The Interwar Unit

The Interwar Years between World War I and World War II contains vital historical information for students to understand the reasons for the Second World War and the Cold War that came after. It sets the stage for the dictators of the 21st century, while also showing the economic hardships of people around the world. It involved a world that had just experienced a major and catastrophic pandemic, while also seeing Communism rise in Russia and get a foothold in other nations as well.

The following is an outline to help someone teach the Interwar in a World History or European History course. If you are teaching European History, you can take out the items involving the Rise of Militarism in Japan if you do not have time for that.


Week 1:

Day 1: Introduction to the Unit

What do you know activity? This is a simple activity to see what students know about the Interwar period. I have some students who know quite a bit while others may be able to come up with the names Hitler and Stalin if I discuss how it is leading up to World War II. I tend to have the students do this activity with a partner so they can talk things out and then we write items on the board or large sheets of white paper. It helps introduce names, concepts, and triggers some prior knowledge, which is always great!

Next, I have the students do a map of Europe during the Interwar as first focus on Europe and then jump to Japan. This will give the students a base when we start listing events that happened in different countries.

These two items traditionally take up the entire hour. If you have a block schedule, you can

Day 2: Treaty of Versailles

If you covered the Treaty of Versailles during a WWI unit you can either skip this day or use parts of it to refresh your students’ memory.

Go over the notes from the Interwar Period in Europe PowerPoint. When finished, have the students do the Treaty of Versailles Stations Activity.

Day 3: Economics in Europe

I start class with seeing how much the students know about hyper-inflation and show either the Crash Course Economics video on the topic or a Duck Tales version.

Next, I cover the notes on France and Germany’s economic woes with the PowerPoint, slides 18-28.

Finally, we do the Kathe Kollwitz reading and art analysis to look at here art depicting these years in Germany.

Day 4: Political Instability

The lecture from this day takes a bit longer as we go through what Fascism is. If you would like, you can also print the slides and do it like a stations activity.

On this day, I usually assign the project for the unit. In my unit bundle, I have have an academic poster project; however, if you cannot do that as a tri-fold, it can be adjusted to a PowerPoint presentation project. If time does not allow, the timeline project is quick and straight-forward.

I also start the History Channel’s “The World Wars” episode 2 video. This may require a purchased on Amazon or another streaming service if you do not own it or have free access to it. This will take more than one day, but I like dividing a documentary as students can learn with it.

Day 5: The Rise of Dictators

Start with the reading on the rise of the dictators and discuss it.

Next, go over slides 51-59 on the rise of Mussolini. Then continue the documentary.



Day 6: The Soviet Union

Read the document on the Holodomor and discuss as a class.

Next go over slides 60-65. Finish the documentary.

If you have time at the end, work on the timeline or project.

Day 7: The Rise of Hitler

Go over slides 66-81 discussing how Hitler came to power.

Work time on project or you can do the timeline.

Day 8: Nazi Germany

Slides 1-8 can be skipped if you covered them with the 1st PowerPoint with the Interwar Bundle.

Cover Slides 9-19 and read the Austrian Anschluss document or Neville Speech.

Watch Crash Course if time allows.

Day 9: Anschluss & Nazi-Soviet Pact

Start with going over slides 20-23. Next, do the Twitter Activity of Chamberlain and Churchill. discuss the politics of Germany in the 1930s.

Day 10: Japanese Militarism

Start with slides 1-10 with the rise of militarism in Japan and then do the Interwar Art Analysis Activity. Traditionally this takes 2 days with one for research and then the other for the groups to present their research.



Day 11: Japanese Expansion

Read the “Rape of Nanking” document.

Go over slides 11-24 that discuss the Sino-Japanese War that started in 1937.

When this is finished, have the final groups present their artwork.

Day 12: War in the Pacific

Finish the Militarism in Japan PowerPoint

Next, have the students complete the map assignment on the Pacific Theater.



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