Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

In the Trenches

Trench Warfare in World War I

Laura Halstied, Ryan Rahhal, Mary Braggs | Published: August 3rd, 2022 by K20 Center


In this lesson, students analyze how trench warfare affected soldiers in World War I by reading a letter by a soldier, interacting with a trench warfare museum exhibit, and viewing a video about trench warfare. Students extend their learning by crafting an article or narrative about trench warfare and then respond to an Exit Ticket question to summarize their learning.

Essential Question(s)

How was World War I fought?



Students begin filling out an Inside Out handout based on what they know about trench warfare.


Students visit a virtual museum exhibit about World War I and continue filling out the Inside Out handout.


Students watch a video about trench warfare. They then continue working on their Inside Out handouts and share what they have learned in pairs.


Students use the Tic Tac Tell strategy and new vocabulary words to construct a piece of creative writing in a format of their choice.


Students complete an Exit Ticket by answering the question, "How did trench warfare affect soldiers in WWI?"


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Inside Out handout (attached, one per student)

  • Tic Tac Tell handout (attached, one per student)

  • Internet-enabled student devices (optional, one per student)

  • Headphones (optional, one per student)

  • Pens/pencils

  • Notebook paper

  • Sticky notes (one per student)


10 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Introduce students to the Inside Out strategy and display slide 3.

Pass out the attached Inside Out handout. Invite students to think for a few moments about World War I and trench warfare. Tell students to write in the innermost circle on the handout everything that comes to mind about trench warfare. After providing enough time for this, ask for a few volunteers to share what they have written.

Move to slide 4 and review the essential question for students: How was World War I fought? Move to slide 5 and briefly go over the lesson objective.


15 Minute(s)

Show slide 6 and direct students to access The National WWI Museum and Memorial's Trenches of World War I virtual exhibit on their personal devices. (You can distribute the link to the exhibit, have students can scan the QR code on the slide, or use another method that suits your classroom's needs.)

Invite students to navigate through the virtual exhibit on their own and listen to the information provided. Before they begin, show slide 7 and tell students to note whatever new information they learn about trench warfare to the second circle of their Inside Out handouts.

Once students have had time to experience the exhibit, ask students to share what they have written down with a partner. Each student should add any new information they learn from their partner to the second circle of the Inside Out handout.


20 Minute(s)

Invite students to watch a video about trench warfare to keep building their knowledge.

Show slide 8 and play the video "Why Life of a WWI Soldier in the Trenches SUCKED" for students.

Show slide 9 and have students list what new information they learned in the outermost circle on their Inside Out handouts.

Next, show slide 10. Tell students to talk with their partner about the video and discuss what life was like in the trenches. Once students have discussed, have each pair of partners group up with another pair to create groups of four. Have groups compare the information they recorded. Have all students add information they learned from each other to the outermost circle of their handouts.

Ask for a volunteer from each group to share what they have learned and discussed about trench warfare.

Have students turn back to their groups. Ask students to consider how trench warfare affected soldiers during World War I. Allow more time for small group discussion before asking for volunteers to share with the class again. Use these responses to facilitate a class discussion about the impact of trench warfare on World War I and on the soldiers who fought in it.


30 Minute(s)

Pass out the attached Tic Tac Tell handout and show slide 11. Invite students to produce a short piece of creative writing about trench warfare using certain vocabulary words on the Tic Tac Tell handout. Ask students to choose their preferred creative writing format:

  • News article

  • Diary entry

  • Letter

  • Narrative

  • Another format of their choosing

Introduce the Tic Tac Tell strategy to the class, and have students study their handouts. Have each student select vocabulary words by drawing two straight lines (vertical, horizontal, and/or diagonal) through the tic tac toe arrangement on their handout. This leaves each student with 5-6 words of their choice to use in their creative writing.

Students should follow the instructions on the handout, writing one or more paragraphs in their preferred format while including the 5-6 vocabulary words they selected. Provide enough time for students to finish writing.

Have each student find a partner and swap their creative writing pieces. After students have read their partners' writing, ask for a few volunteers to read their own writing to the class.


5 Minute(s)

Show slide 12. Pass out sticky notes (one per student). On these notes, have students respond to the Exit Ticket question on the slide: How did trench warfare affect soldiers in World War I?

Consider having students stick their sticky note responses somewhere in the classroom or on the back of their Inside Out handouts. Use students' Exit Tickets and their creative writing pieces to assess student understanding of the lesson content.