- 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.
Time required for lesson
- Copies of the Letters Back Home Guided Reading Activity — one per student
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- As the students explore this material have them write down five facts about Paul Green.
- 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.
- 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:
- Teachers can check The Great War Background and Video Questions (if used) and the Letters Back Home Guided Reading Activity for accuracy.
- 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.
- 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.
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.