Standard Lesson

In the Style of Ernie Pyle: Reporting on World War II

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 60-minute sessions
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Enhance your students' study of World War II by encouraging them to write a report in the style of one of that era's great reporters, Ernie Pyle. Students first research Pyle's life and work before analyzing one of his columns. They then write their own work. They practice critical thinking and collaboration by working together to determine the strengths in Pyle's writing and using these criteria to peer review each other's work. By modeling their writing on an existing primary source, students learn about the time period and become more confident in their ability to write descriptively and effectively.

From Theory to Practice

  • In working with models and sources of information, students read, view, and listen to a wide range of media in their classes. In this lesson, students have the opportunity to both read and listen to quality examples of war reporting by the writer Ernie Pyle.

  • Local, national and international newspapers serve to show students differences in writing styles. They also see how significance, timeliness, and human interest play roles in determining what information they receive.

  • Today's reporters conduct searches on the Internet and evaluate the credibility of the information they get there, whether it's a federal database or a website. In this lesson, students do similar research.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access

  • "Over There" performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra

  • Index cards




1. This lesson should be taught as part of a unit on World War II and works best after students have studied the events leading to the United States' decision to enter the war and an investigation of specific battles. The lesson is designed to focus on depth over breadth with respect to the myriad of battles of the war. Instead of trying to cover every last detail of every single battle, students investigate one specific battle and relate this study to their larger understanding of the war.

2. Obtain either a CD that includes the Glenn Miller Orchestra playing "Over There" (it is included on Glenn Miller and the Army Air Force Band: Rare Broadcast Performances From 1943-1944, published by Delta Music, 1990) or purchase and download the song from an online music service (such as iTunes). Review the lyrics at Sheet Music Lyrics: Over There/George M. Cohan and print out copies for your students. Arrange to play the song during Session 1.

3. Visit and review Profile: Ernie Pyle and The Wartime Columns of Ernie Pyle. On the latter website, look at the samples of Pyle's war reports. Depending on the size of your class, you may want to choose three or four columns from which students will select one to read closely. A smaller selection of readings can make for a more focused discussion. Arrange to play one of the audio files from this website at the beginning of Session 2.

4. If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, reserve Sessions 1, 3 and 4 to take place in your school's computer lab.

5. Visit the websites listed in the Resources section. When deciding which ones your students will use, make sure that the information aligns with what your class has already studied about World War II. If possible, bookmark the websites you select on the computers students will use.

6. Make copies of the Ernie Pyle Response Sheet and the Instructions for Writing a War Report for each student in your class; make enough copies of the Guide for Close Reading so that groups of five or six students will each have one.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Gain knowledge about journalism during World War II by reading a biography of Ernie Pyle and some of his reportage

  • Demonstrate comprehension of what they read by describing the style of Ernie Pyle

  • Practice working collaboratively to interpret and assess a war correspondence report by listening to and reading war reports by Ernie Pyle and exploring the author's use of language and the impact of the writing on its readers

  • Apply what they have learned about Pyle's style to their own writing by researching a World War II battle of their choice and writing a report that reflects his style of writing

  • Evaluate their peers' writing using a list of criteria they develop as a class

Session 1: Introduction to Ernie Pyle and His Style

1. Write the following prompt on the board: Compare the mood of this song to what you imagine to be the reality of war. Distribute the lyrics and play the song "Over There" by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. (By providing both written and sung versions of the lyrics, you accommodate different learning styles.) Once the song is finished, instruct students to use the prompt to write for five minutes. Discuss students' responses briefly.

2. Ask students to brainstorm answers to the following question: During World War II, how did people "over here" find out about what transpired "over there"? Discuss and write answers on the board. It is likely that responses will include journalists, reporters, or the media. After the brainstorm, focus on these answers and transition to a discussion about Ernie Pyle. Explain briefly to students who he is.

3. Have students to access Profile: Ernie Pyle and read the short online biography. When they are finished reading, have students work in pairs to complete the Ernie Pyle Response Sheet.

4. When there is about 10 minutes left in the class, have students visit The Wartime Columns of Ernie Pyle. They will have just enough time to browse through the many columns this site has collected. Have students choose which article they will read, either from the entire list or from the columns you have selected (see Preparation, Step 3). Make sure that more than one student chooses each article. Students should tell you which article they will work on and should also print it.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 2): Students should read the article they have selected and write a short response that describes Ernie Pyle's style with respect to the piece they have read. Collect these responses at the beginning of Session 2.

Session 2: A Close Reading

Select one of the war reports that students did not read for homework; print off a copy for each student in your class.

1. Play the audio recording of the report you selected while students follow along with a copy of the text. Remind students to consider Ernie Pyle's style as they listen and follow along. When the audio ends, ask students to compare the tone of the war report with the tone of the song "Over There." (You may want to play the song again.)

