Early on in my history teacher career, I realized something pretty profound.
You can discuss the history of any conflict at length…but if your students don’t have a concrete idea of where you’re talking about, some of the information will be lost in translation.
It’s no secret that World War Two changed the landscape of many parts of the globe. To think that there are boundaries that were forever changed and some places that no longer exist as they did in 1939 is mindblowing for some students.
Though they may understand this in theory, it is easier to comprehend visually.
Since most of us obviously don’t have the luxury of taking a field trip all over Europe with our students in tow each year, it is important to find a way to do this that will be effective and easily implemented in the classroom.
This World War 2 map of Europe activity does just that.
Multiple Variations of World War 2 Map of Europe Activity
This activity has several variations that will help you either break down the information easier for your students, or can readily differentiate for them.
There are two distinct maps in this World War 2 map of Europe activity. One is from during the war and the other is Post-WWII.
Each map has different versions to pick from.
The “during” World War 2 map (Europe) breaks down the occupation of the continent by Germany, USSR, Italy, and Neutrality.
There is a map version with each country labeled and one that is not, depending on the depth you want to achieve.
There are instruction sheets that go along with each. One breaks down the countries by the occupation categories, one just lists the countries in alphabetical order, and yet another asks for the dates the occupied countries were taken.
There is a key in all of the above to color code for visualization.
The “post” World War 2 map (Europe) shows the change of borders and also “zooms” in on Berlin to see the change there as well.
This map also has a pre-labeled and a blank version with the color-coding key.
When all is said and done, there is a comprehension question sheet that compares the two and also helps to foreshadow the Cold War via interpretation of geographical challenges that may be faced given the new borders.
This activity is perfect for every level of student who is learning about World War Two. The differentiated levels go from basic to complex and can still be adapted further by the teacher.
When the correct map is picked in regards to student level and achievement, they really enjoy working on this. It combines a challenge in researching the correct answers and also a fun, more laid-back feel as there is a color-coding element.
Why our students need to look at maps
To boot, it is important that we are still teaching our students about maps in the classroom. We live in an era of GPS and it is vital that our children still read maps.
As a matter of fact, the Washington Post had an eye-opening article about the use of GPS devices and the decline in hippocampus development. To quote:
In a study published in Nature Communications in 2017, researchers asked subjects to navigate a virtual simulation of London’s Soho neighborhood and monitored their brain activity, specifically the hippocampus, which is integral to spatial navigation. Those who were guided by directions showed less activity in this part of the brain than participants who navigated without the device. “The hippocampus makes an internal map of the environment and this map becomes active only when you are engaged in navigating and not using GPS,” Amir-Homayoun Javadi, one of the study’s authors, told me.
The hippocampus is crucial to many aspects of daily life. It allows us to orient in space and know where we are by creating cognitive maps. It also allows us to recall events from the past, what is known as episodic memory. And, remarkably, it is the part of the brain that neuroscientists believe gives us the ability to imagine ourselves in the future.O’Connor, M.R. “Ditch the GPS. It’s Ruining Your Brain.” The Washington Post, 5 June 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ditch-the-gps-its-ruining-your-brain/2019/06/05/
So in the end, this activity helps our students two-fold. It helps them visually understand the landscape of pre and post-World War II Europe and also helps brain development by understanding a map.
Every little bit counts!
If you’re interested in checking out World War Two Map of Europe During and After the War, click the button below: