Monday, October 5, 2015

Reader's Theater: Letters Home from Montanans at War

I'm incredibly proud of our latest lesson plan: Reader's Theater: Letters Home from Montanans at War (Designed for 7th-12th). 

This three-to-five period unit asks students to work in groups to read and interpret letters written by soldiers at war, from the Civil War to the Operation Iraqi Freedom. After engaging in close reading and conducting research to interpret the letters, they will perform the letters as reader’s theater.

Our crackerjack archivists carefully selected these amazing letters from soldiers. The lesson plan has students divided into 4 groups, each group taking a different war:

• Group 1 (Civil War and Philippine-American War: 4-5 students)
• Group 2 (World War I: 4-5 students)
• Group 3: (World War II: 4-5 students. Note: In this group, students will read more than one role)
• Group 4: (Korean War, Vietnam War, Operation Iraqi Freedom 4-5 students)

After working in their group to define slang and other unfamiliar terms, figure out pronunciation, suss out points of view and hidden emotions, the students will perform the letters--either to each other, to other classes, or to their community as part of a Veteran's Day event.

I find the letters both revealing and moving. Here's a teaser, an excerpt from a letter John Harrison wrote his father in 1945 from Belgium about his younger brother Bob Harrison, who had been declared Missing in Action: 

This is going to be pretty rough medicine for you old timer, but things being as they are I think we had better face the facts…. Bob is missing in action. There are things giving us hope and there are others that look bad.… 

Check out the Reader's Theater: Letters Home to learn the rest of Bob's story--and to read the other letters from Montana soldiers included in this lesson plan.

As always, if you use this lesson with your students, I'd LOVE to hear from you. What worked? What didn't? Do you want more reader's theater? Let me know at mkohl@mt.gov

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