World War One: The Unknown Soldier

Curriculum-linked session plans explore World War One and the humanitarian impact of armed conflict, using a film created by a young filmmaker from a WWI soldier's point of view.

Soldiers in the trenches in WWI.
Lesson plan, video
Citizenship, Drama, English, History, Media studies

Engage learners with life in World War One as they watch the powerful film The Unknown Soldier, which uses a soldier’s point of view of WWI trenches in the moments before they go “over the top” and into battle.

These curriculum-linked session plans include discussion activities, script writing, critical analysis and creative writing to help learners consider the impact of armed conflict on the lives of the people involved in WWI.

Please note: This resource contains some sensitive content that could be upsetting and/or challenging. Please consider the experiences and backgrounds your group of young people may have when using this content. Ensure there is an option to opt out and/or speak to someone, or signpost to support if needed.


Learning objectives

Learners will:

  • have increased understanding of the humanitarian impact of armed conflict
  • explore the feelings and emotions of people involved in, and affected by, armed conflict
  • develop a greater understanding of human dignity
  • respect the values and the principles underpinning international
  • humanitarian law, the rules that govern armed conflict today.


Resource overview

1. Introduction

Introductory teaching notes give an overview of the film, session plans and curriculum links.

2. Supporting activities

Stand-alone activities perfect for form or tutor time or as a starter to a subject lesson.

3. Session 1: Media studies

Young people consider the film’s power to portray the humanitarian impact of conflict, with the option of creating their own short film. Read an interview with the young filmmaker who created this piece.

4. Session 2: Drama

Activities help learners to understand the storyline of the film and to connect and empathise with the characters involved, building ideas to bring their own script to life.

5. Session 3: English

Critically analyse the film script; question, analyse, compare and evaluate different WWI text types; and write a letter.

6. Session 4: Citizenship

Learn about the role international humanitarian law or the “rules of war” play in protecting those affected by armed conflict today, and build on this with scenario-based activities.

7. Session 5: History

Reflect on how WWI can help us to better understand modern-day conflicts and explore the humanitarian impact of conflicts spanning the last 150 years.

Film: The Unknown Soldier


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

The Unknown Soldier film © Joe Higgins.

The image shows soldiers in a trench in WWI (© Imperial War Museum).