D-Day! The first group of my English classes is ready to begin. Last week I showed them a short PowerPoint Presentation on working with primary sources. It included slides of an actual letter and the students were surprised by the handwriting. We read it aloud and discussed the conventions of early 20th century social correspondence such as beginning each letter with date and place, referring to recently received letters, etc. I think the email, texting generation found the idea rather antiquated.
We met in the library today where we were able to spread out on the large tables and also have access to the computers around the room. It was an ideal space. Fortunately, I had taken the time to make a listing of all the letters with a few notations: File Number, Handwritten or Typed, Number of Pages. I decided to initially assign one letter to each student, and selected shorter pieces that I hoped would not be overly difficult.
When they opened the files on the computer screen I could hear the sighs. The girls were looking at another language, one they could not begin to decipher. I raced from student to student throughout the 50-minute period, deciptering words, making suggestions, coaching guesses. By the end of the class, they seemed to have caught on but I was exhausted.