Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

A Peace Built on Quicksand

Causes of WWII

Kim Press, Lindsey Link | Published: June 8th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 10th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course World History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 100
  • Duration More 2 Periods


This lesson is meant to be taught after WWI content and introduces your students to WWII. Students will learn how economic and political issues after WWI lit a fuse that exploded into WWII. Using hands-on activities and discussions, students will explore the vocabulary and multiple causes of WWII. Following completion of the lesson, students will gain a deeper understanding of why WWII began.

Essential Question(s)

1. Did economic challenges following WWI lead the world into a second war? 2. How did leaders and political blunders pave the road to WWII?



Students draw upon previous knowledge of what led up to the outbreak of WWII.


Students are introduced to key vocabulary terms, followed by brainstorming each term’s meaning.


Students read and share an article to facilitate in the understanding of the causes of WWII.


Students create a meme of an economic or political cause of WWII.


Students complete a Two-Minute Paper to demonstrate understanding.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • 30-Second Expert T-Chart handout (attached; 1 per student)

  • K.I.M.S. handout (attached; 1 per student)

  • Jigsaw handout (attached; 1 per student)

  • The Rise of Militarism and Dictators handout (attached; 1 per group)

  • The Great Depression and WW2 handout (attached; 1 per group)

  • Treaty of Versailles handout (attached; 1 per group)

  • Student devices with internet access

  • Pencils

  • Paper


10 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Begin with slide 2 and share with the students that they are discovering the causes of WWII. Review slides 3-4 to introduce the students to the essential questions and learning objectives.

Display slide 5 and share the T-Chart instructional strategy with students. Instruct them to create a t-chart with a sheet of paper or pass out the attached 30-Second Expert T-Chart handout and have them complete the left side of their t-chart, answering the question "What do I know about the causes of WWII?"

Once students have completed the left side of their chart, display slide 6 and introduce the instructional strategy, 30-Second Expert with them. This slide has a 30-second timer that can be used to keep students on task as they share what they know about the causes of WWII. Instruct students to work with an Elbow Partner to share their knowledge. As their partner is sharing, students fill in the right column labeled, "What I learned from my partner."


30 Minute(s)

Display slide 7 and pass out the attached K.I.M.S. handout, and introduce students to the K.I.M.S. instructional strategy. Instruct students to complete their handout by searching for important information, creating a memory clue, and writing a sentence using the following keywords.

  • Treaty of Versailles

  • Great Depression

  • Hitler

  • Fascism

  • Axis Powers

Once students have completed their charts, ask for volunteers to share their findings with the class in a large group discussion.

After students share out their K.I.M.S. Chart, display slides 8-12 to review key points of each word on the chart.


30 Minute(s)

Display slide 13 and instruct students to utilize the Jigsaw strategy to become more familiar with the causes of WWII. Place students into groups of 3. Then give each group three attached articles: The Rise of Military Dictators, To What Extent Did The Great Depression Cause World War II?, and Treaty of Versailles. Each group member should select a different article.

Pass out the attached Jigsaw Chart. The left column of the Jigsaw Chart is prefilled with one of the 3 causes of WWII. Students read their article and write a summary of the cause in the right column. Display slide 14 and students gather with peers who examined the same cause. Students analyze takeaways, questions, and wonderings from their article.

Display slide 15 and instruct students to move back to their original group of 3. Students share their cause of WWII and summary of the article. During the share out, students should complete the remaining two summary of causes to WWII on the Jigsaw Chart.


20 Minute(s)

After reading their article and completion of their Jigsaw handout, the student groups partake in the What Do You Meme strategy. Display slide 16. Students should be in the same groups from the Jigsaw strategy. Instruct groups to create a meme of an economic or political cause that led to the breakout of WWII using: or Display slide 17 to show an example.

Display slide 18 and have students participate in a Gallery Walk. Have one student from each group stay at their station to explain how their meme represents an economic or political cause of WWII. The rest of the students should move from station to station and evaluate their peers' memes by leaving two questions and/or comments about each group’s cause of WWII. Once the students finish visiting each station, they move back to their original station and examine the feedback left with their meme. The students who remained at their station should debrief the gallery walk with their group and through a large class discussion.


10 Minute(s)

Students are evaluated by using the Two Minute Paper strategy. Display slide 19 and have students complete a response to the question: What conditions led to the breakout of WWII?

Have students turn in their responses before leaving class.