2. Use the report you have selected to model for students how to complete a close reading. Reread the piece, highlighting specific words or phrases that describe the scene. Help students identify and differentiate between emotional and factual language. For example, in the essay titled "The God-Damned Infantry," emotional language includes:

  • "[The mountains] are easy to defend and bitter to take. But we are taking them"

  • "I love the infantry because they are underdogs."

  • "There is agony in your heart and you feel almost ashamed to look at them."

Factual language includes:

  • "This northern warfare has been in the mountains."

  • "Our troops have found that the Germans build foxholes down and then under..."

  • "The men are walking. They are fifty feet apart for dispersal."

  • "On their shoulders and backs they carry heavy steel tripods, machine gun barrels, leaden boxes of ammunition."
3. Ask students to consider whether the report demonstrates a humanization of the war by offering insight into the experience of the individual people involved. Have them share examples. In "The God-Damned Infantry" examples might include vivid descriptions of the soldiers' appearances such as "Their faces are black and unshaven. They are young men, but the grime and whiskers and exhaustion make them look middle-aged."

4. Have students assess the effectiveness of the column by considering the following questions: What do you think Pyle's writing did for the soldiers? What do you think his writing did for the war effort?

5. Have students get into groups according to the war report they read for homework. Give each group a copy of the Guide for Close Reading. Ask them to perform a close reading of the piece, using the same strategy you just modeled, and filling in the handout as they work.

6. Have each group share their findings, encouraging a whole-class discussion as they do so. Your goal is to have students make a list of the characteristics of an effective war report. Students will use this list to guide and evaluate their own writing later in the lesson.

Note: Before Session 4, you should create a peer review sheet for students to use that incorporates the elements from the list they created in Step 6. View the Sample Characteristics of an Effective War Report for ideas.

Session 3: Choose and Research a Battle

1. Distribute the Instructions for Writing a War Report and review with students, answering any questions they may have.

2. Students should use their notes and textbook to select a World War II battle to write about in the style of Ernie Pyle.

3. Walk students quickly through the websites you have bookmarked for their research (see Preparation, Step 5). Students should use these sites and their textbook to research the battle they have selected, recording factual details they would like to use in their reports. They can also record the impressions of people who were present at the battle to help them include realistic details in their reports.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 4): Students should finish the research for their reports.

Session 4: Become the Journalist/Peer Review

1. Place index cards on students' desks before their arrival. When they come into class, instruct them to write one thing that makes Ernie Pyle's reports interesting. Students should then tape their cards to a large sheet of paper in the front of the room. They can use this "collection of strengths" as a guide when they write.

2. The majority of the class period will be spent writing. Encourage students to use their imagination and some of the online examples of first-person stories to add a human element to their piece. You should check in with students individually as they work.

3. If possible, all reports should be typed and printed by the end of this session. Each student should print two copies and should write his or her name on only one of the copies. If students do not have time to finish their reports, have them complete them as homework.

Once you have collected students' reports, facilitate an anonymous exchange of their written work. Each student should read a peer's work and use the peer review sheet that you prepared after Session 2 to evaluate what they read. They should then write a brief review of their peers' work, highlighting both strengths and weaknesses in the writing. Each student should turn in a signed and an unsigned copy of his or her peer review to you; you can hand back the unsigned copies along with the reports.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 5): Students should review the peer evaluations of their work and incorporate the evaluations into the writing of a second draft of their war report.


Session 5: Sharing Work

1. Ask students to review their revised drafts and to select what they recognize as the best part of their own writing. Ask for volunteers to read their selections.

2. Instruct students to listen and take notes on significant information about battles that they learn as their classmates read. They should also document when they have an emotional reaction to something documented in their classmates' war reports.

3. In closing, conduct a whole-class discussion where students talk about what they learned and their reactions to the work of their peers.


  • Have students use the Compare and Contrast Map to compare the journalistic style and purpose of Ernie Pyle with that of contemporary war reporters. An interesting overview of the complex situation facing war reporters today can be found on the BBC news website "War Reporters Face New Challenges."

  • Have students read and analyze a series of Iraq war columns by visiting a weekly newspaper's website.

  • Have students search news sources like CNN and ABC News to investigate the amount of news coverage allotted to topics like war and soldiers. Ask students to imagine what Ernie Pyle would think about contemporary news coverage of war.

Student Assessment / Reflections


  • Collect the Ernie Pyle Response Sheets in Session 1 and review students’ initial ideas about the style of Ernie Pyle. Make sure that students are aware of the way in which Pyle humanized the war by reporting about the soldiers themselves.

  • Observe students’ participation in group work during Session 2. Collect their completed Guide for Close Reading sheets to see that students can identify the difference between emotional and factual language.

  • Use the Instructions for Writing a War Report and the class-generated peer review sheet to evaluate students’ final war reports. Look also at their completed peer review sheets. Make sure that students understand what is effective in both Pyle’s writing and in each other’s work.


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