Background:I have done this simulation in class the past two years. It is a great way to introduce the role that alliances had in turning a regional conflict between the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and Serbia into a larger global conflict World War I. I usually do this lesson after our Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand lesson.
This came from a website that was shared on Twitter a few years ago called "What if World War I was a Bar Fight." I really liked the analogy and thought this would be a great way for students to visually see the alliances, but I thought I needed to pick a different location to make it more acceptable for an 8th Grade US History class. So I "tweaked" it a little bit and this is what I came up with.
The Lesson:I assign students into the following roles:
The Narrator: They have the most lines and need to be a confident reader.
The Central Powers: Germany, Austria, and Turkey
The Allied Powers: Serbia, Russia, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, Australia, Japan, and the United States.
I always pre-teach that students are to "act" and not actually throw people over chairs and punch other students. I would like to think that would be common sense, but I figure I should always be direct with my instructions.
Here is a working version of my script that I have students use.
World War I Cafeteria Fight - Dialog
Narrator: Germany is standing with Austria and Italy in the cafeteria when Serbia, walking by with Russia, bumps into Austria and spills its tray.
Narrator: Austria says,
Austria: “Serbia, you idiot you spilled marinara sauce on my shoes! They are ruined! You better buy me a new pair!”
Narrator: Germany says, “
Germany: Yeah Serbia and those are expensive shoes!
Narrator: Britain says,
Britain: “Everyone calm down, it’s okay. Things don’t need to get out of hand.”
Narrator: Serbia Says,
Serbia: “I can’t pay to buy you new shoes, but I can pay to have them cleaned.”
Narrator: Serbia and Russia stare at Austria.
Narrator: When Serbia and Russia stare Austria says, “
Austria: Who do you think you’re looking at?”
Narrator: Russia says,
Russia: “Hey, man don’t pick on my little brother!”
Narrator: Austria asks Russia,
Austria: “Who’s going to stop us, you????”
Narrator: In the meantime Britain and France are glaring at Germany.
Narrator: Germany says to Britain and France,
Germany: “Why are you glaring at us? You just need to back away?
Narrator: Britain says,
Britain: “France and I can look at whoever we want, what are you going to do about it?”
Narrator: Germany says to Russia,
Germany: “Stop looking at Austria, or I’ll smack you upside the head!”
Narrator: Britain asks France,
Britain: “Why is Germany looking at Belgium?”
Narrator: Turkey and Germany go off in a corner and whisper. When they come back to the group Turkey ignores everyone.
Narrator: Germany rolls up its sleeves dramatically, looks at France, and punches Belgium!
Narrator: France and Britain punch Germany.
Narrator: Austria punches Russia.
Narrator: Germany punches Britain and France with one hand and Russia with the other.
Narrator: Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over and says,
Russia: “Man how did I miss?”
Narrator: Japan waves and calls over from the other side of the room,
Japan: “We are on Britain’s side! But I think I’ll stay over here for now.” But Japan stays on the other side of the room.
Narrator: Italy, who was a friend of Germany punches Austria to everyone’s surprise! Italy says,
Italy: “That felt kind of good!”
Narrator: Australia punches Turkey.
Narrator: Turkey punches back and says,
Turkey: “Take that!”
Narrator: Australia says,
Australia: “No hard feelings mate, I know Britain peered pressured me to do it.”
Narrator: France gets thrown over a table by Germany but gets up and continues fighting. France says,
France: “You can’t keep me down.”
Narrator: Russia gets knocked down by Austria. When it wakes up it has a personality change and decides to quit fighting. Russia says,
Russia: “What’s going on here? Peace man!”
Narrator: Italy tries to punch Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway.
Narrator: Italy runs around, with fists in the air, chanting,
Italy: “Fight, fight, fight!”
Narrator: Germany is pounding Britain and France. Eventually Germany becomes tired and is huffing and puffing.
Narrator: America waits until Germany is about to fall over from fatigue , then walks over and smashes it with a chair.
Narrator: Germany is knocked unconscious and stays that way. America pretends it won the fight all by itself - shakes fist in the air, sings
America: “I am the champion, my friend”.
Narrator: By now chairs and tables are overturned, most countries are on the ground (Germany, Serbia, Russia, Austria, Italy). Britain and France slowly get up and walk over to America.
Narrator: America says,
America: “Well Germany started it”.
Narrator: France says,
France: “They deserve what they got!”
Narrator: Britain says, “
Britain: They did throw the first punch!”
Narrator: America, Britain and France look at each other, smirk, and start taking things out of Germany’s pocket while it lies there unconscious. They go off together maniacally laughing!
After we finish the skit the students and I discuss what happened in the skit and which countries allied with each other. I usually find myself explaining how the Marinara Sauce represents the killing (Bloodshed) of the Archduke and help the students understand why the allies were going through Germany's Pocket at the end (War Reparations). Students usually have lots of questions and are very animated from doing the skit which is great to see. It's a nice way to get students out of their seat and actively learning about history.
We usually end class with this video The Start Of World War that looks at the events that started World War I. There are some pieces that get covered latter in my unit, but I love the animation of the Lego's and it help explain some of the alliances.
What are some ways you teach World War I? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.