Implementation of “For and from the Homeland”: World War I poetry and postcards” (SOI-IT-366)

Author: Maria Luisa Onida

School/Organization: Istituto di Istruzione Superiore Leonardo da Vinci di Lanusei (Og)

Titolo: ”Stella cometa in Trincea” (Riproduzione cartolina) Licenza CC BY SA 

I chose to implementthe Learning Scenario “For and From the Homeland”: World War I Poetry and Postcards di April Capili as it is easily integrated in the upper secondary school Italian curricula. The scenario is particularly suitable to introduce Giuseppe Ungaretti who lived firsthand the experience of the trenches during the First World War. Ungaretti poems represented fear, cold, death and the atrocious absurdity of war. I liked the idea of starting from war postcards and poems written on the warfront, direct and profoundly human testimony capable of bringing students closer to those dramatic events and helping them to fully understand the condition of the soldier and the poet Ungaretti. This empathic approach represented an added value for learning  activity.

Knowledge as a network of connections and relationships

I implemented the scenario with a class of 15 students of the second year of upper secondary school aged between 14 and 15; the activity was implemented in an interdisciplinary key thanks to the collaboration of the English and history colleagues. We focused on war poets, Ungaretti and Owen, in the context of the First World War. The students already had a basic knowledge of Europeana and had already used digital cultural heritage. With this work they discovered the section dedicated to the First World War and Historiana.

The activities required a total of 5 hours of classroom work and were carried out during the same week during the lesson of the  three disciplines involved:

  • History The students analysed the materials featured in the Europeana Untold stories of World War I and took note. 
  • English: The students, guided by the teacher, studied the life and poetic experience of Wilfred Owen, then the teacher divided them into 3 groups of 5 and assigned Owen’s poems to each group to read in the original language and translate. Each group identified a favorite poem and transcribed it into a digital book and accompanied it with an image.
  • Italian: The teacher asks the students to collect the most important concepts on the First World War in a Mentimeter. Then the students, divided into three groups, search on Europeana for postcards, diaries and letters of the First World War in Italian and choose some of them creating a collection. This work helps the teachers in introducing students to Ungaretti’s biography. The students selected some poems from the collection “Il porto sepolto” and chose three of these to be compared with Owen’s. The Ungheretti poem’s are included in the digital book already created. Finally, with Canva, some posters inspired by Ungaretti’s poems were created.

Some posters made by students

Europeana brings the present and the past closer together

The experience was particularly stimulating and engaging as it brought the students into contact with real documents and testimonies of the Great War through Europeana and, in particular, of the portal dedicated to the First World War together with the resources of the site The works designed by students are original and shows that the students fully understand the topic covered. The use of real postcard war was a winning idea. in addition, this LS is suitable to be connected to various disciplines such as art, music, and also to be adapted to different national curricula. I suggest linking the Learning scenario to other topics related to the First World War like Literature, History and Philosophy.  

Did you find this story of implementation interesting? Why don’t you read about the related learning scenario? “For and From the Homeland”: World War I Poetry and Postcards, created by April Capili

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CC BY-SA 3.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Europeana 1914-1918.

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