As we begin studying World War II, I like to ensure that my students are familiar with the major world leaders. This allows them to recognize the trend toward totalitarian governments and how this was a contributing factor in the outbreak of World War II. It also familiarizes students with names and forms of government that will come up again over the course of our study of World War II
Over the years I have used several different lesson ideas to allow students to investigate these world leaders. This year I decided to have students create trading cards to illustrate key concepts related to each leader. Students were assigned a leader to investigate and determine how they came to power, the form of government each utilized (including a brief explanation of how it worked), ways they helped their country, how they abused their power, and the role they played in World War II.
After students gather this information, they are ready to create their trading cards. Over the years I have used a number of different tools for this activity. The first time I had students create trading cards, I made a template in Microsoft Word for them to use. Other times I have used My Trading Cards or ReadWriteThink’s Trading Card Creator. This year I decided to use Big Huge Lab’s Trading Cards because I felt like its layout was the easiest for students to include the required information.
This lesson went very well. With a little guidance, students did a nice job locating the necessary information and they seemed to enjoy the task of creating trading cards. It allowed some freedom and creativity of expression while still achieving my goals for the lesson. Depending on the level of the class, the amount of time available for the lesson, and access to resources, the teacher may want to provide selected readings or primary sources for students to use to investigate their assigned leaders.
This is an activity that is adaptable to many different topics. At different times, I have used similar lessons to allow students to investigate the Founding Fathers, Progressive Era reformers, 1920s cultural personalities, and civil rights leaders. This activity can be used for any lesson where the desired outcome is familiarization with individuals who played an important role in history.