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        The Importance of Letters to Soldiers at War | Letters Home to Hero Street

        Learn about the letters home to Hero Street from Frank Sandoval, a Mexican-American soldier in World War II.

        Frank Sandoval left his home in Silvis, Illinois to fight in World War II.  Over the course of his years away he wrote many letters back to his family.  In this lesson, students read some of Frank's letters and learn about the experience of fighting in World War II.  They also write letters to soldiers stationed overseas.

        Lesson Summary

        Students begin by discussing the importance of communication in their everyday lives. They then analyze primary source letters from a soldier who fought in World War II, focusing on the maker, date, place of origin, intended audience, and purpose of the document. While sharing their analysis within a group, students assess the importance of letters to soldiers serving overseas. After a teacher-led discussion of the letters, students learn about Operation Gratitude and compose letters to soldiers serving overseas today.

        Time Allotment

        50-75 minutes

        Learning Objectives

        1. Analyze historical sources to determine the maker, date, place of origin, intended audience, and purpose.
        2. Provide an accurate summary of two letters home from World War II veterans, providing details from the letters to support your summary.
        3. Describe the importance of letters to soldiers serving overseas.
        4. Compose and send a letter to a soldier serving overseas.

        Prep for Teachers

        Common Core and C3 Framework Standards

        • 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.
        • D2.His.11.9-12. Critique the usefulness of historical sources for a specific historical inquiry based on their maker, date, place of origin, intended audience, and purpose.
        • D4.8.9-12. Apply a range of deliberative and democratic strategies and procedures to make decisions and take action in their classrooms, schools, and out-of-school civic contexts

        Introductory Activity

        Begin by asking students if they have communicated with friends of family today by writing (text, social media comments, etc.)

        • Ask students to describe some of the interactions they have had via text, etc. today. Ask, “Is it important to communicate with friends and family regularly?” “Why?” “What would happen if you were suddenly far away from friends and family and were not able to communicate with them regularly?” “How would you feel about the lack of communication?”

        Now ask students to imagine they are a soldier at war in a far away place and unable to communicate regularly with your friends and family.

        • Ask, “How important would each communication be?” “What would you want to know about in your communication?” “What do you think your friends and family would want to know about your life?”
        • Today we are going to read some letters from a veteran of World War II to see what he wrote about to his family back home.

        Learning Activities

        Transition to the learning activity by projecting or writing learning objective one. Discuss the learning objective and clarify any questions students may have about the wording of the objective.

        Split the class into four groups. Give each group one of the four letters for this lesson (V-Mail Letter, Censored Letter, Camp Grant Letter, Fort Leonard Letter).  Also give each student a copy of the Primary Source Analysis Worksheet.

        • Go over the worksheet briefly, answering any questions the students may have.
        • Give students time to analyze their group's letter. Monitor progress.

        Now jigsaw the groups into groups of four in which each letter is represented. Tell groups to discuss their letter with their group members, emphasizing the summary of the key points and the details

        Tell the groups to now reflect on the question,

        • “Why were these letters important to this soldier?
        • What details in the letters reveal the importance of the letters?”

        Lead a discussion of all four letters, asking for key details from the letters that support the summaries. Emphasize the last question, “Why are letters important to soldiers?” Transition to the culminating activity by asking. “Do you think members of the United States military today would like to receive letters? Why or why not?”

        Culminating Activity

        Inform students that their final assessment for this lesson is to write a letter to a soldier stationed in Afghanistan.

        Ask students what they have learned from the World War II letters, and write out a bullet list of what they believe the soldiers would like to read about in their letter.

        • Give students a few minutes to write out their lists, then conduct a whole-class discussion and make a list on the board.

        Now hand out or project the Operation Gratitude Flier “WRITE A LETTER.” Give students a chance to read it over, or read it together.

        • Clarify any questions or concerns the students may have.
        • Give students time to compose their letters. This may also be a useful homework assignment.
        • Use word processors, if available, or allow students to write the letters in their own handwriting. Be careful that handwritten letters are legible.

        When students have finished their letters, collect all of them and send them to the address on the flyer.

        Contributor: Mark Foley, Ed.M | Urbana High School, Illinois

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