Skip to main content

Second World War Defining Moments, 1939–1945

Australian War Memorial 009249/19

1. Overview of the learning module

Introduction

This learning module provides resources and classroom activities for teachers to use in their Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences Year 10 classrooms.

It supports the History knowledge and understanding strand, Depth Study 1, World War II (19391945).

  • How did the nature of global conflict change during the twentieth century?
  • What were the consequences of the Second World War? How did these consequences shape the modern world?
  • How was Australian society affected by other significant global events and changes in this period?

 

The learning module is self-contained, and can be used in any of the following ways:

  • as whole class activities with all students studying a number of Defining Moments in Australian History that help them understand aspects of Australia’s history
  • distributed between small groups, with students reporting back on their findings to the whole class
  • as selected enrichment activities for individual students.

 

The investigations provide a rich digital resource for classroom use. They include contextual information, documents, images, scaffolded comprehension, analytical and extension questions, and individual, group and class activities. Using these materials and activities, students can explore aspects of twentieth century Australian history through text, images and objects.

 

The learning module has been designed to draw on the National Museum of Australia’s Defining Moments in Australian History, together with some supplementary resources.

 

What constitutes a defining moment in Australian history, and why some issues and situations can be considered more significant than others, is an underlying theme that can be raised with students throughout the module.

 
Module snapshot

The learning module can be used to create a set of preliminary ideas, understandings and questions that will help students investigate the topic in more detail.

It contains the following information:

  • a series of key questions to explore several of the knowledge and understanding requirements
  • mapping activities helping students understand the changing theatres of the war over time
  • evidence and statistics covering the main areas where Australians fought
  • a background briefing outline of the course of the war
  • questions to help students use eight of the Defining Moments in Australian History to explore key aspects of the war
  • a case study of the soldiers’ experience of Kokoda. This explores the nature of the fighting in an empathetic way, and can also serve as a model for other soldiers’ experiences, in other theatres of war, such as those of POWs.

 

It concludes by asking students to consider change and continuity in relation to what Australia was like at the start of the war compared to what was it like at the end.

 

2. Student activities

 

 

3. Relevant Defining Moments in Australian History

The learning module draws on the resources on the Defining Moments in Australian History website, together with supplementary materials.

Defining Moments that are relevant to the inquiry questions in the curriculum include:

1918

End of the First World War and Treaty of Versailles (1919)

Investigation 5

1940

HMT Dunera arrives in Australia

Investigation 4

1942

Japanese Imperial Army invades Singapore

Investigation 5 

1942

Australian troops return to fight in the Pacific

Investigation 5

1942

Japanese bomb Darwin but are halted on Kokoda Trail

Investigation 3

1943

Second World War conscription

Investigation 4

1945

Australia plays a leading role in founding United Nations

Investigation 5

1945

Australian Government announces postwar immigration drive

Investigation 4

 

Simplified versions of many of the relevant Defining Moments are also available:

1940 Enemy aliens who survived hell – HMT Dunera arrives in Australia Investigation 4
1942 A humiliating disaster – Fall of Singapore Investigation 5
1942 Turning the tide in the Pacific – Curtin brings home troops Investigation 5
1942 Jungle warfare – Darwin bombed and Kokoda Trail Investigation 3
1943 ‘Chocolate soldiers’ – Conscription introduced Investigation 4
1945 Australia on the world stage – Founding of the United Nations Investigation 5
1945 ‘We must have more people' – Postwar immigration drive Investigation 4

4. Australian Curriculum level and focus

Historical knowledge and understanding

Students will cover the following areas:

  • Overview of the causes and course of World War II (ACDSEH024)
  • Examination of significant events of World War II (ACDSEH107)
  • Experiences of Australians during World War II (such as Prisoners of War (POWs), the Battle of Britain, Kokoda, the Fall of Singapore) (ACDSEH108)
  • The impact of World War II, with a particular emphasis on the Australian home front, including the changing roles of women and use of wartime government controls (conscription, manpower controls, rationing and censorship) (ACDSEH109)
  • The significance of World War II to Australia’s international relationships in the twentieth century, with particular reference to the United Nations, Britain, the USA and Asia (ACDSEH110)

 

Historical skills

Students will exercise the following historical skills:

Chronology, terms and concepts

  • Use chronological sequencing to demonstrate the relationship between events and developments in different periods and places (ACHHS182)
  • Use historical terms and concepts (ACHHS183)

 

Historical questions and research 

  • Identify and select different kinds of questions about the past to inform historical inquiry (ACHHS184)
  • Evaluate and enhance these questions (ACHHS185)
  • Identify and locate relevant sources, using ICT and other methods (ACHHS186)

 

