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Letters to Soldiers

Subjects:

Language Arts, Social Studies  

Grades:

7, 8, 9, 10  

Title – Letters to Soldiers
By – Kevin Dooley
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Secondary Subjects – Social Studies
Grade Level – 7-10 

Subject Matter:

In this thought-provoking lesson, students write letters to soldiers and apply critical thinking.

  • This lesson plan can be used for Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day .
  • Students will be writing a letter to soldiers, including autobiographical materia l, feelings, and thanks to soldiers.
  • This letter will be halfway between a formal letter and an informal letter. It will be friendly and semi-casual, but more information has to be included than, say, a letter to someone who knows who’s writing. Good for reviewing the difference between formal and informal language .
  • This lesson also applies critical thinking about the subject of war .

Procedure:

  • At the start of the class, students write about:
    • When is war ever good or justified?
      What reasons are there for war?
      If they were President, what circumstances would there be to declare war.
      Answers are put on a transparency and discussed. Voted on?
    • How does a President declare war? (Social Studies link)
    • What are the consequences of war?
      (Possible answers: death of soldiers, usually youth, on both sides, death of innocent civilians, cost)
    • How do they feel about the current war(s)? Why?
      I have asked students how many know someone overseas, and the hands have increased in recent semesters.
    • Students also give their opinions on:
      war movies – list them and give a theme, e.g. glory, bravery, heroism: do they glorify war?
      war video games – are they right?
    • (I struggle with having them draw a scene of war. I have shown them pictures of war – taking into consideration the grade level – and write about them.)
  • Then we discuss the letter they are going to write:
    • They will write it twice. A first draft and the final letter.
    • In the letter they will include:
      • Name and grade. (Age need not be mentioned.)
      • The date
      • School, location, and class
      • Sign the letter
      • They write their ideas or feelings about:
        • School,
        • TV/movies
        • Sports
        • Music
        • Thoughts about family or neighborhood
    • Ask the class what can we thank soldiers for or say to them:
      (Possible answers: for their service and what they’re doing: their sacrifice, the risk, the fact that they’re away from their family, hope they return safely, etc.)
    • No bad words!
    • Do not criticize the war in the letter! This is important. The theme of the letter is thanks, not politics.
  • Then, I show them a model of a letter I have written:

    Date, 2008

    Dear Soldier,

    My name is Mr. Dooley. I am a 7th and 8th grade teacher at Elizabeth Learning Center in Cudahy, California, which is about 10 miles south of downtown L.A.

    As a writing assignment, I’ve had my class write to soldiers to thank you and celebrate your bravery.

    I am 55 years old, married, have five kids, and six grandkids. Originally, I’m from New York. As a movie fan, I am looking forward to the new James Bond movie and “Star Trek” next year.

    As part of the United States armed forces, you have a big, important job. I know it must be difficult to be so far away from your family. Thank you for doing what you’re doing. We, as a nation, support you. Please take care of yourself and come home safe.

    Yours,

    Mr. Dooley
    English Teacher

Additional Comments and Suggestions:

  • Students cannot write to someone specifically; they should do that on their own.
  • Students will not hear back from the soldiers; the soldiers are rather busy.
  • Students don’t get the graphic until they have finished their draft and it is correct. They can decorate/color it.
  • I do tell the students I will read every letter to make sure it is appropriate.
  • Often I photocopy the letters and post them proudly on the classroom wall.
  • IMPORTANT: get your Principal’s and parents’ permission! As I teach in a 99% Latino/a school, I send a bilingual letter home. Some students have even sent letters in Spanish. A student who does not get permission can still write the letter, it just won’t be sent.

Lesson Follow-up:

  • This lesson usually takes two days.
  • At the end of it all, I have them write an essay called “A World of Peace”: how to bring about world peace, how to bring a world without any wars. Major discussion and listing of solutions. It’s essential, I think, to this lesson.

E-Mail Kevin Dooley !

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