Implementation of ‘Letters and postcards from war times’ (SOI-ES-52)

Primary students are not used to writing letters or postcards. Nowadays, they communicate in the distance by means of videoconference or text messaging on mobile phones.

The context for the implementation

Without talking deeply about World War I, we can transmit to students the European Cultural Heritage. How? By making them reflect on how people could communicate in the past before the inventions of mobiles or computers.

I teach English in Primary Education. Making the students competent to listen, read, speak and write about the past is one of the aims in the Third Cycle of Primary Education.  Within the English as a Second Language curriculum, we can find different types of texts the children have to use. One of these types of texts is the letter. That’s why learning the language skills about the past and the use of letters fit our lesson perfectly well.

Implementing the Learning Scenario

I have adapted Schembri’s scenario to my 6 years-old students, and we have chosen two letters.

They arrived at the conclusion that they are handwritten, and that they follow a structure or pattern. The students realized that the internet was not yet invented. Then, in groups of 5, they discussed what means of communication could exist at that time. We brainstormed and the results were: telephone (not mobile), radio (like in films) birds (doves), letters or telegrams (Morse code) I explained that these soldiers were probably in headquarters or trenches. Therefore, the most popular means of communication was the letter.

An immersion in European History

I gave out photocopies of the letters and they were searching for verbs in the past simple (regular and irregular) They also coloured the different parts of the letter: heading, date, address information, greeting, body, closing, signature and PS. They also identified the missing parts.

They also thought about the reasons to write a letter: to be in touch with their loved ones, avoid loneliness, inform their families about war, inform their families about their health.

The final product is creating a story about a soldier or a nurse in the WWI who writes a letter to his/her family and talk about things in the past. The students will present their works to the rest of the class.

Some applications can be used in order to create the story or the comic strip: Canva, Pixton or Strip Generator. We can also make stories on Storybird.


This Learning Scenario helps students to understand the concept of communication in the past. They also reflect on the importance of new inventions and technology. Children become aware of European History in a meaningful way.

Pictures of implementation

Students learning about European History by reading a letter found on Europeana portal
Figure 1 – Students during implementation. CC-BY-SA Carmen Moreno
Students learning about European History by reading a letter found on Europeana portal
Figure 2 – Students during implementation. CC-BY-SA Carmen Moreno

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Letters and postcards from war times created by Heathcliff

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CC BY-SA 3.0 – The featured image used to illustrate this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution. It can be found in the Europeana 1914-1918 collection. The original image has been resized and labelled to illustrate this article. 

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