Analysis and use of sources

  • Identify the origin, purpose and context of primary and secondary sources (ACHHS187)
  • Process and synthesise information from a range of sources for use as evidence in an historical argument (ACHHS188)
  • Evaluate the reliability and usefulness of primary and secondary sources (ACHHS189)

 

Perspectives and interpretations

  • Identify and analyse the perspectives of people from the past (ACHHS190)
  • Identify and analyse different historical interpretations (including their own) (ACHHS191)

 

Explanation and communication 

  • Develop texts, particularly descriptions and discussions that use evidence from a range of sources that are referenced (ACHHS192)
  • Select and use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies (ACHHS193)

 

Interdisciplinary thinking

Students will engage with the concepts of:

  • significance
  • continuity and change
  • cause and effect
  • place and space
  • interconnections
  • roles, rights and responsibilities
  • perspectives and action.

 

Cross-curriculum priorities

Students will be involved in additional learning about aspects of:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures
  • Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia

 

Source: The Australian Curriculum Humanities and Social Sciences v8.3 December 2016 Accessed 1 November 2018

 

5. History outcomes matrix

All case studies in the learning module have been designed to help students develop the knowledge and skills outcomes specified in the Australian Curriculum History. At the end of each case study teachers could use this matrix to help guide student discussion about what they have achieved from the case study. The matrix is suitable to be used from Years 5–10, but with teachers guiding the discussion as appropriate to the particular class. It could also be used for assessment purposes.

Outcome Elaboration or Explanation Applying this to each case study
KNOWLEDGE Comprehending what happened factually. What happened?
UNDERSTANDING Being able to explain what happened and why. Explain why it happened.
CHRONOLOGY Knowing how events occurred in time and place. Explain how events unfolded.
CAUSE AND EFFECT Understanding why events occurred as they did and the impacts or effects they had. Explain the causes of the event and its impacts.
EMPATHY Looking at events from the different perspective of participants. Why do you think people at the time might have behaved in this way?
CHANGE AND CONTINUITY What changed and what remained the same after the event. Explain how the event changed some aspects, but not others.
VOICE OR AGENCY Understanding whose voice or perspective is included and excluded in the record of the event. Which people or groups involved in, or affected by, the event have been represented? Which groups have not yet been represented?
JUDGEMENT Deciding on the benefit or harm created by the event. Explain why you think the event was beneficial or harmful, or both.
SIGNIFICANCE Explaining why it might be considered a ‘Defining Moment’ in Australian history. Do you think it was a significant and impactful event? Explain why you do or do not think this event is significant to Australian history.

6. History source analysis guide

Some of the case studies involve students using historical skills to evaluate primary sources of evidence. This process involves identifying ‘bias’ but also many other features of the evidence. Students can use a source analysis guide to help them interrogate sources.

Aspects Elaborations Document Image Artefact
DESCRIPTION How would you describe or classify it? What type of evidence is it? e.g. an official government report, a diary entry, transcript of an interview recorded 40 years after the event e.g. a photograph from the time, a propaganda poster, a satirical cartoon e.g. a made object
ORIGIN Who created it? When? Where? e.g. an eyewitness account from a participant on one side, a family story handed down for generations, a newspaper report that quotes several participants e.g. an eyewitness, a government body, a newspaper cartoonist e.g. created at the time, used at the time, technique used, materials used, made by all or specialised skills
CONTEXT What were the conditions at the time? How could they have influenced its creation? e.g. created during a period of crisis, created years later after the events had finished e.g. created during a period of crisis, created years later after the events had finished e.g. typical of the time or an innovation, specialised or mass production
AUDIENCE Who was it created for? How widespread would it have been? e.g. a political party, a mass protest, an official inquiry, a personal record e.g. a political party, a mass protest, an official inquiry, a personal record, a readership e.g. elite people or ordinary people
PURPOSE Why was it created? What is its style or tone? e.g. as an official record, to influence people to join a political party, to criticise somebody e.g. to entertain, to persuade or influence, to criticise, to reveal information, to record facts e.g. everyday use or specialised use, domestic use or trade
RELEVANCE What does it help you know and understand about what you are investigating? e.g. people involved, places, times, attitudes, values of the time, supporters and opponents e.g. people involved, places, times, attitudes, values of the time, supporters and opponents e.g. work, leisure, education, attitudes, values, everyday life, food
RELIABILITY What is its authority, accuracy and believability? e.g. factual accuracy, person in a position to know, first-hand or second-hand e.g. factual accuracy, person in a position to know, first-hand or second-hand e.g. typical or unusual, how closely associated with the events

Discover more about defining moments in Australian history through these curriculum-linked learning activities.

Student activities