After viewing the short film Letters Home to Hero Street, students are placed in groups to analyze memorials, including the memorial that was created to honor the soldiers in Silvis, Illinois. After determining the elements of an effective memorial, and assessing the effectiveness of the Silvis memorial, students are tasked to created a memorial for a World War II Mexican-American Medal of Honor recipient. Their work begins with research into the requirements for the Medal of Honor, and then includes the background story of their assigned recipient. After completing their research, students design an appropriate memorial for their recipient. After presenting their design to the class, students write letters to the president requesting the creation of a national memorial honoring the contributions of Mexican-American soldiers in World War II.
2-3 class periods
- Analyze several public memorials to identify key elements that are used in the creation of memorials for war veterans.
- Assess the overall effectiveness of the Hero Street Monument in Silvis, Illinois.
- Explain the requirements for a soldier to become a Medal of Honor recipient. (Formative assessment)
- Design a memorial for a Mexican-American Medal of Honor Recipient from World War II.
- Compose a persuasive letter to the president of the United States requesting the creation of a national memorial for Mexican-American soldiers who fought in World War II.
Prep for Teachers
This lesson may require a lot of copies. Teachers with limited copy budgets may choose to project images, use the Internet for research, and use scratch paper for thumbnail sketches and designs. For teachers with copies:
- Make copies of the images of famous memorials (may be projected)
- Make copies of the Hero Street Monument Analysis Assignment (may be projected)
- Make copies of the Design a Memorial Project Overview
- Make copies of the Medal of Honor Requirements Formative Assessment
- Make copies of the “Thumbnail Sketches,” “Final Design,” and “Plaque” pages for each group.
Students can use blank paper in place of these assignments if copies are limited. Prepare copies of the Write a Letter to the President Assignment
Common Core State Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
Project images of each 3-5 particularly effective public memorials. Examples are included with this lesson plan, but it may be helpful to include one or more local memorials. Alternatively, a short field trip to a memorial at your school or in the community may be helpful for this step.
Ask students to respond to each memorial by using Visual Thinking Strategies.
- Ask students, “What is happening in this picture?”
- Ask students, “What details do you see to support your claim about what is happening in this picture?”
- Finally, “Is this memorial effective? Why or why not? Be specific.”
Lead the students through the images, helping them to draw out specific details that make a memorial effective.
Summarize the general criteria for an effective memorial on the board. Possible answers could include:
- Memorials catch the attention of people from a distance.
- Memorials are impressive in either their size or their design.
- Up close, memorials give details about what is being memorialized.
- Memorials bring people together. Memorials are often “over sized” or larger than life.
Once students have a good grasp of what makes a memorial effective, hand out the Hero Street Monument Analysis Assignment. Give students time to look at the photos and assess this monument. Have students share their answers in an open discussion. Lead students through the discussion by asking:
- “What is effective about this memorial?” “What is ineffective?” “How could this be better?” “What do you think of this memorial, overall?”
Place students into mixed-ability groups and hand out the instructions for the “Designing a Memorial” project. Talk through each of the steps with the students. Clarify any confusion, and answer any questions. Give students time to read through “Requirements for a Medal of Honor Formative Assessment”
- Students should work together and discuss the somewhat difficult language of this document.
- Have students complete the formative assessment box at the bottom of the document.
If this is a traditional class period of about 50 minutes, time will be about up for the day. Students can turn in their formative assessment as they walk out the door. If this is a block-scheduled classroom, students should turn in their formatives before moving to the next step.
Students can now begin researching their soldier’s story. Assign one of the soldiers to each group and tell students to begin their research. Research can be conducted in one of two ways:
- Students may use the Internet and navigate to the Congressional Medal of Honor website (http://www.cmohs.org), where they will find their soldier under the “Recipients” page, or they can use the handouts that are included with this lesson.
After reading through their soldier’s story, students should make four thumbnail sketches of their monument and then choose the sketch that they want to turn into a design. They should also write up the text for a plaque that will accompany their monument. The plaque will tell their soldier’s story and clearly explain why the soldier deserves this memorial.
Give students time to work together on the assignment. Monitor progress.
Once students have completed their design and their plaque, it is time for the class to share their work. This can be done in several way: If a document projector is available for use, students may come in front of the class and project their design and text while talking through their process. Students might set up stations around the room to display their design and text, with half the class visiting stations while the other presents, and then vice-versa. Students could simply come before the class without the document projector and explain their work.
Once all groups have had a chance to explain their projects, collect the designs and transition to the culminating activity.
Students will now compose a letter to the President of the United States requesting the creation of a national monument to honor Mexican-American veterans of World War II.
Hand out the instructions for writing a letter to the president. Go over the key steps in writing the letter. Model the first paragraph in a “think aloud” for the students, if necessary. Explain the rubric that will be used to grade their letter. Give students time to compose their letters. They may work with another student to get information about one or more medal of honor winners, if necessary, but each student should be responsible for her own letter.
When letters are completed students can share their letters with the class if they so choose.
Collect the letters and send them to the White House. You should receive a response within a couple of months, which can be shared with the class. Alternatively, if resources are available, students could send their letters individually and could then expect a letter in return from the White House within a couple of months.