Lesson Plan

Anna K. , Russia

16-19 years

90 minutes


The history of WWII will be viewed through the diaries/memoirs of children from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and Germany. Working in mini-groups, the students will learn to read personal documents, ascertain particular aspects of the author’s daily life, and compare everyday life in different countries. By creating a story about someone their own age, participating in discussion, and making comparisons with their own everyday lives, the students will be able to understand and feel the past. Working with children’s diaries/ memoirs will help them understand how war changed children’s everyday lives.

Aim of the lesson

To learn how children’s everyday lives changed during WWII.


  1. To reflect on the idea that war is not just heroic actions, but also a struggle for survival. It is a time when a person’s life is changed, irrespective of their age, where they live, or their social status.
  2. To feel like a researcher into everyday life.
  3. To compare wartime everyday life in different countries: the USSR (Republics of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia), Poland, Germany.
  4. To teach the students to search for information (using analytical skills, identifying key information, performing critical analysis) in a historical source, and to read a historical source.


Working with a source, creating a story, discussion, analysis and comparison, working with a map.


Handouts (texts from 9 diaries/memoirs, questions), an OHP (desirable), devices with internet access, (students’ mobile phones).

Authors of diaries / memoirs

  • Anatoly Listopadov, born in 1929, lived in Bakhmach, Chernigov Region, Ukraine SSR.
  • Ludmila Leblan, born in 1926, lived in Bezhitsa, Bryansk Region, Soviet Russia.
  • Victor Cherny, born in 1928, lived in the village of Mogilnoye, Borisovsky District, Minsk Region, Belarussian SSR.
  • Nikolai Borovsky, born in 1927 in the town of Ostroshitsky Gorodok, Minsk region, Belarussian SSR.
  • Ursula Brecht (neé Lindemann), born in 1928, from Cologne, Germany.
  • Gerda Altpeter (neé Rappaport), born in 1926, from Essen, a city in the Ruhr region and the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
  • Stanisław R., born 1927, Wołkowysk county, Białystok voivodeship, Poland.
  • Teresa Sosnowska, lived on the far side of the river Bug, in Sokal, during the war between Poland and Germany.
  • Klaus Schlimm, born July 16, 1929 in Magdeburg, moved to Essen, Germany.

Preliminary homework

Review the history of WWII, as told in textbooks.

Agenda and timings

Introduction Group work Presentation of group results Discussion and conclusions
11 minutes 22 minutes 37 minutes 20 minutes


8 minutes.

Introduction by the teacher.

The teacher refreshes the students’ knowledge of the history of WWII.

  • When did the war start for different countries (Germany, Poland, the USSR)?
  • What were the opening hostilities?
  • The teacher examines the progress of the front line on the map, and asks the students to name keynote hostilities.
  • How long did the war last and when did it end?

The teacher presents the concept of everyday life. Everyday life is closely associated with the daily routine of recurring processes and events. In routinely performing the disciplines of daily life, an individual invests a certain meaning in each action. We can identify four basic components of everyday life: firstly, social disciplines: everyday or festive, political or work-oriented; secondly, the tools for performing those disciplines; thirdly, the space in which the individual performs the disciplines; fourthly, the meaning of those disciplines that helps one distinguish between the good and the bad. Example: history lessons twice a week. Tools: textbook, pen, notebook. Space: classroom in a school. Purpose: so that the pupil can learn about the past and be evaluated on his/her performance.

3 minutes.

The teacher explains the task. Depending on the class size, the teacher divides the class into a maximum of 8 groups to prepare presentations about the lives of children during WWII.

Group work

22 minutes.

Students work in groups with the diaries/memoirs. They prepare a talk about the child who wrote the diary/memoir.

Presentation of group results

37 minutes:

Each group takes it in turn to present one of the children (each group has 4 minutes). The presentation consists of answers to questions (see below) about the daily life of the child in question.

Working with a child’s diary/memoir and biography in a group involves:

  1. Working with the document, highlighting passages related to the questions with a marker pen, and making notes in the margins.
  2. Working with the map: marking where the child lived at the beginning of the war, and their movements during the war.
  3. Drawing up a description of the city / town / village where the child lived (from the internet)


  1. What is the name of the child, and how old was he/she at the beginning of the war?
  2. Where did the child live before the war—in a city, town, or village? Which country? Find the village/town/city on the map (you can use your own devices). Find a description of the place on the internet: is the place big or small? What was it known for (industry, agriculture)?
  3. How far was the place from the front line?
  4. How did the child learn about the beginning of the war?
  5. What changed in the child’s life after the war began?
  6. What did the child do during the war? How did he/she help his/her family or friends?
  7. What problems did he/she have?
  8. What part of his/her pre-war life remained unchanged during the war?
  9. Find unknown, colloquial or specific words, and look them up on the internet.

Discussion and conclusions

15 minutes.

Discussion. The teacher moderates the discussion by asking questions and clarifying details.

Questions for the discussion:

  • What differences were there between the children’s everyday lives before and during the war?
  • What differences were there between the daily lives in different countries?
  • When did the child have to make a difficult choice? Why couldn’t he/she have acted differently?
  • Why do children write about terrifying events in such a calm way?
  • What impressed you most in the diaries/memoirs and why?

5 minutes.

Conclusions. A brief summary by the teacher.

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