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Teaching WWII | 1939-1941 Lesson Plans


On September 1, 1939, the world watched as the Nazi war machine invaded Poland. Adolph Hitler’s belligerent action to invade Poland created a ripple effect that, over the next few years, almost every country on the planet would feel. From 1939-1941, the world witnessed the beginnings of yet another World War that reached near apocalyptic levels for many countries. In this unit, students will be introduced to the major events and turning points that occurred between 1939 and 1941. Students will be able to create chronological representations of these events and describe the significance of this time period’s events and people.

Student Activities for World War II: (1939-1941) Include:




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The History of World War II

From 1939-1941, the German Blitzkrieg or “lightning war” throughout Poland, the Netherlands, France, and Belgium would foreshadow a war in which very few would ever consider themselves “winners” due to the immeasurable horrors and destruction witnessed. The Germans brought a destructive mobile force throughout Europe during this time period, and for many, the concept of Nazi world domination quickly became a fathomable proposition.

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The first three years of the war were defined by a belligerent German force that had betrayed their non-aggression pact with the Soviets known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. With the escalation of war with the Soviets on the Eastern Front, the German army split their forces as the British and American forces attacked from the West. The turning point of the earlier war years would come on December 7th, 1941 when the Japanese attacked the Americans at Pearl Harbor. This action would lead to a full-blown world war that would come at the bloodiest cost of lives in world history.

The activities in this lesson plan will allow students to gain a better understanding of the early years of the war. Through analyzing primary source documents, first-hand accounts, and research, students will become engaged in the realities of World War 2.


Essential Questions for World War II: 1939 - 1941

  1. How were the Germans able to be so successful early on in the war?
  2. What countries were involved in the war from 1939-1941?
  3. How were the United States involved in the war prior to Pearl Harbor?
  4. How did European powers react to Hitler’s aggression?



Check out other lesson plans on history and literature during World War II and Holocaust


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