Discovering Winston Churchill: Teaching Ideas and Resources
Books, films, websites, and teaching ideas that introduce students to one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
"We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." — Winston Churchill, 1940
Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, during most of World War II. He is credited with leading his country to victory in the devastating war and inspiring the nation with his stirring speeches. Churchill served as Prime Minster again from 1951 to 1955. He was also a soldier, journalist, and orator. A prolific author, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. President Kennedy named him the first honorary citizen of the United States in 1963.
Using These Resources
These resources take you through the life and work of Churchill, with a focus on his younger years and the 1940s. The lesson plans are appropriate for units on World War II or historical leaders. The websites, books, and films can be used in class or supplied to students conducting research projects.
In addition, the Why Study Winston Churchill? video from the Churchill Centre explains the lasting impact of this great world leader. As historian Michael Beschloss says in the film, "anyone alive today, and especially younger people in the 21st century, has to know that if it were not for Winston Churchill, there's a very good chance that Western Civilization wouldn't exist."
- The Life of Winston Churchill Introductory Workbook (PDF)
Designed for the elementary grades, this 16-page introductory activity booklet includes text and photographs, a lesson on family trees, memorization and code-breaking, and a crossword puzzle. Meet Churchill as soldier, correspondent, statesman, orator, author and inspirational leader.
- Winston Churchill: Characteristics of His Leadership (PDF)
Using Churchill’s “War Speech” from September 3, 1939, this lesson examines two characteristics of his leadership: resolution and magnanimity. American History teacher Mark Ellwood designed the lesson for grades 9 to 12, but it is adaptable for middle school.
- Winston Churchill’s Efforts to Unify Britain From 1940-1941
Look what high school students can do! Sarah Howells’ research paper won first prize in The Churchill Centre’s annual research paper competition. The paper, including footnotes and bibliography, can serve as a model for your own students and may even inspire them to research a topic of interest.
- Winston Churchill: Topical and Essential Questions
Once your students have learned about Churchill’s life, share these questions from the Churchill Centre for them to contemplate and further their understanding. A quote from Churchill applies to each question.
- The Churchill Centre
The Churchill Centre site is the most comprehensive website about the iconic leader. It includes news and current events; facts and speeches; and even a section on Churchill myths. Use the search feature to navigate hundreds of articles about Churchill. This site is recommended for students working on research projects.
- Churchill and the Great Republic: A Library of Congress Exhibit
This Library of Congress exhibition examined the life and career of Churchill with an emphasis on his lifelong links with the United States, which he called “the great republic.” The exceptional site covers the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France on D-Day, as well as the death of Winston Churchill.
Explore Churchill’s leadership, actions, and impact, as well as his special connection to New York, in this website that includes excellent video and audio specifically designed to attract young people to the 2012 exhibit “Churchill: The Power of Words” at The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.
- Churchill: The Evidence; A Chronicle of the Life and Times of Sir Winston Churchill With Educational Resources
The Churchill Archives Centre and the National Library of Scotland provide a basic outline of Churchill’s life, using photographs and primary documents.
- National Churchill Museum
The National Churchill Museum in Missouri is on the site where Churchill gave his famous "Iron Curtain" speech. The museum focuses on the 1946 speech, as well as Churchill during World War II.
- The Churchill Archive
This archive holds more than a million Churchill documents previously only available at The Churchill Archive Centre on the campus of Churchill College, Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the largest collection of primary source material of any individual leader of the 20th century. A selection of documents and lesson plans is available for free, but complete access is only available to libraries and other institutions by paid subscription.
- Winston Churchill: Defender of Democracy
This website from the BBC gives a summary of Churchill during World War II, including how he exited political wilderness in the 1930s to become a statesman of international renown.
- Why Study Winston Churchill?
And what makes him relevant in the 21st century? Members of the Churchill family and the Churchill Centre answer these questions in this 2.5-minute video.
- Young Winston
This biography from 1972 examines Churchill’s early life. Narrated by Churchill, the film follows his school days and family life, his time as a soldier and war correspondent, and his first years as a member of Parliament.
- The Gathering Storm
This film covers roughly 1934 to 1939, as Hitler rose to power in Germany. Churchill was out of favor with both his fellow politicians and large segments of the public at the time, and his efforts to warn against Hitler and to urge greater rearmament in Britain fell on deaf ears. The movie compels viewers to speculate on why the world didn’t listen and suggests many reasons why.
- "Churchill and the Cabinet War Rooms"
This documentary offers an introduction to Churchill’s leadership during World War II. Archival film from the Imperial War Museum shows war-torn London, including firsthand accounts of life on the home front, and also gives a brief overview of some military campaigns. The footage showcases Churchill’s oratory and his meetings with Roosevelt and Stalin, too. This film is part of the three-part series The History Channel Presents: Winston Churchill.
- Sir Winston Churchill: The War Years
This unique film shares highlights from 10 of Churchill’s war speeches. The audience responses give a keen sense of the mood of the times. The film is augmented by newsreel footage.
- My Early Life, by Winston Churchill
At the age of 55, Churchill wrote a memoir of his early life, covering his birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament in the early 1900s. Modern historians have established that he took certain liberties with episodes in his autobiography, but none of this affects his tales of true-life adventure in Cuba, the Northwest Frontier of India, the Sudan, and South Africa.
- Churchill and His Woeful Wars by Alan MacDonald
This graphic novel is a good introduction to World War I and World War II, especially for younger readers who may not have been exposed to history or biography. Entries from Churchill’s fictional “lost diary” put complex events in words understandable to young readers.
- Winston Churchill by Fiona Reynoldson
This colorful and inventive biography includes excellent photographs, cartoons, maps, and posters. A timeline covers key players in Churchill's era; the book also includes an explanation of how the British government works, as well as a glossary and sources for further research.
- Winston Churchill by Kevin Theakston
This short, picture-filled biography of Churchill gives many perspectives on the man who would go on to change the world.