Resistance Rising: Fighting the Shadow War against the Germans

Guiding Question:

What, if any, impact did the French Resistance have on the Allied invasion of France?


Using primary and secondary sources and interactive maps from the American Battle Monuments Commission, students will learn about the impact of the French Resistance on the battle for France and the overall outcome of the war. Students will critically analyze documents to learn about the ways in which the Resistance operated. Students will create a newspaper to inform the public and recruit potential members to the movement.


Historical Context

The French Resistance was a collection of French citizens who united against the German occupation. In addition to the German military, which controlled northern France, many French people objected to the Vichy government, the government of southern France led by World War I General Marshal Philipe Pétain. The Resistance played a vital role in the Allied advancement through France. With the aid of the men and women of the Resistance, the Allies gathered accurate intelligence on the Atlantic Wall, the deployment of German troops, and the capabilities of their enemy. Additionally, the Resistance assisted Allied POWs and downed airmen to escape from enemy controlled territory. The Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, worked closely with the Resistance to help pave the way for major Allied activities in the area. The OSS, which was the precursor to the CIA, conducted clandestine missions throughout Europe supplying weapons, training, and other war making materials to resistance fighters. The OSS also conducted direct attacks on German forces at key areas.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Describe the role the French Resistance had in the liberation of France;
  • Analyze primary documents; and
  • Create a Newspaper to help the Resistance recruit new members.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.His.3.9-12. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.
D2.His.4.9-12. Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
D2.His.14.9-12. Analyze multiple and complex causes and effects of events in the past.

Lesson Preparation


Activity One: Introducing the Resistance (90 minutes)

  • Group students into groups of four to complete station activities.
  • Distribute the Profile of the Resistance Handout to each student.
    • The teacher can either ask students to read on their own, in their group, or as a class.
  • Ask students:
    • Have you heard of the French Resistance before?
    • Does the French Resistance remind you of other groups in history?
    • Do you think that small groups like the Resistance can make a major impact in an occupied country, or are they just a nuisance to the occupying forces?
  • Introduce the station activities.
    • Teacher Tip: This lesson sets out four station possibilities, choose the stations that best meet the needs of your students. Based on class size, teachers may select to make larger student groups or duplicates of stations. Stations are designed to last 15-25 minutes each (adjust as needed to meet the needs of your students). It is understood that some students will struggle to accomplish these tasks in the time allotted.
  • Station One, Vocabulary: Students will define each term and draw a picture to help remember the word. Students will write a brief paragraph using the vocabulary to tie the terms together.
  • Station Two, Coded Messages: Teams will decipher a message, construct a response to it, and then recode it.
    • Teacher Tip: If desired, groups could leave a message for the next group to decipher. This activity could be timed for speed and accuracy.
  • Station Three, Primary Documents: Students will read selected primary accounts, respond to questions, and make predictions.
  • Station Four, World War II: A Visual History Interactive Timeline: Students will use the World War II Interactive Timeline from the ABMC to learn about the Normandy, Northern France, and Southern France campaigns.
  • Teacher will direct students to wrap up and synthesize material learned at each station.

Assessment Materials

Methods for Extension

  • Students could research key members of the Resistance and create presentations highlighting important information.
  • Students could research other resistance movements in World War II to compare and contrast their actions and impact.
  • Students could explore the counter-resistance actions taken by the Vichy French Government and German authorities.
  • Students can collaborate with lessons in English or French class to expand lessons learned and to investigate daily life in occupied France.


  • The stations can be done as a whole class with the teacher walking students through each step of the process.
  • For higher achieving classes, students can become an “expert” at one station. The teacher can then re-adjust the groups so that students can then teach their peers about the station they mastered.


Return to Activity

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Other Sources