WWII – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

As World War II continues to be a significant source of study for students worldwide, teachers are tasked with creating effective lesson plans that accurately deliver this vast topic. This article will provide teachers with important information and practical tips to help them plan their lessons on WW2 engagingly and effectively.

Key Information About WWII

Before WWII, Europe had been a centre of global power since the Age of Discovery. The continent was divided into two major forces – the Allies on one side and the Central Powers on the other. WWI had seen an end to this balance of power, and Europe found itself in this state when WWII began in 1939.

WWII began with Germany’s invasion of Poland, igniting a conflict that would soon spread worldwide as more nations joined either side. During the war, citizens across many countries experienced loss and suffering due to heavy bombing campaigns, genocide, displacement of peoples and other atrocities committed by both sides. In 1945, following the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings by Allied forces and the Soviet invasion of Eastern Europe, Germany surrendered unconditionally, and WWII ended.

The consequences of WWII were felt worldwide for decades in political, economic and social terms. The destruction caused by the conflict led to an unprecedented push for international cooperation to prevent future wars from occurring. This resulted in several important international organizations being formed, such as the United Nations (UN) and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

Timeline of Key Events from WWII

1939 – Germany invades Poland, officially beginning WWII

1940 – Germany invades France, leading Britain to declare war on Germany; Japan, a member of the Axis Powers, begins its invasion of China and later invades various land in the Pacific Ocean.

1941 – Germany attacks Russia; The United States enters the war following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

1942 – Allies gain the upper hand in North Africa following the Battle of El Alamein; Holocaust begins.

1943: Allies invade Italy in Operation Husky; Soviets push back German forces at Stalingrad and gain control over much of Eastern Europe.

1944 – Allied forces launch a D-Day invasion into Normandy; the Chinese army defeats Japanese forces at Imphal and Kohima in India.

1945 – Soviet Union declares war on Japan following the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings by Allied forces; Germany surrenders unconditionally, and WWII ends.

Teaching Opportunities from WWII

  • Learning about how citizens experienced loss and suffering due to the conflict.
  • Examining the political, economic and social consequences of the war.
  • Understanding how war can result in an unprecedented push for international cooperation.
  • Exploring concepts such as genocide and displacement of people.
  • Investigating the role of propaganda in wartime.
  • Analyzing why Germany was able to rapidly expand its influence and power before WWII, leading to military aggression on other countries.

Lesson Plans on Teaching Opportunities from WWII

Lesson 1: Impact of War on Citizens

Objective: Students will understand the losses and suffering experienced by citizens due to WWII.

Primary Teaching Points:

Showing photographs/video clips related to the war; Discussing stories of those affected by the war; Reading about the effects of war on citizens through reflective texts/articles.


Students should be asked to reflect upon what they have learned regarding how wars affect citizens and how it has shaped their perceptions. Adaptations: The lesson could be adapted for younger audiences, focusing more on stories rather than using photographs or other more graphic images.

Key Questions:

What lessons can we learn from understanding how people suffer during times of war? How can we prevent similar situations in the future?

Lesson 2: Role of Propaganda in Wartime


Students will gain an understanding of propaganda used during wartime and its role in influencing people’s decisions and emotions.

Primary Teaching Points:

Providing examples of different types of propaganda used during WWII, Discussing various techniques used in propaganda and how it influenced public opinion, Reading excerpts from speeches or writings related to Nazi ideology, and discussing implications.


After completing this lesson, students should understand why specific messages effectively sway public opinion and be aware of potential dangers when governments use ill-purpose propaganda.


This lesson can be adapted by introducing different examples from other countries or eras, such as Soviet propaganda during Stalin’s regime or present-day crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Questions:

How did methods such as spreading fake news become so rampant during wartime? What was the impact of Nazi propaganda on its citizens? How can we differentiate between helpful government messages and false ones?

Lesson 3: Consequences of War


Students will analyze the political, economic, and social consequences of WWII.

Main Teaching Points:

Making maps showing pre-war and post-war Europe; Discussing various changes brought about due to WWII, including things such as displacement and division of territory; Analyzing excerpts from written works discussing real-world implications resulting from WWI.


Through this lesson, students should recognize how far-reaching major conflicts have affected frontline soldiers and entire nations for generations after their resolution.


This lesson can be extended by adding contexts such as recent events – especially those related to refugees – due to modern wars such as those in Iraq or Syria.

Key Questions:

Why does armed conflict continue despite its devastating effects? How have international agreements sought to contain instead of eliminate armed conflicts? What measures are needed for lasting peace?

Key Individuals Involved in WWII

  • Adolf Hitler: Leader of Nazi Germany, a prominent Axis power leader.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt: President of the United States during WWII, led America through its involvement in the war and was instrumental in forming the Allied powers.
  • Joseph Stalin: Premier of the Soviet Union, one of the critical members of the Allied forces.
  • Benito Mussolini: Prime Minister of Italy during WWII, leader of Italian fascists and a key supporter of Hitler’s ambitions.
  • Hideki Tojo: Prime Minister of Japan from 1941-1944, responsible for leading Japan into many conflicts throughout WWII.
  • Winston Churchill: British Prime Minister from 1940-45, effectively led Britain through much of World War II despite difficult pressure from Nazi Germany.
  • Dwight Eisenhower: Supreme Commander to Allied forces in Europe during WWII, responsible for planning and carrying out major military campaigns such as D-Day landings.

Impacts of WWI on Countries Around the World

  • Widening economic gaps between countries formerly united, such as in the former Yugoslavia.
  • Significant population displacements and refugee crises due to military conflict.
  • Social changes include more women joining the workforce and playing more prominent roles in public life.
  • Political realignment of many states led to new international alliances and conflicts arising from old resentments.
  • Increase in authoritarian governments, as seen with Hitler’s rise to power in Germany or Mussolini’s fascist state in Italy.
  • Significant technological advancements, particularly those related to warfare, include the development of more effective tanks and aircraft.
  • The emergence of modern forms of propaganda was used heavily during World War I by all involved parties.

The Impact of Modern Propaganda During WWII

What is Modern Propaganda?

Modern propaganda is a term used to describe psychological tactics and sophisticated messaging techniques to influence a population’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours. It can be used for positive and negative purposes, such as promoting national unity or creating fear and mistrust among different groups. It is often used during war or political upheaval, as governments attempt to control how citizens think and act to further their agenda. Modern propaganda can take many forms, from leaflets and speeches to images, videos, and even entire media campaigns.

Modern propaganda was used heavily during World War II, with most countries utilizing it to spread their message and rally support for their cause. It was used to demonize the enemy, instil feelings of national pride and solidarity, and encourage citizens to join the war effort.

It also served as a form of censorship and control over media outlets to prevent certain information from getting out. Ultimately, modern propaganda had a powerful effect on public sentiment and played an essential role in shaping the outcome of WWII.

The Continued Tensions in Europe Post-WWII

After World War II ended, tensions remained high in Europe as the Cold War marked a new era of conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. Although there were attempts at reconciliation, such as the formation of NATO and other international bodies, mistrust between East and West meant that war could never be far away.

This was further exacerbated by the nuclear threat posed by both sides and the various proxy wars that unfolded worldwide throughout this period. As a result, Europe remained divided into two blocs for much of the twentieth century until the fall of communism in 1990.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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