The Great War and Academic Argument

November 27, 2017 Les Lynn Argument and Literacy, Argumentative Writing, Classroom Debating, Resources, The Debatifier

World War I was cataclysmic not only in the death and destruction it wrought on the battlefield (with more than 10 million killed), but also in its shattering in the Western world (certainly in Europe) of certain kind of belief in the nobility of civilization and the inevitability of progress.  “The war to end all wars,” in H.G. Wells’ immortal phrase, and the war that would “make the world safe for democracy,” according to President Woodrow Wilson — the idealism that inspired these phrases sounded bitterly ironic after the War, and by 1918 sardonic clouds had settled over the European psyche to stay.

This argument-based project teaches World War I through debates about the deepest causes of that conflict.  It brings together primary and secondary textual and video sources to teach content through the framework of academic argument.

Debatable Issue

The debatable issue for the project asks students to look beyond and under the immediate trigger of World War I — the assassination of Franz Ferdinand of Austro-Hungary by Serbian nationalists — to the root, foundational, fundamental causes.

What was the most fundamental cause of World War I (1914 – 1918): nationalism, militarism, imperialism, or romanticism?

It is important to present definitions of these terms to the class.  There are of course a wide variety of definitions for each term, and certainly many would fit this context.  These are the definitions that we recommend you use.

Nationalism

Excessive love of one’s country or ethnicity, often coupled with looking down on or even hating other nations

Militarism

Obsessive focus on and investment in and building up of the military and armaments

Imperialism

The project of colonizing and exploiting less developed countries or territories around the world in the service of enriching one’s own country

Romanticism (related to warfare)

An unrealistic idealization of the world, and in particular in this context, a view that war is ennobling and even healthy as a place for men and nations to test and demonstrate their valor, strength, and character

These four forces and ways of understanding their world were all prevalent in Europe in the decades prior to World War I.  This argument-based project has students think hard and critically about which of the four had more fundamental influence over the Europe’s descent into the cataclysm of the Great War than any other.

Method

We will lay out the way that this project should be implemented by reviewing, and attaching resources to, its implementation plan.  The full project takes three weeks; it is possible, certainly, to shorten it by 5 – 10 days by removing certain instructional components.

Click above to download the argument-based World War I project implementation plan

Day 1

Introduction to the unit: The Most Fundamental Cause of World War I, the debatable issue, and Table Debates

Read together the World War I historical overview

Click above to download the World War I historical overview

Define the four fundamental causes of the War that the project will be examining

Play “Rule, Britannia” to demonstrate all four causes

Click above to listen to “Rule, Britannia”
Click above to download the lyrics to “Rule, Britannia”

RuleBritanniaLyrics17.12.04

Conduct the Vocabulary Crowd Sourcing Activity

Day 2

Distribute Argument-Based Reflective Questions on WWI Videos

Click above to download the Argument-Based Reflection Questions on WWI Videos

Screen the video “The Four M-A-I-N Causes of World War I”

Click above to view the “Four M-A-I-N Causes of World War I”

Turn and Talk on what students learned and what they have questions about

Screen the video a second time

Screen the video “World War I in Six Minutes”

Click above to view “World War I in Six Minutes”

Turn and Talk on what students learned and what they have questions about

Screen the video a second time

Begin responding to the argument-based questions

Day 3

Screen the video “World War I Over-Simplified”

Click above to view “World War I Over-Simplified”

Turn and Talk on what students learned and what they have questions about

Screen the video a second time

Screen the video “Who Started World War I”

Click above to view “Who Started World War I?”

Turn and Talk on what students learned and what they have questions about

Screen the video a second time

Finish responding to the argument-based questions and submit them for formative assessment

Day 4

Return assessed argument-based reflection questions

Present short analytics on student work

Conduct teacher-led discussion of the questions and responses

Re-screen selective sections of the videos to deepen understanding

Begin to generate a claims list

Divide the vocabulary list in half and assign students one half to write full sentences demonstrating the meaning

Conduct a Think-Pair-Share on the vocab sentences

Day 5

Administer a vocabulary assessment, have students grade it and discuss challenging terms

Distribute Argument-Based Reflection Questions on Document Excerpts

Click above to download the Argument-Based Reflection Questions on Document Excerpts

Have students work on responses independently

Share out and discuss a single document and students’ argument-based responses

Day 6

Continue working on and complete their responses to the reflection questions on document excerpts

Announce team partners for the Multi-Sided Debates

Have partners share and discuss responses to the reflection questions on document excerpts, revising as appropriate

Collect these responses and formatively assess

Day 7

Return responses to reflection questions on document excerpts

Present analytics on student work

Review and discuss the growing claims list

Distribute and review Multi-Sided Debates Format

Click above to download the Multi-Sided Debates Format

Distribute and review flow sheet model

Day 8

Assign a position to each partner-team

Post the two Multi-Sided Debate match-ups (meaning, which four partner-teams will be debating each other)

Distribute argument builders and an argument builder model

Review argument builder model

Begin argument building

Day 9

Continue argument building

Provide feedback to some partner-teams’ argument builders in class

Collect argument builders and formatively assess

Day 10

Turn back argument builders

Present analytics on student work, showcasing examples

Support students as they revise their argument builders

Have students take pictures of the two partner-teams’ argument builders that they will be counter-arguing against

Day 11

Distribute counter-argument builders and counter-argument builder model

Review counter-argument builder model

Support students in their counter-argument building

Day 12

Continue and complete counter-argument building

Provide feedback to some partner-teams’ counter-argument builders in class

Collect and formatively assess counter-argument builders

Day 13

Return counter-argument builders

Present short analytics on student work, showcasing examples

Review the Multi-Sided Debates format and flow sheet model and distribute flow sheets for the debates

Click above to download the Multi-Sided Debates Flow Sheet

Day 14

Conduct the first round of Multi-Sided Debates

Day 15

Present feedback on the first round

Conduct the second and final round of Multi-Sided Debates

Summatively assess student performance in the debates

Collect and summatively assess argument writing on the builders

(Optional) Assign a summative argument essay