World War I Through Their Eyes Gallery Walk

Lesson Description:

A gallery walk through primary sources from participants in World War I describing how their experiences were vastly different, with a discussion debrief.

Essential Question:

How did the various groups of American participants in World War I experience the war in such different ways?


  • World War I
  • Racial Treatment of Minority Soldiers
  • Women’s Rights
  • Progressive Era
  • Immigration

Content Standards:

Oklahoma Academic Standards for the Social Studies

USH.3.2 Evaluate the long-term impact of America’s entry into World War I on national politics, the economy, and society.

B. Analyze the impact of the war on the home front including the use of propaganda, women’s increased role in industry, the marshaling of industrial production, and the Great Migration.

C. Analyze the institution of a draft and the suppression of individual liberties resulting in the First Red Scare, including the Palmer Raids and the Sacco-Vanzetti trials. D. Evaluate Wilson’s foreign policy as proposed in his Fourteen

A. Summarize the reasons for immigration, shifts in settlement patterns, the immigrant experience at immigrant processing centers such as Ellis Island and Angel Island, and the impact of Nativism and Americanization.

National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework


D2.His.4.9-12. Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.

D2.His.5.9-12. Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

D2.His.6.9-12. Analyze the ways in which the perspectives of those writing history shaped the history that they produced.

D2.His.7.9-12. Explain how the perspectives of people in the present shape interpretations of the past.

D2.His.8.9-12. Analyze how current interpretations of the past are limited by the extent to which available historical sources represent perspectives of people at the time.

Gathering and Evaluating Sources

D3.1.9-12. Gather relevant information from multiple sources representing a wide range of views while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.

D3.2.9-12. Evaluate the credibility of a source by examining how experts value the source.

AP U.S. History Learning Objective                               

Unit 7: Learning Objective F – Explain the causes and consequences of U.S. involvement in World War I.

Key Concept – 7.3.ILB – Although the American Expeditionary Forces played a relatively limited role in combat, the United States’ entry helped to tip the balance of the conflict in favor of the Allies.

Unit 7: Learning Objective G – Explain the causes and effects of international and internal migration patterns over time.

Key Concept – 7.2.LC – Official restrictions on freedom of speech grew during World War I, as increased anxiety about radicalism led to a Red Scare and attacks on labor activism and immigrant culture.

Key Concept – 7.2.ILB.i – The increased demand for war production and labor during World War I led many Americans to migrate to urban centers in search of economic opportunities.

Key Concept – 7.2.ILC – In the Great Migration during and after World War I, African Americans escaping segregation, racial violence, and limited economic opportunity in the South moved to the North and West, where they found new opportunities but still encountered discrimination.


As a result of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Examine the main idea of a primary source.
  • Place a source document within its proper context.
  • Identify the various ways in which the Great War affected differing groups of Americans.
  • Explain the impact of World War I on an individual level.

Time Required:

50 Minutes

Procedures 1-9



  1. Prepare the classroom by placing multiple copies of each document (enough that every student has at least one document at all times) at a different place around the room where students can easily gather around and examine the documents in a timely manner.
  2. Introduce the activity to the students by asking the guiding question: How did the various groups of American participants in World War I experience the war in such different ways?
  3. Pass out Through Their Eyes Graphic Organizer
  4. Introduce the documents by presenting the following information about each document.
    1. Berthe Hunt Diary:

Hello Girls was the colloquial name for American female switchboard operators in World War I, formally known as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit. During World War I, these switchboard operators were sworn into the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

This corps were formed in 1917 from a call by General John J. Pershing to improve the worsening state of communications on the Western front. Applicants had to be bilingual in English and French to ensure that orders would be heard by anyone. Over 7,000 women applied, but only 450 women were accepted. Many of these women were former switchboard operators or employees at telecommunications companies. They completed their Signal Corps training at Camp Franklin, now a part of Fort George G. Meade in Maryland.

Berthe Hunt was such an operator during World War I that kept a diary for her husband in case he survived the War.

  • Charles Isum Letter

Born in California. Worked as bookbinder for the Los Angeles Times. Drafted into army and was assigned to the medical detachment of the 1st Battalion, 365th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division. In June 1918 his regiment arrived in France, where it held the St. Die sector of the Lorraine front, August–September. Regiment was kept in reserve during opening of the Meuse-Argonne offensive before being sent to Marbache Sector along the Moselle in October. Served in battalion aid station at Pont-à-Mousson under heavy artillery fire, November 5–10, before being sent to Lesménils, where he was gassed on the night before the Armistice. Threatened with court-martial in January 1919 for violating order forbidding black soldiers from speaking with French women, but charges were dropped, and Isum was honorably discharged in March 1919. Returned to Los Angeles and job at the Times. Married Zellee Jones. Retired from work in 1930s as heart condition linked to wartime gassing worsened. Daughter Rachel, born 1922, began studying nursing in 1940 at UCLA, where she met star athlete Jackie Robinson and introduced him to her father shortly before his death. (Rachel Isum and Jackie Robinson married in 1946, the year before he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.)

  • Ernest Hemingway Letter

During the First World War, Ernest Hemingway volunteered to serve in Italy as an ambulance driver with the American Red Cross. In June 1918, while running a mobile canteen dispensing chocolate and cigarettes for soldiers, he was wounded by Austrian mortar fire. “Then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red,” he recalled in a letter home.

Despite his injuries, Hemingway carried a wounded Italian soldier to safety and was injured again by machine-gun fire. For his bravery, he received the Silver Medal of Valor from the Italian government—one of the first Americans so honored.

Commenting on this experience years later in Men at War, Hemingway wrote: “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you. . . . Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before my nineteenth birthday I had a bad time until I figured out that nothing could happen to me that had not happened to all men before me. Whatever I had to do men had always done. If they had done it then I could do it too and the best thing was not to worry about it.”

Recuperating for six months in a Milan hospital, Hemingway fell in love with Agnes von Kurowsky, an American Red Cross nurse. At war’s end, he returned to his home in Oak Park, Illinois, a different man. His experience of travel, combat, and love had broadened his outlook. Yet while his war experience had changed him dramatically, the town he returned to remained very much the same.

  • Stanley Chapman Letter

Chapman was the son of Valencia, Ca orange magnate Charles Chapman. The elder Chapman financially buffeted a struggling university that is now named after him – Chapman University. The various letters Stan wrote to his family during his service in World War I are kept in a collection at the university.

Save for this connection to an institute of higher education his letters might well be lost to the historical record. However, they do show something rather profound about the war and its impact on the lives of its participants.

  1. Instruct students to move around the room inspecting each source and completing their graphic organizer.
    • Instruct students to move to a new document every 5-7 minutes.
    • Direct students back to their seats after 25 minutes.


  1. Lead the students in a discussion about the documents.
    • How is the experience of C. Stanley Chapman different from the press clippings sent by his father Charles?
    • How has the war changed Hemingway?
    • How are Isum’s interactions with the French different from those with his fellow Caucasian troops?
    • How is Hunt’s experiences different from what the three men see and do?
    • Are Hunt, Hemingway, Isum, and Chapman all fighting on the same side and for the same flag?
    • Why, if on the same team, are their experiences so different?
    • What is the “real” experience of the war or is this an impossible question?
  2. End the discussion after 20 minutes.

Authentic Assessment:

  1. Distribute the exit tickets and direct students to complete them and turn them in upon leaving the class.

Extension Activity:  

  1. Have students create a new media post (TikTok or YouTube video, Blog, Twitter thread) explaining how different groups may experience daily life at their high school.