Lesson Plan: Overview

Lines From Behind The Lines

Grade Level: 5th
Letter from Cornelius Kollock to his mother on life in the military, c. June 1917

Academic Standards

Standard 5-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major domestic and foreign developments that contributed to the United States’ becoming a world power.

5-3.6 Summarize actions by the United States that contributed to the rise of this nation as a world power, including the annexation of new territory following the Spanish-American War and the role played by the United States in the building of the Panama Canal and in World War I. (P, G, H)

Social Studies Literacy Elements
O. Consider multiple perspectives of documents and stories.
Essential Question
1. How can personal letters help us understand conditions in South Carolina and in the European theater during World War I?

Historical Background Notes

World War I, known as the Great War or the War to End All Wars, was the result of years of rising tension in Europe. It is impossible to isolate one cause for this conflict due to the extremely dynamic nature of the global political climate during this period.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as the Ottoman Empire had spent a number of years in imperialistic endeavors to add territory and increase their regional control. This imperialism fostered resentment within these empires among the smaller countries that had been conquered or annexed.

Further influences for this global conflict can be found in an increase in militaristic attitudes among nations in Central and Eastern Europe. The beginning of the 20th century brought with it breakthroughs in military technology and tactics such as gas/biological weapons, airplanes, tanks, automatic weapons, and the efficient use of submarine warfare. The militaries that developed these weapons were eager to test them in battle. Initially, countries began building up their militaries to defend against potential aggressors. As the tensions between nations increased, so did the reasons for using the large militaries that had been created.

This Age of Empires was drawing to a close and the leadership of these empires was desperately attempting to hold on to power as they began to feel increasingly threatened by their neighbors. As a partial answer to these threats or perceived threats, many countries formed alliances with one another. The Triple Entente, later known as the Allies was formed between Britain, France, Russia, and eventually the United States. The Triple Alliance, later known as the Central Powers brought together Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy (Brinkley 2005, 359). This tangle of agreements, some of which were secret, would eventually draw a multitude of nations into a conflict that might otherwise have been a short-lived regional squabble.

The sparks that ignited the flames of war were fierce forms of nationalism found primarily within the countries of the Central Powers. Germany’s brand of nationalism sought to create a German Empire while the smaller countries composing the Austro-Hungarian Empire began to express an individualistic brand of nationalism as that empire began to weaken. Perhaps one of the strongest examples of this fierce individualistic nationalism could be found in Bosnia. Fringe pseudo-terrorist groups like the Black Hand had formed there to fight against the Austro-Hungarian regime. The Black Hand was a group formed by ethnic Serbian nationalists seeking independence and a separate Serbian state. Largely unsuccessful in achieving any notoriety for itself in the past, the Black Hand was not taken seriously as a threat to the empire.

The tipping point for conflict was reached on the 28th of June 1914 when Black Hand assassin Gavrilo Princip shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife Sophie on a state visit in Sarajevo, Bosnia (“Who's Who: Archduke Franz Ferdinand”). This assassination caused Austria-Hungary to take action against Bosnia who had an alliance with Russia. Germany, in support of Austria-Hungary, declared war on Russia and France and, shortly thereafter, many other countries in the region were drawn into the conflict (Brinkley 2005, 359). The United States tried to remain neutral but was eventually pulled into the conflict as well.

As the United States entered WWI in 1917, the governor of South Carolina was, the progressive, Richard I. Manning. Governor Manning was a proponent of U.S. involvement in the war. However, some South Carolinians in the counties of the Dutch Fork (Newberry, Lexington) and Orangeburg and Charleston counties that were comprised largely of residents of German descent were opposed to the war with the Central Powers (Edgar 1998, 476). South Carolina moved quickly to become a powerful force in the war effort through the influence that was held with its native son, President Woodrow Wilson. Military bases were established at Camp Jackson, Camp Sevier, Camp Wadsworth (Army), Parris Island (Marine Corps), and Charleston Navy Yard (Edgar 1998, 477).

The South Carolina Units that saw service in The Great War include the 30th “Old Hickory” Division, the 81st “Wildcat” Division and 371st Regiment, as well as the 93rd Division, an all African-American division that can boast the only African-American Medal of Honor recipient, Freddy Stowers, from either world war (Edgar 1998, 477).


