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Classroom Material

Analyzing the Chronology and Geography of Military Events

Wisconsin World War II Stories: Europe

Wisconsin World War II Stories: Europe | Wisconsin Historical Society

Grade level: Secondary

Duration: One class period

One task for historians is the organizing and sequencing of historical events. Locating the events of World War II in Europe, both in time and in space, is the focus of this lesson. Students will use online historic map resources to analyze military maps and trace the progression of the war in Europe.

This lesson is one of four lessons related to Wisconsin Public Television World War II Stories video series. Depending upon time available, the lessons may be used with the videos, or they can stand alone. Since the subject of the video is World War II Europe, several of the lessons could be used in a World History or European History course as well as in U.S. History. Specifically, these lessons offer greater depth on the topics found in video one, The Struggle, although you will notice some overlap. They should provide students with a smooth transition to deeper study of World War II.


Students will:

  • Analyze historic military maps
  • Learn about the progression of World War II in Europe


The second video in the Wisconsin World War II Stories: Europe collection brings the experiences of servicemen and women in Europe into clearer focus. The story begins with the Allied invasion of France in June, 1944, and follows the war in Europe to its conclusion and "aftermath"; in the spring and summer of 1945. Viewers learn about the very human experiences of the war - from hunger, fear, privation, horror, and racial segregation to friendship, luck, and leisure activities.

The videos in this series and the coordinated lesson plans can be used in various ways. The lessons can be combined with part or whole use of the videotapes or online video clips, or the lessons can "stand alone." The five video series and lesson plans can constitute a complete World War II unit. Alternatively, any one component may be added as enrichment to an existing unit or program.

Resource Materials


Have students use the student worksheet and the map to identify the following important places referred to in the video, "Wisconsin WWII Stories: Europe."

  • London, England
  • Normandy Beaches
  • Omaha
  • Utah
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Belgium
  • Battle of the Bulge
  • Aachen, Germany
  • Remagen, Germany
  • Rome, Italy
  • Sicily
  • Switzerland
  • Russian Front
  • Moscow, USSR
  • North Africa
  • Algiers
  • Casablanca
  • El Alamein

As a class, ask students to read about the invasion of Europe, using their textbook or other source and analyze the following maps from the web site given above.

Divide the class into five small groups: General, Early German Offenses, Russo-Finnish and Russo-German War, War in North Africa and Italy, and War in Western Europe. Each student should contribute to the creation of their group's overhead transparency map to consolidate and explain major campaigns and offensives for their category. Using the completed overhead transparency, students should present their information to the class. Following each presentation, ask students in the audience to summarize what they learned.


Gauge distances covered and amount of time taken to liberate countries from Nazi occupation.  Construct a line graph to compare and contrast three countries: France, Germany and Italy. What conclusions can you draw from this information? For students who have a strong interest in historical maps, see the map collection at the University of Texas.


National Standards for United States History: Exploring the American Experience

(National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA)

Standard 3B - The student understands World War II and how the Allies prevailed.
5-12 Explaining Axis and Allied military strategy and contrasting military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters in the period 1939-1945
5-12 Analyzing the dimensions of Hitler's "Final Solution" and the Allies' response to the Holocaust explaining the costs of war for the Allies and the Axis powers
Standard 3C - The student understands the effects of World War II at home.
5-12 Explaining military mobilization during World War II
7-12 Contrasting the contributions of United States minorities to the war effort with the racism and discrimination they faced
7-12 Analyzing the effects of World War II on gender roles
7-12 Evaluating the war's impact on United States culture and technology

Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Social Studies

Standard A - Geography: People, Places, and Environments
A12.1 Use various types of atlases and appropriate vocabulary to describe the physical attributes of a place or region.
A12.13 Explain the major turning points of the war and contrast military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters.
Standard B - History: Time, Continuity, and Change
B.12.1 Explain different points of view on the same historical event, using data gathered from various sources, such as letters, journals, diaries, newspapers, government documents, and speeches.
B.12.2 Analyze primary and secondary sources related to a historical question to evaluate their relevance, make comparisons, integrate new information with prior knowledge, and come to a reasoned conclusion.
B.12.6 Select and analyze various documents that have influenced the legal, political, and constitutional heritage of the United States.
B.12.15 Identify a historical or contemporary event in which a person was forced to take an ethical position, such as a decision to go to war…and explain the issues involved.
B.12.17 Identify historical and current instances when national interests and global interests have seemed to be opposed and analyze the issues involved.
B.12.18 Explain the history of…racial and ethnic discrimination and efforts to eliminate discrimination in the United States and elsewhere in the world.


These lesson plans are designed to be used with Wisconsin World War II Stories: Europe, a video series created by Wisconsin Public Television and the Wisconsin Historical Society, in association with the Wisconsin Dept. of Veterans Affairs. The lessons in this part of Wisconsin World War II Stories span interest areas and levels. They include geography, technology, and human interest studies, and draw upon a wide array of social studies skills. Information on the series can be found at Wisconsin World War II Storeis website.

Author: Victoria Zuleger Straughn