Communicating In Code: Technology in World War I

soldiers sitting down and communicating in code

At the beginning of the 20th century, a new invention – wireless telegraphy, the  transmission of telegraph signals by radio – made communication easier than ever before. It allowed governments to communicate with warships at sea and with armies in the field. However, intercepting wireless communication was very easy, so new codes and ciphers were used to disguise messages.  

This resource explores the use of cryptology and coding in World War I. It encourages pupils to use simple substitution ciphers to break codes and create messages. It is designed to develop communication, numeracy and critical thinking skills through STEM-based and creative learning.

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Creature Comrades: Animals in World War I

Over 16 million animals were pressed into service during the First World War. Horses, donkeys, camels, mules and even elephants were used to transport soldiers, weapons, ammunition and food. Pigeons  were used to send messages and dogs to track the enemy and locate injured soldiers. 

This resource uses primary and secondary historical sources to explore the roles animals carried out in WWI and encourages pupils to think about the ethical considerations of their large-scale use in conflict. It is designed to develop communication, literacy and critical thinking skills through  creative play (younger pupils) or written and oral discussion and debate (older pupils).

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Activity Sheets – Click here to download PDF

Poetry Generation:  Verse in World War I

Flanders Fields poetry extract

More than any other conflict, the First World War is associated with poetry, particularly the powerful, anti-war works by Wilfred Owen and Sassoon. This activity explores their influence on contemporary images of war by asking pupils to generate their own WWI verse through group work and comparing their work with less well-known soldiers’ verse. 

The activity is designed to develop literacy, communication and  critical thinking skills through word play, discussion and debate.  

Information Sheet – Click here to download PDF

Watching the Enemy: Technology in World War I

troops in trenches watching through periscopes

World War I in Europe was characterised by trench warfare, a type of combat employed when neither side can outflank the other to gain the upper hand and each is forced to stand its ground. Trenches were dug to protect soldiers from enemy fire. The trench periscope is an optical device that soldiers used to observe the ground in front of trenches and fortifications, without having to risk raising their head above parapets and becoming a target for enemy snipers.

This resource explores the use of periscopes in WWI. It encourages pupils to develop their understanding of the nature and properties of light, and how these can be used in communication, by making and experimenting with a simple periscope. It is designed to develop communication and critical thinking skills through STEM-based and creative learning.

Information Sheet – Click here to download PDF

Wounded at War:  Medicine and Medics in World War I

 Millicent Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland looking through a microscope in the laboratory of the No. 9 Hospital at Calais.

World War I was fought on an industrial scale like nothing experienced before, with both sides developing increasingly lethal weapons. Artillery shells and machine guns that fired 600 rounds per minute wreaked industrial havoc on the body. Wounds often became infected from contact with the heavily manured agricultural soils of northern France, and the effects of gas and shellshock were devastating, but poorly understood.  Conditions in field hospitals were tough and, with so many injured men and few resources, medics had to take decisions quickly. 

This resource explores the difficult decisions made by medical staff in a WWI battlefield situation and advancements in medical technology through role play and discussion. It is designed to develop communication, literacy and critical thinking skills through role play and discussion. 

Information Sheet – Click here to download PDF
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Lucky Charms:  Superstition in World War I

love heart shaped lucky charm

Many soldiers carried lucky charms while they experienced the dangerous  conditions of the Western Front, in the hope that these would help them avoid injury or death. Some objects were considered lucky because of how they were acquired, whereas others took the form of traditional symbols of good luck, like a shamrock or horseshoe.

This activity is designed for younger pupils to explore through creative play how people in the past invested meaning into objects. 

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Persuading the People:  Propaganda in World War I

World War I saw the mobilisation of the first large-scale, formalised propaganda campaigns. All sides produced propaganda, although Britain’s strategy for producing and distributing it was considered particularly adept. The Government set up the semi-official National War Aims Committee, which used sophisticated techniques of persuasion. Many of these are still used today in advertising and marketing on billboards, television and social media. 

This resource explores the propaganda methods developed by the British Government during WWI. It asks pupils to analyse historical and contemporary media to identify the techniques being used to persuade people to adopt a specific behaviour, choose a certain course of action or to buy a particular product or service. It is designed to develop literacy, communication and  critical thinking skills through creative learning. 

Information Sheet – Click here to download PDF
Propoganda Examples – Click the following links to download – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Trench Art:  Passing Time, Crafting History

shell case - trench art

The term ‘trench art’ covers a vast range of decorative objects that were made during or soon after the First World War. Most pieces of trench art were made from by-products of the war – discarded items such as  ammunition shell cases, bullet casings, shrapnel, and even pieces of destroyed buildings or downed planes. 

This resource explores how people in the past used art to support their wellbeing, communicate ideas and entertain. It is designed to develop communication and thinking skills, encouraging pupils to use creative play to make their own trench art by recycling various objects and materials. 

Information Sheet – Click here to download PDF
Trench Art Examples – Click the following links to download – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Reporting the War:  Women in World War I

Two ladies holding a votes for women poster

During the First World War, many women were recruited into jobs that had previously been reserved for men, which gave them much more financial independence than before. Women also became more visible in politics, championing issues from female suffrage to rent strikes and the peace movement. It was a period of social change, but when men returned after the war, what was the long-term legacy for women? 

This resource explores the achievements of women in this period of social upheaval and asks pupils to consider the extent to which their efforts affected the lives of future generations. It is designed to develop literacy, communication and  critical thinking skills through role-play interviews, note taking, discussion and debate.

Information Sheet – Click here to download PDF
Activity Sheet – Click here to download PDF