ALEX Lesson Plan


The Flu Affects All Walks of Life in Alabama

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Lesa Roberts
Organization:Whitesburg Christian Academy
The event this resource created for:Alabama Department of Archives and History
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35631


The Flu Affects All Walks of Life in Alabama


This lesson will include a study of several primary sources that detail the 1918 flu epidemic and how it affected a variety of people in Alabama (ELA2015(6)32). Students will work in small groups to study different primary sources and will complete graphic organizers specific to the type of primary source. Groups will then share their information with the class and discuss how the flu affected different populations of Alabama. The focus and outcomes of this lesson will meet the Social Studies standard (SS2010(6)) by allowing the students to describe civilian roles during WWI and recognizing the military bases in Alabama.

This lesson was created in partnership with the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
32 ) Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study. [SL.6.2]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.6.32- Ask a question or make an on-topic comment regarding a text read aloud or from other diverse forms of media.

Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 6
United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
3 ) Identify causes and consequences of World War I and reasons for the United States' entry into the war.

Examples: sinking of the Lusitania, Zimmerman Note, alliances, militarism, imperialism, nationalism

•  Describing military and civilian roles in the United States during World War I
•  Explaining roles of important persons associated with World War I, including Woodrow Wilson and Archduke Franz Ferdinand
•  Analyzing technological advances of the World War I era for their impact on modern warfare
Examples: machine gun, tank, submarine, airplane, poisonous gas, gas mask

•  Locating on a map major countries involved in World War I and boundary changes after the war
•  Explaining the intensification of isolationism in the United States after World War I
Example: reaction of the Congress of the United States to the Treaty of Versailles, League of Nations, and Red Scare

•  Recognizing the strategic placement of military bases in Alabama (Alabama)
Unpacked Content
Strand: Economics, Geography, History, Civics and Government
Course Title: United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Identify how the sinking of the Lusitania, the Zimmerman Note, alliances, imperialism, militarism and nationalism led to U.S. entry into WWI.
  • Describe the various roles of military and civilians in WWI.
  • Explain Woodrow Wilson and Archduke Franz Ferdinand and their association to WWI.
  • Analyze machine guns, tanks, submarines, airplanes, poison gas, and gas masks and their contributions to advancing modern warfare during WWI.
  • Use map skills to locate key countries involved in WWI and boundary changes post WWI.
  • Explain reactions to the Treaty of Versailles, League of Nations and the Red Scare pertaining to the intensification of isolationism in the United States after WWI.
  • Recognize military bases of Alabama and their strategic placement.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • WWI
  • Lusitania
  • Zimmerman Note
  • alliances
  • militarism
  • imperialism
  • nationalism
  • modern warfare
  • isolationism
  • Treaty of Versailles
  • League of Nations
  • Red Scare
Students know:
  • The causes and consequences of U.S. involvement in WWI (sinking of the Lusitania, the Zimmerman Note, Alliance System, Militarism, Imperialism, and Nationalism).
  • The roles of military and civilians played in WWI.
  • Important people involved in WWI (Woodrow Wilson, Archduke Franz Ferdinand).
  • The impact of technological advances of WWI on modern warfare (machine guns, tanks, submarines, airplanes, poison gas, and gas masks).
  • How to locate countries involved in WWI on a map and boundary changes that occurred after WWI.
  • The factors contributing to isolationism in the United States after WWI (Treaty of Versailles debate, Red Scare, League of Nations).
  • Strategic locations of military bases in Alabama.
Students are able to:
  • Locate places on a map.
  • Read and interpret primary source documents.
  • Cite evidence to support historical events.
Students understand that:
  • There were many reasons for United States entry and involvement in World War I and there were causes and consequences of this involvement.
Alabama Archives Resources:
Click below to access all Alabama Archives resources aligned to this standard.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.6.3- Identify strategic placement of military bases in Alabama, such as Redstone Arsenal, Fort Rucker, Fort McClellan, and Craig Air Force Base.

Local/National Standards:

National History Standards: Era 7

Standard 2C: Explain U.S. military and economic mobilization for war and evaluate the role of labor, including women and African Americans.

Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will analyze primary sources to complete graphic organizers.

Students will interpret information derived from the primary sources and will explain how the 1918 flu epidemic affected Alabamians by describing civilian roles in the United States during World War I.

Students will identify and summarize how Camp Sheridan, a military base in Alabama, played a role during the flu outbreak. 


Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will be able to compare and contrast how information can be acquired from a variety of primary documents.

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Primary Sources: 

Nurses Preparing Food in a Kitchen at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama - one copy for modeling purpose only

Letter from Lucy Durr at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, to her son Clifford:  (one per group)

Transcript of Letter from Lucy Durr at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, to her son Clifford (under attachments, for students who may need additional reading help)

Photograph of Florence G. Birch in her Nurse's Uniform at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama:  (one per group)

 "Auburn Spirit" Newspaper Article from January 10, 1919, issue of Orange and Blue: (under attachments, one per group)

Secondary Sources:

Excerpt from "Service of a Negro Hospital: The John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital, Tuskegee Institute." (under attachments, one per group)

Graphic Organizers:

Analyze a Photograph (under attachments, one per group, and one for modeling)

Analyze a Written Document (under attachments, three per group) 

Technology Resources Needed:

Document camera to display primary documents, if possible


The teacher and students should be familiar with the ending of WWI and its cost in human lives on the battlefields.

