Teaching about the Spartacist Uprising

Activities, Weimar Germany

The Spartacist Uprising occurred as Germany was reeling from the armistice and in the process of establishing a new form of Government. The Spartacist Uprising will be, for many pupils, the first time they have looked at the actions of a modern, politically extreme, group. These teaching resources about the Spartacist Uprising are designed to make the topic accessible and engaging.

This video includes footage taken at the time of the Spartacist Uprising.  That allows a sense of period and an element of context to be developed. The video has some clear text inserted which acts as an ideal introduction to the Uprising.

For a pupil friendly introductory narrative I will suggest two of my own pages – this post about the Spartacist Uprising gives a reasonable amount of detail for GCSE pupils whilst this page about Political turmoil, though originally aimed at AS pupils, ought to place the uprising within the wider context of revolts at the time.

For teaching resources there are sadly relatively few that I can say ‘this is fab’ to. Granted, the Uprising won’t take up too much curriculum time but I am a little surprised at how hard it has been to find things to point people at for this topic!

This powerpoint provides a good overview of events, includes some very useful images and has several pupil activities built into the last slide. However, the drawback is that it refers to some date cards which I’ve been unable to track down – though easily recreated.

If you are teaching the Spartacist Uprising and Kapp Putsch in the same lesson this sorting exercise would make for a good plenary activity.

Andy Walker has a useful revision exercise on his fabulous website. It’s a quick and easy recap tool that pupils will go away and use again. Could be posted on a VLE, or used as a recap reference point.

BBC Class Clips has a short video about the reasons for the uprising. As usual Class Clips offers a suggestion for using the clip in lessons – though this suggestion is one of the more obvious ones!

So not very much worth recommending – please comment if you know of a hidden gem out there!

If I was teaching this any time soon I think I’d want to veer away from textbooks, worksheets and powerpoints. The opportunity is there to provide pupils with a real grasp of the varied reasons for opposition to Weimar. To get them understanding how ordinary Germans, from all sorts of backgrounds, felt in the immediate aftermath of the war. Presenting pupils with characters, even if they have to be artificial ones, who can live through the uprising (and into subsequent issues, if you wanted to) helps to engage and promotes discussion, debate and understanding. One way of doing this, albeit for a different country, is Mick Long’s active learning exercise entitled ‘Should we support the Bolsheviks?’ Yes, it’s a different nation, yes, the circumstances and context is different but, crucially, the actual learning problem that needs addressing is the same: why did people support groups on the political extremes.

That type of activity, supported by narratives, video and other traditional methods would, in my mind at least, provide a much greater level of understanding.