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Lessons for War

Professional Development

Teachers at every grade level struggle with how to help students deal with war and related issues. To aid you in that effort, Education World has collected some age-appropriate online lesson plans, activities, and resources that will allow you to incorporate lessons about war into your regular curriculum. Included: Fourteen lesson plan sites and 14 additional resources for teaching about the war in Iraq and related issues.


No matter how hard you try to avoid it, questions and discussions about war can creep into the classroom. News about wars can be pervasive and graphic. Wars raise issues -- such as safety, diversity, conflict resolution, history, geography, current events, and more -- that students expect to be able to discuss in their classrooms.

The degree to which teachers address war directly will depend on the age and needs of their students. Preschool and primary students are most concerned about their personal safety and that of their families and friends; they want to know what war is and how the war will affect them. Students in the elementary grades probably are most interested in the people involved in the conflict; they want to know why countries go to war and what they can do to help. Middle school students, who are beginning to form their own opinions, are interested in learning more about the reasons behind the conflict, and in exploring various perspectives about it. High school students are looking for a more in-depth understanding of the history of the war and the issues surrounding it and in connecting the war to what they already know about history, geography, politics, and so on.

Few teachers have the extra time necessary to search for age-appropriate resources and then use them to develop substantive lessons -- and it isn't necessary. Many such lessons already are available on the Web; all you need to do is find the ones that best fit into your curriculum and best meet your students' needs.

To help you do that, Education World has located some sites containing lessons plans and classroom activities for every grade level.


Issues in Depth: Standoff With Iraq
The New York Times provides this complete resource for helping students explore the issues surrounding terrorism and the war with Iraq. The site includes Lesson Plans (lessons for students in Grades 6-12), Snapshots (lessons and worksheets for grades 3-5), Interactive Graphics (including maps and diagrams), Timelines, Slide Shows, links to informational resources used by NYT reporters in their war coverage, articles for parents and teachers, a chance for students to express their own opinions about the war, and more.

Dealing With War in the Classroom
TeacherVision offers something for every grade level in this collection of lessons plans. Arranged alphabetically -- in categories ranging from Conflict Resolution to What is War? -- the lessons are designed to help teachers address students questions and concerns about war. The site also provides a variety of Patriotic/Creative Activities, from American Flag Printables to When and How to Display the U.S. Flag.

America Responds: Classroom Resources
PBS offers nine lesson plans on topics related to terrorism and the war in Iraq. Lessons include The American Flag for students in PreK-5, A World at Peace for students in K-2, Emergency Preparedness for middle school students, and Taming Terrorism for high school students.

Teaching the Iraq War
News Hour Extra provides this collection of daily lessons plans designed to help students follow and understand war-related issues. Most lessons, which include all necessary articles and handouts, are most appropriate for high school students, although some may be adapted for students in middle school. The site also contains packages of additional resources on Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.

9/11 As History Lesson Plans for Educators
These 16 lesson plans from the Families and Work Institute were developed to help teachers and students commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. They are just as appropriate for helping students deal with issues of war and terrorism. Lesson topics range from safety and fear for preschoolers to patterns in history for high school students. The site also provides additional resources for students, parents, and teachers on dealing with crisis and trauma.

Facing Fear
This Red Cross Curriculum was developed to "help students cope in uncertain times." The curriculum consists of twelve lessons and activities adapted for four different grade spans -- K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12. The lessons, which are aligned with national standards in several subject areas, include Facing Personal Feelings, Media Literacy, Facts of Terrorism and War, and Healing Routines and Rituals. Lessons can be obtained in print format or downloaded from the Web site.

Current Events: Iraq
The National Council on the Social Studies offers a number of resources as part of its Teachable Moments series. Those resources include links to lesson plans for high school students, background information, maps, articles, news sources, and more.

Stories About Tolerance, Stereotyping, War, Loss, and Friendship
Youth provides 16 stories designed to stimulate student thinking about such issues as tolerance, stereotyping, war, loss, and friendship. Each story is followed by several "Think About It" questions to spark discussion and reflection on those themes.

25 Resources to Teach About Peace and Tolerance for Cultural Diversity provides this excellent list of links to online resources, which includes 25 unique activities for teaching kids about peace and tolerance. Activities referenced include contributing squares to a children's quilt, adding to an online mural, making friendship bracelets, reading Turkish folk tales, and assembling culture boxes.

America at War
Scholastic News offers three truly cross-curricular lessons for elementary aged children. The lessons, which include printable worksheets, incorporate a timeline, a pie chart, and a graphic organizer into students' study of war-related issues.

Conflict in Iraq
Weekly Reader offers lesson plans and classroom activities for students in grade 3 and above. Activities provided include reading pie chart, writing a persuasive letter, and analyzing political cartoons. In addition to the lessons and activities, this site also provides background information about the war, current news about the war, and an opinion poll for students.

Conflict with Iraq
The Santa Clara County Office of Education provides a number of excellent lessons plans for three grade ranges -- K-3, 4-8, and 9-12. These age-appropriate lessons span all areas of the curriculum as they address issues of diversity, culture, history, politics, and war. The site also offers facts about Iraq, emergency preparedness advice for parents and teachers, booklists for children and adults, and links to additional resources.

Special Projects: Understanding World Events
Educators for Social Responsibility provides lessons and activities -- as well as links to many more lessons, activities, and resources -- on four main themes; dealing with crisis, understanding war, stopping discrimination, and analyzing 9/11. This site offers many resources for every grade level from PreK through high school -- so many, in fact, that you'll need to allow some time to click through them all to find what you need.

Teaching About the War
Rethinking Schools Online offers a number of war-related lessons and activities for students in preschool and above. The maps of the Middle East, particularly the interactive drag and drop map, should prove especially useful. Be aware, however, that the lessons and activities at this site do not present a balanced approach to the issues -- they are heavily biased against war.


Most of the sites below, although they do not contain ready-made lesson plans, do provide excellent resources for creating original lesson plans or for researching and discussing war-related issues.


  • War in Iraq: Online Lessons and Links The Constitutional Rights Foundation offers a number of hard-to-find student resources, including a history of war and a history of U.S. foreign policy, as well as student activities and discussion questions.
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom The White House provides what it says are photographs of three Iraqi nuclear weapons-related facilities.
  • Post-9/11 Poetry Resources provides links to poetry appropriate for times of crisis.
  • The Long Road to War Frontline offers this collection of reports illustrating events in the 12-year conflict between the United States and Saddam Hussein.
  • America at War Time for Kids provides these kid-appropriate news articles on the war and related issues.
  • Conflict in Iraq Teachersfirst provides a number of resources on Iraq and the Middle East for students at all grade levels.
  • Iraq Resource Center The Council on Foreign Relations offers a comprehensive collection of resources on the history of the conflict and of the U.S. and Iraqi positions.
  • Iraq: the Interactive Library MSNBC offers interactive in-depth analysis and video on the conflict.
  • Youth Speak Out on War and Peace What Kids Can Do reports kids' perspectives on the war.
  • Youth Radio: War and Iraq Students talk about the war with Iraq and its impact on their lives.
  • Avoiding Armageddon These online resources complement the 8-hour PBS documentary to air April 14-17.
  • Resources for Schools on War SCE TV offers links to many resources for teaching about the war, including all PBS online resources.
  • War in Iraq The Massachusetts Teachers Association provides links to a number of education resources on the war.
  • Caught in the Crossfire This Youth Noise campaign offers teens an opportunity to write messages of support to children in Iraq and the children of U.S. troops.