Middle and High School (Grades 6-12)

Classroom Materials


Distribute a single index card labeled with one of the following vocabulary words to each student. Have the students write their own definitions of the word they have been given.  Collect the cards and sort them according to the word. Read and discuss the definitions generated by the students and then create a class definition of each. (Standard definitions from Webster’s online dictionary have been provided for reference.)

Civilian - one not on active duty in the armed services or not on a police or firefighting force
Citizenship - membership in a community
Civic Responsibility – responsibilities related to citizenship, or community affairs
Home front - the sphere of civilian activity in war
Patriotism - love for or devotion to one's country
Victory – success in a struggle against difficulties or an obstacle

Introductory Activity:

1) To ensure students have a foundation for understanding about life on the homefront during World War II, read aloud to the class Coming On Home Soon by Jaqueline Woodson. This is a beautifully illustrated book and touching story about a little girl whose father is away fighting the war and whose mother has to move away to work in one of the factories supporting the war industry.

2) After reading Coming On Home Soon the teacher will stimulate and assess prior knowledge about WWII home front activities by using the K-W- L (What I Know,
What I Want to know, What I have Learned) strategy as follows:

Prompt: What were people on the home front doing to contribute to the war effort during WWII?
Step 1 - As a class, discuss what students already know about the subject. Write students’ remarks on chart paper for later comparison with what has been learned in the final step.
Step 2 - On another piece of chart paper list all the students’ questions about civilian support at home during the war.
Step 3 - Distribute a copy of World War II on the Home Front: Civic Responsibility to the students for independent investigation.
Step 4 - After students have had ample time to explore the curriculum guide, students should be gathered in small groups to share and compare what they have learned regarding the questions generated in Step 2. A designated recorder for the group should write down what the group has learned. One person from each group reports back to class what they have learned and their findings are recorded on chart paper to be compared with their initial knowledge and questions.
Step 5 - After learning about some of the ways civilians helped the war effort; present the Background Information about V-Mail. As a class, consider how letter writing and the use of V-Mail in particular could be defined as an act of patriotism.

“The Post Office, War, and Navy Departments realize fully that frequent and rapid communication with parents, associates and other loved ones strengthens fortitude, enlivens patriotism, makes loneliness endurable, and inspires to even greater devotion in the men and women who are carrying on our fight far from home and friends.  We know that the good effect of expeditious mail service on those of us at home is immeasurable”
(Annual Report to the Postmaster General, 1942)

Refer to caption
Dole V-Mail print advertisement

Historical “Role Play” Letters:

Version 1:
Have the students imagine themselves as a young person living in the United States during WWII. Then, using the type-able V-Mail form, students will write a letter to a WWII service person telling the service person about the economic impact of the wartime industrial boom on life on the home front – giving specific examples including the role of women and changes in the American family structure and advances in technology (National Standards for History, grades 5-12) The V-Mail process could be explained as one of the many new technological developments.

Version 2:
Using the activity described in Version 1, assign or have students choose a city in the US and a date between 1942 and 1945 and report in their letter, specifically, about what is happening in their assigned or chosen city. Research could be done through the cities’ historical societies or National Archives website for Teachers and students. Ken Burns’s film and website feature the nature of daily life in Mobile, AL; Sacramento, CA; Waterbury, CN; and Luverne, MN during WWII.

Version 3:
Using the activity described in Version 1, have the students read one of the following books and write a letter from the perspective of one of the characters in the book.

Buchac, Joseph. Code Talkers: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two. New York: Dial Books. 2005.
After being taught in a boarding school run by whites that Navajo is a useless language, Ned Begay is recruited by the Marines to become a Code Talker, sending urgent messages during WWII in his native tongue. (Fiction) Grades 6-9

Elliott, Laura. Under a War-Torn SkyNew York: Hyperion Paperbacks. 2001.
Henry Forester is a 19 year old American pilot shot down over occupied France during WWII. Follow his dangerous journey through the channels of the French Resistance across war torn Europe and learn about life in the United States as he reflects the lives of  his family and friends at home. (Fiction) Grades 8-12

Giff, Patricia R. Lily’s Crossing. New York: Yearling Books. 1997.
Set during the summer of 1944 in a coastal town on the Atlantic Ocean, Lily’s best friend Margaret moves with her family to a wartime factory town, Lily befriends Albert, a Hungarian refugee who has lost most of his family in the war in Europe. Lily and Albert share secrets and lies - some that could be dangerous. (Fiction) Grades 6-12

Giff, Patricia R. Willow Run. New York: Random House Children’s Books. 2007
Meggie Dillon's life has been turned upside down by World War II. Meggie's father has announced that they must help the war effort and move to Willow Run, Michigan, where he'll work nights in a factory building planes that will help fight the enemy in Europe. (Fiction) Grades 6 - 9

Green, Bette. The Summer of My German Soldier. New York: Dial Press. 1973.
A 12 year old Jewish girl in Arkansas shelters an escaped German POW. (Fiction) Grades 6-9

Hahn, Mary D. Stepping on the Cracks. New York: Clarion Books. 1991.
In 1944, while her brother is fighting in WWII, 11 year old Margaret gets a new view of the class bully when she finds that he’s hiding his brother, an Army deserter. (Fiction) Grades 5-8

Klages, Ellen. The Green Glass Sea. New York: Viking Juvenile. 2006.
In 1943, 11 year old Dewey is being sent to join her father in New Mexico where she learns of his top secret project. (Fiction) Grades 6-9

Mazer, Harry. A Boy No More. New York: Simon & Schuster Publishers. 2006.
After his father is killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Adam, his mother, and sister are evacuated from Hawaii to California, where he must deal with his feelings about the war, Japanese internment camps, his father, and his own identity (Fiction) Grades 6-9

Zindel, Paul. The Gadget.  New York: Harper & Collins. 2001.
It is 1945 and Stephen has moved to the top-secret military base at Los Alamos, New Mexico, to join his father, a famous physicist, who is working on a project he is forbidden to discuss. Stephen is determined to find out the true nature of “the gadget.” (Fiction) Grades 6-9

Standards of Learning for Middle and High School Activities:

Washington, DC. Standards of Learning, Social Studies grade 10

  • Era VII: The Great Wars to 1945  - 10.9. Broad Concept: Students analyze the long-term military, economic, and political effects of WWII.

National Standards (National Center for History in the Schools)

  • Era 8, Standard 3C, grades 5-12 – The student understands the effects of WWII at home especially how the United States mobilized its economic and military resources, and indicates their knowledge of the impact of the industrial boom on employment especially of women and minorities.
  • Era 8, Standard 3C, grades 7-12 – The student can analyze the effects of  WWII at home specially on gender roles and the American family
  • Era 8, Standard 3C, grades 9-12 – The student can evaluate the war’s impact on science, medicine, technology

National Standards (National Council for Teachers of English)

  • NL-ENG.K-12.4 – Students adjust their use of spoken, written and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • NL-ENG.K-12.5 – Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.