from other classic books. Mr. Peck writes that these “echoes … soften the challenging nature of the book’s subject matter by wrapping it in references, tropes and language familiar to its adolescent readers, even as they alleviate the fears of those readers’ too-earnest parents.”
For readers in 2017, is Ms. Hinton’s novel still relevant?
Read the essay Ms. Hinton wrote for The Times in 1967 about young adult fiction, and see how much of it still rings true. Then, create an annotated bibliography or a library display of contemporary Y.A. novels that owe a debt to her work because they capture the realities of life for today’s 21st-century teenagers, or for “outsiders” or any kind. What would you include? Why?
Part of what takes Ponyboy and Johnny beyond stereotypes of gang members is their sensitivity, manifest most memorably in their allusion to Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
How has Johnny’s advice to “stay gold” come to permeate our pop culture? Use Google’s search to look at the many ways this phrase has been used to imagine, advertise, joke and encourage. What patterns do you observe in these homages? (Note: if you want to stay in the author’s good graces, never say “stay golden.”)
Then, consider how poetry still resonates with young people today. For example, watch this video from Favorite Poem Project, in which a young man from South Boston reads a Gwendolyn Brooks poem that shares some of the themes in this lesson plan.
What are your favorite poems? How do they resonate with things you see around you in the world today? Our long-running Poetry Pairing series matches classic poems with Times reporting. What poem and Times article would you pair?
When “The Outsiders” first came out, the publishers did not want to use S. E. Hinton’s first name, Susan, because it might put off boys who would not normally read books written by women. To this day, many readers assume that because the voice of the novel is male, so is the author.
In what ways have you, like the characters in “The Outsiders” and Ms. Hinton herself, defied stereotypes — of your age group, race, religion, gender or anything else that contributes to who you are? Write a personal essay, or create something, like this artist did, that confronts those expectations.
Outsiders in the World Today
Who are the outsiders in your community? In the world at large right now? How can “outsider thinking” enhance or endanger a community?
To investigate questions like these, put the word “outsider” or “outsiders” into Times search and see what comes up. You might find anything from an article about The New High School Outsiders to a video about innovation called The Power of Outsiders to an Op-Ed called Enter the Age of the Outsiders to a review of the annual Outsider Art Fair in New York City.
Discuss your findings with a small group. What do you notice? What patterns or clichés do you find in these reports about those identified as outsiders? Which of these pieces seem most interesting? What stories seem to be missing?
Finally, consider what stories of outsiders in your own community need telling, and brainstorm ways they could be told.
‘Sometimes the Tough Teen is Quietly Writing Stories’
Part of what makes the ending of “The Outsiders” so memorable is that we discover Ponyboy is writing his own story to save his grade in high school and to give an untold perspective he believes people must hear.
The Young Adult author Matt de la Peña helps us see from a similar perspective in more contemporary times in his piece “Sometimes The Tough Teen Is Quietly Writing Stories.” In it, he tells a story about a boy he meets when he does a reading at a school — someone the principal calls “a real instigator”:
After the session, Joshua came to the front of the stage and asked to speak with me in private. He told me he was born in a prison and that he’d been held back in school. Twice. He didn’t belong in junior high anymore. It made him feel like a loser. But he wanted me to know that he wrote stories sometimes. About San Antonio gangs. When he asked if I’d be willing to read the one he’d just finished, I told him I’d love to. “But you’ll have to get it to me quick,” I said. “They’re about to shuttle me to the next school.”
What questions would you like to ask Mr. de la Peña? Ms. Hinton? Both are active on Twitter, though it might be a good idea to scroll through their feeds first before you pose questions they may have answered many times in the past.
Curating an “Outsiders” Museum
“Once you’re a fan of ‘The Outsiders,’ you’re always a fan of ‘The Outsiders,’ writes Hayley Krischer in “Why ‘The Outsiders’ Lives On: A Teenage Novel Turns 50.”
In fact, one 48-year-old fan loves the book so much he wants to turn the house pictured above into an “Outsiders” museum:
On a particularly windy day in the Crutchfield neighborhood here, the writer S. E. Hinton was touring the renovations of the future Outsiders House museum. The rundown Craftsman bungalow was where the Curtis brothers — Darry, Sodapop and Ponyboy — lived in the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola movie based on Ms. Hinton’s book “The Outsiders.”
The book, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, was arguably one of the most influential young adult books of its time, and leading this tour was the self-described fanboy Danny O’Connor, 48, who made his own contribution to pop-culture history as a member of the 1990s hip-hop group House of Pain.
Mr. O’Connor has been on a quest to find artifacts to include in the museum, amassing a collection of memorabilia from the movie, vintage photographs and hard-to-find editions of the book. Next on his search list, he told Ms. Hinton, 68, was a claw-foot tub like the one 18-year-old Rob Lowe (Sodapop Curtis in the movie) stepped out of with just a towel wrapped around his waist.
If you were curator of the “Outsiders” museum, what would you want to feature? What exhibits would you have? How would you set it up? What special events might you offer? Sketch your ideal “Outsiders” museum, or create a sample exhibit for it. How might your museum or exhibit both satisfy longtime fans of the novel and pique the interest of a new generation?
Friends and Family
In a post entitled “When Friends Are Like Family,” Deborah Tannen illuminates why, like the characters in “The Outsiders,” we take some friends into our closest circle and how they become like family. As Ms. Tannen points out, “Holes left by rejected (or rejecting) relatives — or left by relatives lost to distance, death or circumstance — can be filled by friends who are like family.”
Write a personal letter to a friend who has become like a family member to you. Just like Ms. Tannen does in her article, use specific anecdotes and memories to express to this person why you see them as family.
More Text to Text Lesson Plans on Young Adult Literature
‘Speak’ and ‘Waking Up to the Enduring Memory of Rape’
‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ and ‘On the Reservation and Off, Schools See a Changing Tide’
‘The Giver’ and ‘The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction’
‘The Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘The Case for Delayed Adulthood’
‘The Book Thief’ and ‘Auschwitz Shifts From Memorializing to Teaching’
‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘A Fight Club for Flies’
Do you have ideas for matching an excerpt from an often-taught work of literature with a Times article? Let us know in the comments.
More About “The Outsiders” and S.E. Hinton
Timeline | Fifty Years Ago, a Teenager Wrote the Best-Selling Young Adult Novel of All Time
The New Yorker | S. E. Hinton and the Y.A. Debate
Letters of Note | ‘The Outsiders’Continue reading the main story