Military Battle Lesson Plans Can Capture Everyone's Attention
Recreating key military battles can help children learn about the history of warfare in an engaging way.
By Kristen Kindoll
Military conquests can become monotonous when you do "just the facts" types of lessons. Students often have the idea that military battles happened in the past, to people unlike themselves. This naturally creates a buffer, and makes the material seem disconnected from present experience. Many children may ask how the information is relevant to their lives. However, there are ways to make the material meaningful and interesting. An educator can teach children about key strategic battles throughout history, and then use that information to conduct a modern "Capture the Fort" activity.
There are many conflicts to choose from, but I picked battles that reflected different points in Western Civilization. The famous battles I chose to cover were: Thermopylae, Crecy, the Somme, Lexington and Concord, the Alamo, and Gettysburg. These are just examples. If you are studying a specific war, the same lesson outline can be used.
One of the things students should learn from these activities is that generals prepare for war. There is a lot of planning involved, and generals don't just run out and start attacking. Throughout history there have been specific plans established for various battles, and there have even been rules of conduct. Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" is one of the oldest military treatises. The information in this book is thought provoking, and applicable even today.
Before beginning a "Capture the Fort" activity, posters with a list of Sun Tzu's main ideas can be made, and hung up in a makeshift war room. You can gather children around a table, and use either plastic military men or other objects to represent soldiers. You can then demonstrate how each battle was fought. Natural obstacles and other terrain can illustrate how some of the outcomes were inspiring. You can take a poll before the battle demonstrations to see which side the children think will win. At the end of the activity, you can tally the results, and see who guessed correctly.
After the children have learned the information, they can recreate a conflict using their own battle plan. You can give them an outline of a fort, and the natural obstacles they would encounter. Then you can divide the children into workable teams, and have them create a strategy for capturing another fort. They must execute, and cite, at least one historical maneuver as reference for their plan's inspiration. After submitting the plan to the teacher for examination, the children can implement it. They must do what they outlined. This will let them see whether their battle plan was feasible. For added fun, you can use water guns as artillery. While the activity may dissolve into slight anarchy, the principles can still be applied. It's also a fun way to reinforce the material learned. The lesson plans below can help the military battles come alive.
Military Battle Lesson Plans:
300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae has extensive background research readily available. There are activity objectives, which help add multi-media aspects to how the battle was conducted.
Gun Powder and The Explosion of War shows the introduction of modern weapons and how even a bow and arrow can radically change a strategy. There is a link to a written account of the battle.
Trench Warfare in the First World War has a link to a web simulation of life in the trenches from the perspective of a British solider.
The War in the North, 1775-1778 has many personal accounts and excerpt from letters detailing the conditions and soldier's experience during the Revolutionary War.
The Alamo, Documenting Courage has a heart wrenching plea from a soldier in a hopeless situation. If you read the letter before the demonstration battle, you can set the stage for the courage shown by the countless soldiers who had to face death throughout history.
The Soldiers at Gettysburg has background information and visuals for reference. There is an activity in which students have to write a diary entry as though they were a soldier during the conflict.