K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Related pages

  • World War I - The impact of WWI on Mecklenburg County: This is a fun and engaging computer activity designed to help students understand how a war in Europe can effect a town in North Carolina. This lesson is part of a unit on World War I. This lesson may be used in a World History class or United States History class. It will deals with the creation of Camp Greene in Mecklenburg County and the impact the camp had on the inhabitants of Charlotte. The lesson will also focus on changes that occurred in Charlotte during WWI.
  • Outfitting a World War I soldier: Teaching US history with primary sources: What do soldiers wear? Students will say a uniform and mention boots. However, many of the necessities of soldiers are often overlooked by civilians whether the items be standard issue or personal.This lesson gives students the opportunity to not only look at William B. Umstead's artifacts from World War I, but gain insight into how and why each item was used.
  • Fugitive Slave Law simulation: Students face the critical issue of the Fugitive Slave Law that gave Southerners the right to regain their runaway slaves and return them to bondage. It is also considered by many to have contributed to growing sectionalism in the U.S. and eventually the Civil War. In order to take on the roles of historical actors, students will examine primary source documents from the Documenting the American South collection and critique arguments in favor and opposed to the law.

Related topics


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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • read and comprehend letters written by a World War I soldier serving in the United States Army.
  • read and comprehend biographical information concerning a soldier that fought in World War I.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

Two days

Materials needed

  • Copies of the Letters Back Home Guided Reading Activity — one per student
  • Pencils/pens

Technology resources


Letters back home guided reading activity
Students complete this handout while reading Paul Green’s letter to his sister.
Open as PDF (123 KB, 1 page)
Letters back home rubric
You may use this rubric with one of the student assessment options.
Open as PDF (83 KB, 1 page)


  • Students should have a firm foundation on the causes of World War I and some concepts concerning the type of fighting the men had to endure.
  • A good video to use to help prepare the students is The American Experience: The Great War – 1918 that is available through PBS.
  • Teachers can use The Great War Background and Video Questions to help the students understand the video.
  • Teachers should also be familiar with the Documenting the American South website and be able to navigate various layers of the site before teaching the lesson.


  1. Students will access the Documenting the American South website from a computer. Following Collections link, the students should click North Carolinians and the Great War. This is a large collection of primary documents that relate to North Carolina’s involvement in World War I. The collection can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom. The main emphasis of this lesson is to read a letter from Paul Green to his sister, Erma, back home in North Carolina.
  2. Next, the students should click Browse this Collection by Topic, which will take them to a portal from which they can access the material in the collection.
  3. The students should go to The Soldier’s Experience. A link to Paul Green can be found under Personal Narratives. Within the Full Text section, students can read transcripts of the letters that he wrote from the summer of 1917 to the summer of 1919 to various members of his family.
  4. Make sure that the students explore the life of Paul Green by going to Summary of this title and About Paul Eliot Green, 1894-1981.
  5. As the students explore this material have them write down five facts about Paul Green.
  6. Direct the students to the letter that Paul Green writes to his sister, Erma, on August 25, 1918 while he is in Belgium. This letter provides an excellent forum to discuss to emotional aspects of war.
  7. Students can used the Letters Back Home Guided Reading Activity to help them understand the letter.


This lesson provides teachers with many opportunities to assess student learning. Here are few suggestions:

  1. Teachers can check The Great War Background and Video Questions (if used) and the Letters Back Home Guided Reading Activity for accuracy.
  2. After completing the pre-activities and the activities associated with the lesson, the teacher can assess student learning by conducting a seminar on World War I.
  3. Students can compose their own letters back home. Their letters should reflect the things that they have learned about World War I from the activities in the lesson. Use the Letters Back Home Rubric to evaluate their letters.

Supplemental information

The Documenting the American South website can be very challenging for the average high school student to navigate. It is important for teachers to become very familiar with the site before attempting this lesson. This is a valuable resource with a wealth of information. The Paul Green letter is an easy way to use the site and to bring a primary document into North Carolina classrooms. Other websites on World War I that could be used in connection with the lesson are listed under the Related Pages section on the right hand side.


If a computer lab is not available at your school, a copy of the Paul Green’s letter can be downloaded and printed for classroom use.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • History/Social Studies

        • Grades 11-12
          • 11-12.LH.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.
        • Grades 9-10
          • 9-10.LH.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • United States History II

        • USH.H.1 Apply the four interconnected dimensions of historical thinking to the United States History Essential Standards in order to understand the creation and development of the United States over time. USH.H.1.1 Use Chronological thinking to: Identify the...
        • USH.H.7 Understand the impact of war on American politics, economics, society and culture. USH.H.7.1 Explain the impact of wars on American politics since Reconstruction (e.g., spheres of influence, isolationist practices, containment policies, first and second...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 11–12 — United States History

  • Goal 8: The Great War and Its Aftermath (1914-1930) - The learner will analyze United States involvement in World War I and the war's influence on international affairs during the 1920's.
    • Objective 8.03: Assess the political, economic, social, and cultural effects of the war on the United States and other nations.