Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 11.57.43 AM.pngFinding The "Story" in HistoryWe all witness history first hand. In fact. as the minutes tick by, you are witnessing it right now, although it probably isn't something people will read about in future history classes. Of course, some moments in history, like the one captured in the photo at the left, are much more spectacular than others. With the millions of individuals that experience these events first hand, it doesn't take a historian to realize there is so much more to learn about history than could ever be put in a text book. That is why historians turn to letters.

Nothing captures the humanistic "story" side of history like a first hand experience retold through a personal letter
. Imagine what the soldier in the foreground of the picture above would have to say about this battle at Iwo Jima in a letter to his wife and how different it would be from the other two soldiers accounts, not in factual details as much as emotional responses and observations. We can read about the battle at Iwo Jima, but if we could read this guy's account, we can almost live it.

Project Overview:After reading and responding to various WWII letters as primary documents, you will write your own individual war letters. You will write from the fictional of a person you create, but weave in accurate historical details to make the letter seem authentic. Once the letter is polished, you will then record a dramatic reading of the letter using primary images, narration, and appropriate music to tell the "story" via multimedia.

Step 1: Read Sample Letters

~~Kurt Vonnegut was an American author, most well known for his books Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five. He was a soldier in WWII and a prisoner of war, captured at the
130206090119-lost-love-letters-closeup-letter-horizontal-gallery.jpg Battle of the Bulge in December, 1944, and liberated by the Red Army in May, 1945. Shortly before returning home, he wrote this letter to his family about his experience. As you read the letter, find areas where he recalls factual, historical details and areas where he interjects his own voice and personal details that only someone experiencing this first hand would know.

~~For a more personal side of letter writing, read this recent article from CNN. What very personal historical details are described in the article?

Step 2: Draft Your Letter

Now that you have an idea about details these letters might include, the next step is to start brainstorming on a fictional war character of your own. Begin to think about who your person is by answering questions like: What is their family life like? Where did they grow up? Where are they serving? what is their position? etc. You might even want to browse some images like the one above and identify a person for your perspective. This will help put a face with your letter. You will also want to start listing some historical details to be included in your letter. These details should provide the reader with clues about what battle you are in, but not give it away blatantly. Hint to it with specific, historically accurate details.

As you draft, think about questions like:

  • To whom are you writing?
  • From where are you writing? A tent? A trench? A Cafe in Paris?
  • What is happening around you as you write?
  • What have you seen, heard, experienced recently?
  • What are some emotions you are having?
  • What questions might you have about life at home?
  • What's the worst/best part about being where you are?
  • What do you miss?
  • What are you expecting in the near future?
Remember these are all places to work with historical details: Refer to people, places, events, music, culture, activities that are relative to the WWII era. As you reflect, use details from the US as well as from your specific foreign location.

Step 3: Gather Images

Once your letter is written, you will gather authentic images to help add visual support to the details of your letter. Browse the sites above, or just do a Google Images search for WWII Photos photos from your specific battle or location. Make sure images are authentic and DO NOT use movie shots or modern day images. Collect and save at least ten images that connect with ideas, places, battles, etc. in your letter.
  • Two methods for saving images on an iPad:
    • Find image, tap and hold, save image
    • Take screenshot by pressing Home and Power buttons simultaneously, then crop out excess in PHOTOS app
  • High quality, full screen, high resolution images will work the best

Step 4: Create your Movie


WWII Letter Rubric.png
WWII Letter Rubric.png