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World War One: The Unknown Soldier

Engage learners with World War One (WWI) and the humanitarian impact of armed conflict. 

Curriculum-led session plans and short activities link to a powerful film called The Unknown Soldier.

Age range: 14–19 

Curriculum links: Media studies, Drama, English, Citizenship, History


Learning objectives

Learners will:

  • have increased understanding of the humanitarian impact of armed conflict
  • explore feelings and emotions of people involved in, and affected by, armed conflict
  • have greater respect for human life and dignity
  • respect the values and the principles underpinning International Humanitarian Law.

The film

The Unknown Soldier from British Red Cross on Vimeo. © Joe Higgins

The Unknown Soldier depicts life in WWI trenches in the moments before soldiers go over the top and into battle.

The film is directed as though the viewer is present and is intended to stimulate reflection on what life might have been like for soldiers during WWI. Supporting resources encourage young people to consider the impact of armed conflict on the people involved.

Teaching resources


Introductory teaching notes support the film and accompanying session plans.

Supporting activities

These stand-alone activities are perfect for form or tutor time. Use them to supplement subject-specific teaching or adapt them for use in an assembly.

Media studies

Session one: Young people will view the film and take part in a series of activities that engage with the media form. They will consider production choices and how they increase the film’s power to portray the humanitarian impact of conflict.

Session two: Learners will create their own short film that depicts the impact of war upon those involved.


Session one: Learners will view the film and participate in activities that help them to understand the storyline and to connect and empathise with the characters involved.

Session two: Learners will build on their insights and ideas to bring a script to life through a short dramatisation of their own.


Session one: Learners will critically analyse and respond to The Unknown Soldier as a media text.

Sessions two: Additional content supports learners to question, analyse, compare and evaluate different WWI text types including poetry, a play, and a newspaper article.

Session three: Learners undertake their own creative letter-writing exercise.


Session one: Learners will critically analyse the WWI film and reflect on how it could help inform their understanding of the humanitarian impact of modern conflicts. They will learn about the role international humanitarian law plays in protecting civilians during conflict.

Session two: Learners will build on their knowledge of the rules of war through scenario-based learning activities.

Session three: Learners will explore what might constitute an ‘act of citizenship’ in the context of armed conflict.


Session one: Learners will watch the film and discuss how reflecting on WWI can help us to better understand modern day conflicts.

Session two: Learners will explore the humanitarian impact of conflicts spanning the last 150 years, and learn how international humanitarian law has developed in response to changing nature of conflict.



The Unknown Soldier film (C) Joe Higgins

Teaching resources by Rob Bowden and Rosie Wilson of Lifeworlds Learning and published in November 2015.