US Homefront WW2 Unit - Lesson Plan, Symbols of the Home Front Illustration

Symbols of the WW2
Home Front

Teacher Preparation:

  • Copies (one of each per student)
    Handout #5 - Ration Books, Victory Gardens, Junk Rally
    Handout #6 - The Ration Stamp Game
    Handout #7 - Walking Home (short story)

  • Overheads:
    Magazine ads from the 1930's (links online) transferred to overheads
    Overhead of the Rosie the Riveter Poster

Lesson Plan

Mom Goes to Work

Start this lesson with a discuss of symbols, what are they and how are they used. Carved pumpkins make you think of Halloween. How about US Patriotic symbols - what are they? (Go here for lessons and examples of patriotic symbols.) Patriotic symbols make you think of the US in terms of freedom. Symbols have meaning in our life because we give them meaning.

Magazine Ads from the 1930's. Transition sentence: Let's take a look at some advertisements in magazines from the 1930's. (American Girl, Look, and other family magazines.) Use the overhead. Brainstorm with students how women were perceived in the 1930's. (Working at home, in the home, cooking, raising kids, looking beautiful, worried about their hair and clothes.)

Transition Statements: A lot of money was spent during the 1930's convincing Americans that the woman's place was in the home. One reason for this was the Depression. The Depression took a lot of jobs out of the marketplace. Mom stayed home. Dad worked. That was the image of a happy American home. Then, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and everything changed. The US needed a work force and they needed it fast. The men lined up to join services. The women were left for the workplace. Not everyone believed that women should work. Many men were unhappy with this, as were many women. The woman's place was in the home, wasn't it? Everybody knew that. They had just been told this over and over for past decade.

Discuss: Who is Rosie the Riveter?

Rosie was a symbol of the American working women. Rosie the Riveter's job and other similar posters were designed to tell the American women that her place was in the factories and in the shipyards. Patriotic American women drove trucks. They did a man's job. They did it for their country. They did it well. It was the patriotic thing to do.

Ration Stamps, Victory Gardens, Junk Rallys

Say: Women were paid for their work. But money did not buy what it used to buy because of the war. People in the Home Front, during World War II, made-do. Because of the war, there was a tremendous shortage of a lot of goods. Things that were normally imported from overseas were not imported. It was too dangerous to with supplies that people could live without. That ship was needed for other things. When there is a shortage - prices can go skyrocketing. To avoid that - the US government introduced a system of rationing.

Handout #5: Ration Books, Victory Gardens, Junk Rallys

Play the Ration Stamp Game

  • Tell your class that for the next 24 hours, they will experience rationing first hand.

  • Handout #6: The Ration Stamp Game (one per student).

  • Tell your students: When you use a stamp, mark an X through it. When you have used all your stamps, you may have no more of that thing for the day.

Sights of War

Say: V for Victory was the slogan of World War II.

Ask: What is a slogan? (Get some answers quickly.)

Ask: What is V-mail? If anyone knows, great. If not, look it up. (V-mail was written on a single sheet of special paper, which you could buy at the post office. First, you wrote your letter. Then the post office took a picture of it. They sent the film overseas. At the other end, the letter was reprinted from the film and delivered. That way, all letters could be checked, and everything could be sent in reduced form to save shipping space - to make room for needed troops and supplies instead of mail.)

Review with your class a list of things that could be seen during World War II (billboards, ads) Discuss again why symbols have meaning for us as Americans during World War II and today. Symbols have meaning in our life because we give them meanings. Symbols of the World War II US Home Front included V-Mail, Ration Books, Victory Gardens, Junk Rally, Rosie the Riveter, and slogans like V is for Victory.

Transition Sentence: But perhaps the most powerful symbol of the World War II Home Front was the Gold Star.

Handout #7: Walking Home. Tell students to read this story and answer the questions. Then, read it aloud. Ask for answers to the questions.

Final Activity: Students will write a short story in either the form of an oral interview or in the first person to share symbols of World War II on the Home Front, and what they meant. Once stories are written, invite students to share their stories with the class. Post all stories on your World War II Memory Wall. Encourage all students to read these stories as their time permits.

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