Germany 1918–1939: A Living Timeline
This activity was created by Dan Lyndon. Dan has made his extensive and valuable work available on two websites. His teaching activities from school can be found at:
while his fast-developing site on black history is:
Here’s Dan’s description of the activity.
I wrote this activity for one of the lessons that was observed when I became an AST and also used it when I taught a lesson on Germany to a group of students in Namibia. Each time it worked really well and allowed the students to revise the key events and engage in higher order thinking and discussion.
I was also hoping to demonstrate that these kind of activities have a number of benefits:
- a strong visual representation that can be reinforced with a scaled down version later on that can be used on their desks.
- a much more stimulating way of transferring knowledge than completing a written timeline activity
I created a series of A4 landscape flashcards [ see attachment ] that related to 13 key events in Germany between 1918 and 1939 as well as date cards which the students needed to match up. There are additional cards that can be added in if you want to extend the exercise. The flashcards were also colour coded:
- Green – causes of Hitler’s rise to power
- Blue – events related to the 1923 year of crisis and the different solutions to these events (there are some which are in green as they overlap with the causes of Hitler’s rise to power – Hyperinflation and the Munich Putsch)
- Purple – events related to Hitler’s consolidation of power
- Red – events related to anti-semitism
1. The first stage was simply a case of getting the students to match the events to the correct dates. This was down in the middle of the classroom with all the desks pushed around the edge of the room and a large circle of chairs for the students. I did not lay down the dates until the events had been sequenced correctly as this was an effective way of testing their chronological understanding.
2. The second stage was to ask the students to work out the different themes that the colours represented (see above). This allowed some discussion of the overlap of different events and how events are multicausal.
3. The third stage was to look at the causes of Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.
a. The students were asked questions about a variety of the causes, with a strong focus on the Wall Street Crash – I started off with closed, low order questions such as ‘What was the Wall Street Crash?’, ‘What was the effect in Germany?’ etc. Then we moved on to a higher order question asking the students to make a hypothesis ‘If the Wall Street Crash did not happen, would Hitler still have come to power in 1933?’ This should lead to an interesting discussion about the importance of the Depression in Helping Hitler come to power.
b. This was followed up was the same process of lower order questions about Mein Kampf (What does it mean?, What did it say? etc) and then the same higher order question ‘If Mein Kampf wasn’t written would Hitler still have come to power in 1933?’. Again this should stimulate some interesting discussion.
c. The purpose of these questions is for the students to think about and conclude which of the causes was more important in helping Hitler come to power. I followed this up with a ranking activity, where the students had to work in small groups and choose the three most important reasons for Hitler coming to power and justify their choices. This was discussed (in a heated manner) around the class.
I tended to run out of time after completing this section but you can then go onto doing the same kind of thing with the other themes.
This was a very successful activity in a number of ways: students were engaged in the topics and involved in an active way. The discussion that was provoked about the causes of Hitler coming to power was very stimulating. When I used this activity in Namibia there was a different response from my students in West London. Some of the African students forcefully argued that Mein Kampf was more significant than the Wall Street Crash as Hitler had to be able to express his ideas, and create his mandate before he could claim sufficient support from the German people. What this was a reflection of, I am not sure, but it was certainly an interesting perspective and challenged my own teaching and thinking about the topic.
From Ed Waller
Have just done Dan’s Germany Timeline with a Yr 11 group I inherited this year. They had been all over the place when it came to putting things in order, and even remembering what the items (Ruhr Crisis, Locarno) were about. This group now seems a lot more together (I'm happy to say). The reason I'm writing is to recommend the cards as flash cards to be used as a starter. You pick one at the start of each lesson and discuss it in the terms Dan recommends. It would then be possible the repeat the exercise and (hopefully!) show the students how much their recall of these events and the significance of them has improved since the first attempt.
From Leanne Whittaker on Tyneside. This is the sort of feedback I really enjoy - not just using an activity but developing and improving it.
I used the Germany Living Graph but adapted it as I wanted to focus on rise of Hitler and Chacellor to Dictator specifically therefore I added more cards on these e.g enlargement of SA, Nazi votes grow to 230 etc. I also had some of the pupil wearing factor cards and they had some on paper on tabards-e.g Nazi Tactics, Weaknesses of Weimar etc and they had to take their factor sheets to the relevant events eg enlargement SA= Nazi Tactics. They then used a ball of coloured wool to 'tie up' similar factors which showed a rise and fall of some of these- i.e a lot of Nazi tactics deployed prior to 1929 yet ineffective until depression. I did this instead of colour coding the sheets as I wanted pupils to identify the factors themselves. It also created debate i.e was Hitler being handed the position of Chancellor due to his own tactics or inability of Weimar. I also asked pupils to identify differences and similarities between his rise to Chancellor and Chancellor to Dictator as they can get these muddled up during an exam. I have now done the Weimar Living Graph and this and pupils say it really helps them with writing essays and also stimulates debate about factors which makes them memorable.
- How often have you used this kind of living graph activity before with this class? Does the frequency of use affect its effectiveness and, if so, what effects will this have on your overall course planning?
- How did tackling this topic through this physical activity affect students’ learning? e.g. was understanding of the patterns of events deeper? Did they have a better-developed sense of the possibilities for different interpretations?
- Did this have an impact on the quality of discussion among students? If so, how and why and what can be learned from this?
- Where else can you use this technique to increase students’ confidence and familiarity with it?