Primary Sources

Kollock, Cornelius, to mother from Camp Jackson, SC, c. June 1917.  Cornelius Kollock Papers, folder 10.  South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, South Carolina.

Kollock, Cornelius, to Mary from Chattanooga, TN, 25 June 1917.  Cornelius Kollock Papers, folder 10.  South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, South Carolina.

Kollock, Cornelius, to mother from Chattanooga, TN, 9 July 1917.  Cornelius Kollock Papers, folder 10.  South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, South Carolina.

Cornelius Kollock Papers, Letter from Windsor Castle, April 1918.  Cornelius Kollock Papers, folder 12.  South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, South Carolina.

Cornelius Kollock Papers, Carte Postale, 3 April 1918.  Cornelius Kollock Papers, folder 12.  South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, South Carolina.

Kollock, Cornelius, to mother from Bordeaux, France, Nov. 14, 1918.  Cornelius Kollock Papers, folder14.  South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, South Carolina.

Kollock, Oliver, to Cornelius from The Citadel, 1 December 1918.  Cornelius Kollock Papers, folder 10.  South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, South Carolina.

Secondary Sources

Brinkley, Alan.  The Unfinished Nation, A Brief, Interactive History of the American People, Volume II: From 1865 .  New York:  McGraw-Hill, 2005.

Edgar, Walter. South Carolina A History. Columbia, South Carolina:  University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

“Who's Who: Archduke Franz Ferdinand.” Retrieved October 10, 2006, from Original Material, First World War, Michael Duffy.


• Photocopies of rubrics (see Timeline Rubric and WWI Letter Rubric ), primary source letters and transcripts (see Primary Sources section above)

• Paper, gluesticks, scissors, markers/crayons/colored pencils for creating Timelines

• Presentation TV or SmartBoard for viewing Streamline SC segments (see Lesson Plans section, #2 below)

• (Optional) Multiple computer workstations if creating timelines using Timeliner or other software

Lesson Plans

1. Start to finish, this lesson will likely take 3-4, 45 min. class periods.

2. This lesson will be introduced using an ETV Streamline SC streaming document titled, “American History: From the Great War to the Great Depression” found here.

3. Students will view the video segments titled, World War I (05:21) and The United States and World War I (04:19), see #2 above, and take notes - writing important facts that are mentioned in the video and discussed by the teacher.

4. After viewing the video segments, students will be divided into groups of 4-5.

5. Teacher will discuss the rubric for the assignment before students begin.

6. Each group will receive one set of the primary sources – Cornelius Kollock Papers (see Primary Sources section above) .

7. Teacher will allow time in which groups will attempt to glean some information from the documents as they are, without transcripts.

8. Teacher will provide the transcripts for students.

9. Students will record important information from the documents in their notebooks.

10. Groups will organize the information and then create a timeline of events that shows what was happening in the life of this particular soldier and how his life relates to major events in WWI.

11. Timelines may be created using paper and pencil or with computer software such as Timeliner if that resource is available.

The following can be used as an extension activity for home or as an additional in-class assignment:

  • Teacher will discuss the rubric for the writing assignment before students begin.
  • Students will then individually write letters from the perspective of a soldier during WWI who is training at a S.C. training camp or fighting with a S.C. regiment or division overseas (WWI – Over Here or Over There Letter).

Teacher Reflections

I have been very pleased with the professional growth that I was able to attain as a result of my experiences through the Teaching American History in South Carolina Summer Midlands Institute. Since I am a 5th grade teacher, all of the material we covered over the course of the institute was of value to me. The South Carolina standards that we are expected to cover in fifth grade encompass American history from Reconstruction to the Present. I have utilized much of the information from the cultural institutions and our Master Scholar, Paul Anderson, on several occasions.

Paul provided us with information and insight into many areas. The information that Paul provided in his lectures allows me to have one more source of information to draw from. This helps me to make my Social Studies lessons more interesting to students because I am able to provide them with information that they can’t find in their textbooks. It was especially helpful to have notes and information regarding history after World War II. The information has provided me with more confidence in this period from the Cold War through the present and will allow me to cover this material more thoroughly when I teach it this year.

