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Life in the Trenches: Photograph Analysis

Scene from the trenches

Lesson Plan

Grade Level:

9th Grade

Estimated Duration of Lesson:

one 40 minute class periods

Content Standard:

9th Grade History Standard: Benchmark D; 7 a.,b.; Social Studies Skills & Methods Standard: Benchmark A.; 1.,2.d.,3

Primary Sources:

  • Photos from Hew Strachen, The First World War. New York: Viking, 2004:
  • Germans Delousing Their Clothing. Photograph. Page 164.
  • French Soldiers In Their Dugout. 1915. Photograph. Page 166.
If these photos are not available, there are a variety of excellent WWI trench photos that can be reproduced on the firstworldwar.com web site.
Students can also investigate the virtual tour of WWI trenches on the BBC website.


After studying WWI in the past, 9th grade students seem to have a minimal understanding about trench warfare and general apathy about the human effects of war. This lesson was designed to give them a realistic, first person account though the analysis of two photos of troops living in the trenches during World War I. The lesson can be used in conjunction with “A Soldier’s Voice from World War I: Gallipoli,” a reader’s theater script created from excerpts of diary entries from a Turkish soldier during the Gallipoli campaign.

Instructional Steps for Lesson:

1. Divide students into two groups. One group will look at the photo of German soldiers, the others, the photo of the French soldiers. Do not share the captions from the book with students at this time.
2. Students complete a Photograph Analysis Worksheet on their photo. The photos can be shown at the same time on a screen, or copies given to the individual students, depending on the teacher’s preference.
3. Students find a partner who has the opposite photo and discuss the similarities/differences they found using their analysis worksheets. The dyads will complete a Venn Diagram of their findings. 
4. The students will report to the class their findings/observations and the teacher will read the original captions that accompany the photographs.
5. Teacher will grade both Photo Analysis Worksheet and Venn Diagram (points total up to individual teachers)

Materials Needed:

The photographs referenced above; Photograph Analysis Worksheet, Venn Diagram.
Created by Joyce Poore-Williams