The students should be familiar with the roles of Alabama families during the war; i.e. women going to work in factories and as nurses, children collecting items for the war effort, rationing, liberty bonds, enlistments, etc. 

The teacher should be familiar with the Spanish influenza outbreak that took place at the end of WWI and spread to the U.S. Teachers may read from the following secondary sources to gain information about the flu outbreak and the Red Cross nurses:

Public Health Report: U.S. Nursing During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic:

Alabama Public Health 1918 Flu Outbreak:

Encyclopedia of Alabama article on World War I and Alabama:

Encyclopedia of Alabama article on Camp Sheridan:

US Deaths 20th Century - Flu and War (graph)


Before: The class should discuss the modern flu symptoms and remedies. Allow students to share a few experiences with the flu.

The teacher should tell the class that this lesson will center around how the flu that broke out a hundred years ago affected Alabamians in different ways. 

The teacher should introduce the outbreak of Spanish influenza and how it spread to the United States (see background information about flu outbreak).

The teacher should display the graph (US Deaths 20th Century - Flu and War) that compares military deaths to those of the 1918 flu pandemic. The class should compare and contrast the number of casualties in WWI and the flu and discuss ideas about the differences in the death rates.

The teacher should introduce the students to Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, and discuss how it was used as a hospital for flu victims (see background information about Camp Sheridan's role during WWI). 

The teacher should review the variety of primary documents that can provide information (photos, letters). Primary documents can provide varied information, depending on the types of documents. Photographs and letters often relate information from a personal perspective. Remind students that secondary sources include graphs and charts and information from books (Tuskegee nurses text). Newspaper articles can be considered both primary and secondary (they reflect information from the past but are written from a secondary point of view). 

The teacher should review the directions for completing the primary source graphic organizers. Each graphic organizer asks for general information that will be common to every document and specific information that should be found within the different types of documents. 

If students are unfamiliar with the document analysis graphic organizers, display the Camp Sheridan kitchen photograph and the discuss it with the class. Allow the students to list what they see in the photo while the observations are recorded on the board. Display the photograph graphic organizer (in attachments) with the document camera and complete the graphic organizer. The teacher should answer any questions that arise. 

During: Assign students into groups of four students per group.

Give each group the primary and secondary sources (4 in all) and the graphic organizers (4 = 1 for photos, 3 for each of the written documents- newspaper, letter, and secondary source) that correspond to the sources (photos and written documents). If there is a student with reading weaknesses or a strong visual learner in the group, the photograph could be assigned to him/her. The student that works with the photograph should receive the photo analysis sheet. The students that receive the newspaper article, the letter, and the secondary source should each receive a written document analysis sheet. Each student should receive one document and the corresponding graphic organizer. 

Allow the students time to read and analyze the primary and secondary sources. Remind students to look for details that might shed light on the flu and the different Alabamians that it affected. Write complete sentences, giving examples for the sources, to thoroughly answer each question on the analysis sheets. 

Students should complete the graphic organizers with as much detail as possible. 

Allow time for the students to share their documents with the group. This may allow group members to ask questions, go deeper into the documents, and add information to their analysis.

Rearrange the groups so that each group has the same document, i.e., all the photos are in one group, the letters, the newspaper article, and the secondary source. Give several minutes for them to share information about their source. Encourage the students to discuss the 5 W's: Who is in or mentioned in the document? Who might have created it? Where did it come from? When was it created? What is the tie to Alabama? Why was the document created? This discussion should add to the depth of study of the documents and the thoroughness of the written analysis. 

Allow the students time to prepare a 2-3 minute group presentation about their primary sources. Each student should have a role in the presentation and be prepared to answer questions. The students should be prepared to explain the background of the document and how it describes life in Alabama during the flu epidemic.

After: Allow each group to share their primary source by using a document camera, if possible. A presentation rubric is provided in the attachments. The teacher should review the criteria on the rubric prior to the presentations. Students may use their graphic organizers, if needed, to share information about the document. The students should be prepared to answer questions.

If needed, prompt the students to answer:

  • What kind of document is it?
  • Who wrote/created it and when?
  • Who was it intended for?
  • Any interesting details about the flu?
  • How were Alabamians affected by the flu?

Finally, after all the documents were shared, ask the students which source did they find most telling about how the flu affected Alabamians? Did primary sources give as much information as the secondary source? 

To summarize, display the graph that was studied earlier in the lesson. Ask the students to relate all the ways that soldiers were killed during WWI; e.g. gas, bombs, bullets, infection, malnutrition, trench foot, gangrene, etc. Compare and contrast the number of deaths in the wars to those of the flu pandemic of 1918. Ask the students to write a summarizing sentence about death counts. 

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Assessment Strategies


The teacher should monitor the students as they discuss the primary sources during whole group and small group discussions. Prompt/Assist the students as needed. 


The students should be prepared to turn in the graphic organizers to be graded.

The teacher may utilize the rubric that is provided in the attachments for scoring the presentations.


Students may search the internet to find additional information about Camp Sheridan and its role during WWI. Students may share this information with the class through an oral presentation or through a collage of photographs with captions. 

Students may search the effects of the flu on other countries and discuss with the class through an oral presentation. Alternatively, students may create graphs that display the flu pandemic deaths in countries across the globe.

A reading list is included in the attachments.


Students may be given transcripts of written documents, with difficult vocabulary highlighted and defined.

Students may work in pairs to complete one graphic organizer.

Students with reading disabilities may be given the photographs to work with.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.