The Gathering Storm

GRADES: 5th – 8th

DURATION: 75 Minutes

  • "Gathering Storm" and "Getting Ready for War" sections of the TN4ME web
  • Speech Outline


The purpose of this lesson is for students to identify factors in Europe that led to America’s involvement in WWII and to make recommendations regarding Tennessee’s preparation for potential conflict.

Guiding Questions: 

  • Prior to America’s involvement in WWII (December 1941), what types of things were happening in Europe that pointed to growing conflict?
  • How did Tennessee begin to prepare for involvement in the war?
  • What actions can be taken in order to prepare for war?


  • Students will identify factors in Europe that led to America’s involvement in WWII and will make recommendations regarding Tennessee’s preparation for potential conflict.


Speeches should be graded according to the following criteria:
  • Accompanied by a completed speech outline;
  • Adequately covers the three specified areas within the speech (i.e., evidence of war in Europe, recommendations for the US, plan of action for Tennessee);
  • Demonstrates understanding of the factors in Europe leading up to America’s involvement in WWII;
  • Creatively contributes suggestions (can be based on actual actions) for preparing for U.S. and Tennessee involvement in WWII.


  1. As a class, read the “Gathering Storm” and “Getting Ready for War” webpages. Have students point out some of the evidence of growing conflict and the development of WWII. Question students about how Tennessee prepared for war and remind them of actions that were taken, such as the Advisory Committee on Preparedness and the purchase of land in Tennessee. (15 minutes)
  2. Divide students into groups of 2-3 students and allow them to work on the following prompt together. The group members should work together in brainstorming ideas, and each member should take on a specific role for the assignment (for example: note-taker, speech-writer, and speech-deliverer). (3 minutes)
  3. Next, give students the following prompt and encourage them to draw from the material in the “Gathering Storm” section of the website:
    Imagine that you are Governor Prentice Cooper and you have recently returned from Europe in the 1930s. You are concerned about some of the things that you witnessed during your time in Europe and you want to share these with the people of Tennessee. Prepare a 2-3 minute speech to deliver to the citizens of Tennessee that:
        1). Explains some of the things you might have seen or heard about while you were visiting Europe and why these things make you nervous (e.g., Adolph Hitler, Nazis, violence);
        2). Makes some recommendations to President Roosevelt regarding how he should respond to the conflict that is occurring in Europe; and
        3). Explains some of the actions that you plan to carry out in Tennessee in order to prepare the state for a potential war. (30 minutes)
  4. When all groups have finished drafting their speeches, the class should reconvene as a whole for the presentation of the speeches. One group member can deliver the whole speech, or group members can switch off with sections of the speech. (30 minutes)


Tennessee Curriculum Standards

  • 5.4.04     Recognize how Americans incorporate the principles of the Constitution into their lives.
    b. Use knowledge of facts and concepts drawn from history, along with elements of historical inquiry to inform decision making about and action taking on public issues.
  • 5.5.09     Understand America’s role during World War II.
    a. Describe the political and economic events that led to World War II.
  • 5.5.tpi.9     Decide what role the United States should play in international affairs.