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Teaching Guide

Teaching All Quiet on the Western Front

Shhh.

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What's that sound?

What, you don't hear anything? We don't either. Things might be all quiet on the western front, but you don't want it to be all quiet in your classroom. You want discussion! Debate! Digging trenches!

Okay, scratch the trenches, but you definitely want the other two. And we can help.

In this guide you will find

  • reading quizzes to ensure students are reading between the lines (the front lines, that is).
  • resources like movies and historical archives to connect the novel with the actual war.
  • assignments that are more enjoyable and engaging than crawling under barbed wire.

We won't start an out-and-out war in the classroom, but we can at least liven things up a bit.

What's Inside Shmoop's Literature Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring literature to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Audiences love an interesting character: the unassuming hero, the intimidating villain, the wacky neighbor, etc. Authors create characters to represent ideas, archetypes, real people, and much more. Names and even physical descriptions are purposeful. Is it a coincidence that Dimmesdale of The Scarlet Letter is, well, dim or that Chillingworth is cold and cruel? Of course not; when it comes to great literature, nothing is accidental.

In this lesson, students will examine a character from All Quiet on the Western Front, create a character sketch, and draw conclusions about how the physical description compares to the internal traits of that character. Furthermore, students will analyze how the experience of war changes the humanity of the character throughout the novel.

Length of Lesson: 2 class periods with a homework assignment in between.

Materials Needed: 

Step 1: In class, give students 5-10 minutes to review the main characters in All Quiet on the Waterfront and choose one character to analyze in more detail.

Step 2: Give students class time to do a little research by reading Shmoop's All Quiet Characters page and combing through their copies of the novel to find answers to the following questions. They should jot down notes as they go.

  1. List the physical traits of your character. Cite details/page numbers from the novel to support your assertions.
  2. List the internal qualities of your character. What are his attitudes and emotions? How do others view him? Again, cite details/page numbers from the novel.
  3. What/who might this character symbolize? What is the significance of the character's name? What's in a name anyway?
  4. How does the character's humanity change as he endures life as a WWI soldier? How does this relate to the purpose of the novel?
  5. Does the character's physical description match his internal characteristics or not? Explain.
  6. Provide 2 quotes from the novel that accurately represent your character's changing humanity as a WWI soldier. Cite the page numbers.

Step 3: Once students have dug through the text the way WWI soldiers dug trenches, give them time to complete the final product. They will use the information from their notes regarding the questions above—with some fine-tuning and complete sentences—to complete the task below.

Students, your mission:

  • Draw a sketch of your character on poster paper to illustrate his physical traits. Do your best to be artistic. If you worry that you lack in the art-skills department, feel free to sketch an outline (or silhouette) of the character and add physical traits and descriptive quotes around the outside of the sketch.
  • Provide a typed response to the questions in Step 2. Each response should be its own well-developed paragraph.
  • Cite sources and page numbers when appropriate. Gotta have proof!
  • Revise and edit your writing before turning it in, demonstrating thought and attention to detail. After all, this is English class, people.

Step 4: Once students have completed their assignments, give them time to present their work to the class to provide opportunities for further discussion of the characters, the changes they undergo, and how these changes relate to and reveal the themes of the novel. You can:

  • have students give a brief presentation of their work, oral report style;
  • hang the work around the room and have students "tour the gallery" of character sketches; or
  • divide students into groups either by character, or so that each group has 3-4 different characters, and have them discuss their work.

Instructions for Your Students

Audiences love an interesting character: the unassuming hero, the intimidating villain, the wacky neighbor, etc. Authors create characters to represent ideas, archetypes, real people, and much more. Names and descriptions are purposeful. Nothing is accidental.

In this lesson, you will examine a character in All Quiet on the Western Front, and explain why that character was created. You will also decide if the physical description matches up with inner qualities of that character. Furthermore, you will analyze how the experience of war changes the humanity of the character throughout the novel. Does this guy go from being a Teddy Bear to being any angry grizzly? Is he a jerk who turns into a completely heartless human? How does life as a WWI soldier chip away at his soul?

Step 1: In class, take 5-10 minutes to review the main characters in All Quiet on the Waterfront and choose one—the one you like (or hate) the most perhaps?—to analyze in more detail.

Step 2: Use class time to hunt and peck through your copy of All Quiet and Shmoop's All Quiet Characters page to find answers to the following questions. Be sure to jot down some notes as you go—they'll come in handy later. 

  • List the physical traits of your character. Cite details/page numbers from the novel to support your assertions.
  • List the internal qualities of your character. What are his attitudes and emotions? How do others view him? Again, cite details/page numbers from the novel. 
  • What/who might this character symbolize? What is the significance of the character's name? What's in a name anyway?
  • How does the character's humanity change as he endures life as a WWI soldier? How does this relate to the purpose of this novel?
  • Does the character's physical description match his internal characteristics or not? Explain.
  • Provide 2 quotes from the novel that accurately represent your character. Cite the page numbers.

Step 3: Once you have dug through the text the way WWI soldiers dug trenches (though hopefully with less mud involved), get cracking on the final product. You will use the information from above—with some fine-tuning and complete sentences—to complete the task below.

Students, your mission:

  • Draw a sketch of your character on poster paper to illustrate his/her physical traits. Do your best to be artistic. If you lack in that department, feel free to sketch on outline of the character and add "physical traits" and descriptive quotes around the outside of the sketch.
  • Provide a typed response to the questions in Step 2. Each response should be its own well-developed paragraph.
  • Cite sources and page numbers when appropriate. Gotta have proof!
  • Revise and edit your writing, demonstrating thought and attention to detail. After all, this is English class, people.

Step 4: Once you have completed your assignment, you will present your work to the class to provide opportunities for further discussion of the characters, the changes they undergo, and how these changes relate to and reveal the themes of the novel. Show us your best stuff!

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.6

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT?

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Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Photos    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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