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Letters to Soldiers
Language Arts, Social Studies
9, 8, 7, 10
Title – Letters to Soldiers
By – Kevin Dooley
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Secondary Subjects – Social Studies
Grade Level – 7-10
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 .
- 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.)
- When is war ever good or justified?
- 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:
- 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:
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.
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.
- 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 !