The cultural institutions provided a wealth of information that has allowed me to refer students to local landmarks in our state and even in our city that directly relate to topics we discuss in class. Some specific, recent examples include discussion of the Woodrow Wilson home in downtown Columbia when we were doing some research on the president. We have also recently discussed Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, which has given me the opportunity to refer students to Sesquicentennial and Greenwood State Parks as New Deal, Civilian Conservation Corps projects. We even spoke about the gate at the entrance to Greenwood State Park being left unfinished because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Ultimately, I believe what makes Social Studies interesting for 5th graders or anyone is the little tidbits of information that allow them to make connections to their own experiences. The institute has been a great resource in that respect. I enjoy collecting the stories of history - the quirks of individual’s personalities, finding out who didn’t really get along with others, any juicy piece of information relating to intrigue or scandal, etc. Learning some of that background information helps my students to understand the motivations of countries and leaders. It makes Social Studies fun and interesting. I have discovered that when I can find a good story to use when introducing a topic or period of time I discuss with my students, they retain the information better and are more likely to share the information with others. I have had several parents tell me that their child really enjoys my class and then go on to explain how he or she has come home and related one of the stories I have shared. The cultural institutions and my research for these lessons have given me the opportunity to find more stories to share with my students.

The lesson I chose to teach for the portfolio assignment was “Lines Behind the Lines.” Students already had some background knowledge of the subject of World War I prior to beginning the lesson. This lesson was taught as a part of our discussion of the war in December. I began the lesson with the presentation and discussion of a streaming video on World War I.

In this lesson, students were asked to analyze a collection of letters written by a soldier, Cornelius Kollock, who was from South Carolina and was stationed for part of his training at Camp Jackson (now known as Fort Jackson) just before the U.S. became involved in the Great War. In the beginning, I gave each group only the letters with no transcripts and asked them to try to make as much sense of them as possible. Since 5th graders are a more capable bunch, I prefer to give them some time with the primary documents before giving them transcriptions. During the time they are viewing and attempting to decipher the originals, I provide little help to them because I like to see what they are able to discover about a primary document on their own.

After they had languished over the letters for a few minutes, I provided them with the transcripts and asked them to pull important facts from the letters. Students used this information to create a timeline of Cornelius Kollock’s experiences. Students then used their Social Studies books and notes from the video to create a timeline of important events related to World War I. Groups used these two timelines to create a “master” timeline on Timeliner software that merged the information from the two. This program offers several options in the type of timeline you can use. Each group was given the freedom to choose the type of timeline that best displayed the information they had gathered.

I believe the value of this lesson and activity lies in its ability to show students the human face of the war. Students were able to see how one soldier and his family were affected by the war. They were able to understand that life continued at home in spite of the war going on. Many of my boys were surprised to find mention of college football games between the Citadel and the University of South Carolina in one of the documents. When they constructed their timelines, we were able to discuss how long the war had gone on before the United States got involved, how quickly the war ended after the U.S. entered, and how the events of the war related to this soldier’s life.

The lesson met my expectations over all. I was pleased with the product my students were able to create using the software. I believe, however, that I would have been just as pleased with a “paper and pencil” type of product. There was a high level of interest on the part of most students as the activity ran its course and that usually translates into a very good final product.

I will modify a few things when I teach this lesson again. Students had a difficult time understanding that the letters were written by different people, so I will spend some whole group instructional time analyzing selected documents the next time I use the lesson. I also chose not to use the extension activity of writing a letter from the perspective of a South Carolinian soldier to someone at home. I see that it would be beneficial to use this part of the lesson as a way for students to further synthesize the information they glean from the various sources they use during the course of instruction.

It is quite possible there are other things I will change the next time I use these lessons. I never teach the same lesson exactly the same way twice. I know I will find more resources through the cultural institution contacts I have made and continue to improve the way I teach Social Studies.

Student Assessment

The timelines will be graded using a teacher-created rubric.

Examples of Students Work

Student Timeline Exercise

Student Timeline Exercise 2


Davis Bowling
Columbia, South Carolina