Presidential Leadership and World War One

Common Core:
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 — Reading
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 — Reading
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3 — Reading
Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 — Reading
Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5 — Reading
Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 — Reading
Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 — Reading
Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.8 — Reading
Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 — Reading
Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.10 — Reading
Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1 — Writing
Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2 — Writing
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 — Writing
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4 — Writing
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 — Writing
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 — Writing
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 — Writing
Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 — Writing
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 — Comprehension and Collaboration
Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1.a– Comprehension and Collaboration
Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1.b — Comprehension and Collaboration
Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1.d — Comprehension and Collaboration
Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2 — Comprehension and Collaboration
Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4 — Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
*CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5 — Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.

California State Standards:
11.4 Students trace the rise of the United States to its role as a world power in the twentieth century
11.4.5 – Analyze the political, economic, and social ramifications of World War I on the home front.

Students will read primary and secondary sources that represent President Woodrow Wilson’s strategy during World War I. The first document is an essay by Colonel Douglas V. Mastriano, PhD titled Dithering, Dreaming, and Speechmaking: Wilson’s strategy during the First World War which outlines President Wilson’s foreign policy specifically regarding the Great War. In reading this article students will be required to document their knowledge in preparation for the dissection of four primary source documents: President Woodrow Wilson’s Message on Neutrality August 20, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson’s War Message to Congress April 02, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points January 8, 1918, and The American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) objective in the Meuse Argonne Campaign.

Students will then explore how the words and actions of a President impacted the military efforts in Europe and the over four million American’s who participated and the one individual who is remembered as one of the greatest heroes of the war.
By creating their proposed museum exhibits students will examine, analyze, critique, and match various artifacts and personal stories of World War I and specifically Alvin York to tell the story of the war that will impart information about the war as well as personalize the experience for the future visitors to the museum.

Part I — Define the following words using Google’s right click function AND then use the word in a sentence below the definition:

Part II — Background Information — go to the following link and read the background information about each conflict then fill out the rubric below:

American Strategy 1914-1918 by Colonel Douglas Mastriano, PhD

Dithering, Dreaming and Speechmaking: Wilson’s Strategy During the First World War

1. Why did the United States remain neutral in 1914, 1915, 1916 and early 1917?
2. Give at least two events that caused the United States to go to war in April 1917.
3. Describe the end result of this war?
4. What are the five most important points that are made by Col. Mastriano in his essay and why?

Part III — Primary Source Documents — read the following excerpts and follow the instructions that follow each one. Remember to answer in COMPLETE SENTENCES!

President Wilson’s Message on Neutrality
August 20, 1914
Click on the link below with will take you to the transcript and answer the following questions in COMPLETE SENTENCES.
1. According to President Wilson, what will be the effect of the war in Europe on the US?
2. According to President Wilson, why would Americans be sympathetic to what was happening in Europe?
3. According to President Wilson, what would be fatal to Americans?
4. According to President Wilson, what should Americans do in both thought and actions? 5. According to President Wilson, what is the particular trial for our Nation?
6. Did President Wilson make a logical argument for neutrality? Why or why not?

President Woodrow Wilson’s War Message to Congress
April 02, 1917’s_War_Message_to_Congress
Answer each question in complete sentences AND complete the task:
1. What is President Woodrow Wilson trying to persuade Congress to do? Change the text
color of the ONE word that leads you to believe this.
2. Highlight two reasons (no more than SIX WORDS each) why President Wilson
wants Congress to act. Which is the most critical reason? Why do you believe that to be
3. Underline the portion of this speech that serves as the reason why President Wilson believes war should be declared. Do you agree with his reason and thoroughly explain why or why not.
4. Copy and paste below the portion of the speech in which Wilson names another
government. Explain in what context that government has been named.

President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points
8 January, 1918:
Answer each question in complete sentences AND complete the task:
1. Highlight four points. (no more than TEN WORDS) What is President Wilson seeking in his fourteen points (what does he want?) – sum it up in ten words or less.
2. Underline the relationship this speech is directed against the former members of the Central Powers: Germany (Prussia), Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria (Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro), and the Ottoman Empire. Underline what needs to happen to French territory occupied by Germany in 1871. Why was this important?
3. Change the font color where Wilson mentions territorial concessions.

Part IV — Primary Source – The American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) objective in the Meuse Argonne Campaign.
Read pages 128-130 of the book and answer the following questions:
1. Describe the objective (mission) of the AEF in the Meuse Argonne Offensive?
2. Outline the timeline laid out in this order on pages 128-130?
3. Explain the relationship with the French Army in the area?

Part V — Common Core GROUP Activity about America’s role in WWI and Sergeant Alvin York, America’s most celebrated hero from 1918.

You and your group have been given the task of developing a proposed museum exhibit on Alvin York. Your proposal will have to meet specific requirements and will be presented as a PowerPoint. The museum is expecting a minimum of six part exhibit, each part will be presented on at least two slides, three maximum. Your presentation must be informative and persuasive. You will have to do RESEARCH!!

Part #1 Introduction — Who was Alvin York? (Excluding he specific dates below)
Part #2 A summary of the United States military involvement.
Part #3 Describe what happened to York after his father died in 1911?
Part #4 Explain why his life change in January 1915?
Part #5 Describe what he did in combat on October 8, 1918 and why did it matter?
Part #6 Sergeant York’s Legacy and specific notation for the Sergeant York Discovery Expedition

Each part must have:
a) An artifact (for the proposal it may be a picture of one) representing the topic of the slide
b) A primary source on the exhibit topic
c) An overview secondary source (cited on the slide) to explain the topic exhibit
d) A proposed interactive element, in which the museum patrons can touch/feel/hold
e) Three of the five above, for EACH slide, must come from the following websites:

To earn 30 points extra credit, you and your group(s) will create a poster that celebrates America’s most famous hero from World War 1, Sergeant Alvin C. York. Use at least one picture and as few words as possible to convey the heroism of Sergeant York on a full size poster that can be used during the centennial commemoration in 2018. The best designs will be sent to the Sergeant York Discovery Expedition to be displayed on their website.

Sergeant York Discovery Expedition (webpage of sources, photos and documents)

Sergeant York News Broadcast (video – two minutes)

Sergeant York 90th Anniversary News report (video – two minutes)

Sergeant York Battle Reenactment (movie segment – ten minutes)

CSPAN Sergeant York Presentation (video)

Pritzker Military Museum lecture on Sergeant York (video)

President Woodrow Wilson Speech, “Wilson’s Fourteen Points,” Washington, D.C. January 8, 1918.

Excerpt from President Woodrow Wilson’s War Message to Congress, April 02, 1917. Available at the following source:’s_War_Message_to_Congress

American Strategy 1914-1918 by Colonel Douglas Mastriano, PhD

Dithering, Dreaming and Speechmaking: Wilson’s Strategy During the First World War

  • Jennifer Truman-Nanik
  • Bret Harte Union High School
Related History Institute
Grade Level
  • High School: 11
Time Frame
  • 5 class period (based on a 50 minute class)

If you have any questions about this lesson plan, or if you wish to contact the author, please email us at [email protected]