Sunday, November 6, 2011

Battle Lines: War Letters and Teaching American History

I love to blog with my students. I think it is a fantastic forum for homework, polls, idea sharing, and classwork management. Truthfully, unless there is a random October snowstorm that causes widespread week-long power outages, I think it is one of the best ways to communicate with students. I believe it is an important part of the future of teaching.

Being a blogging history teacher, I am constantly on the lookout for good online databases of primary sources. I recently discovered a new go-to source for war letters that spans American history, The Gilder Lehrman Institute: Battle Lines.

I intend to use this site for my unit on World War I. The letters from George Shisholm, Lawrence Hopkins, and Edward and Goldie Marcellus are featured from this conflict. They are digitized, read, and translated into typed text. They share stories from the WWI fighters home to loved ones. They are user friendly and perfect for high school history students.

I intend to direct my students to this site and have them analyze the three letters. I want them to study the letters for connections to course content, common themes, and interesting details. They will have to describe the letters, explain what they indicate about WWI from an American perspective, and write a fictional response to one of them from the perspective of the recipient. These responses will appear on our class blog so other students can read what their peers wrote.

I'm looking forward to using yet another great Gilder Lehrman tool with my classes. This site will be a perfect companion to last years War and Society themed TAH lessons and materials.

1 comment:

  1. Mary, thanks for your thoughtful introduction to another Gilder Lehrman site. In addition to having access to the letters themselves I love the multi-media aspects of the site - how powerful and what a great hook it is to hear the letters being read and to see the letters in the authors' original handwriting while also having that handy magic window tool for help deciphering the writing.