Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulson

Targeted Area: Grade 5 Novel Integration in Social Studies

Estimated Time Frame: 2-3 Weeks

Jennifer Tjaden-Hawley Elementary School

Objectives: Using the book, Soldier’s Heart, students will develop an understanding that primary sources help to tell the stories of our past. The students will be able to use the primary sources of Christie Letters and first hand accounts of the First Minnesota Company K to understand what life was like for soldiers in the Civil War.  Students will learn the importance our state of Minnesota played in the Civil War.  Students will also learn the importance that written works have in our history and will have the chance to write in two forms: letter and diary. 

Standards:  Integration of Social Studies and Language Arts.

See complete list of standards included on additional sheet.

Previous to this lesson, students will have learned about slavery in the United States.  We also will have started to read about the Civil War using our 5th grade textbook.  In my classroom we will have a large number of picture book, which I will have had students explore during class before this lesson.  I am anticipating showing parts of America: The Story of Us as well so that students have an understanding of what war these soldiers are going to.  I intend to embed this in the middle of my unit and will also talk about Reconstruction and the impact.  The day before starting this unit, I will also use the online video website BrainPop to show Causes of the Civil War.

This unit incorporates First Minnesota Company K cards that are used at the Minnesota History Center by their history players.  I also chose to focus on writing skills and the importance of letters as primary sources to help us learn about history. An annotated bibliography has a list of sources to use with this lesson.  I’ve also included the standards in social studies and language arts for 5th grade.


Daily Plans

Day 1:  First Minnesota Company K Introduction…Civil War music playing (1st Minnesota website)


*Welcome students in as the Civil War Minnesotan….Charley Goddard (see First Minnesota Company K Card-read Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulson for more information)

1.  Read a bit from the Minnesota 150 Website/Book telling students a bit about your group that traveled to fight in the Civil War.  Show pictures so they can see.

Minnesota 150

Additional Websites on the First Minnesota Volunteers:

A Civil War Journal: Company K 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment

At Gettysburg July 1-4, 1863

A Winona County Historical Society Education Project

First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment

The First Regiment of Minnesota Volunteer Infantry

*I also found a book as I was completing this lesson plan that had first had letters back and forth from the US War Department that had correspondence with Governor Ramsey on this topic.  Minnesota and the Civil and Indian War. Pioneer Press.  St. Paul, MN. 1895.  I do not have the book at this point, but thought it would be great to evaluate some of the letters as well as a list of all the Minnesota Soldiers that served as volunteers in this war.

2.  Pass out First Minnesota Company K Cards from the MN Historical Society to each student. 

3.  Explain that these were the people who Charley went to war with and we will be learning about them through his experiences as we read Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulson.

4.  Each student needs to fill in the First Minnesota Company K Soldier Who Are you? Worksheet.

5.  When done, put information on tally sheets around room. This information will be used later.



Day 2: Introduction to Soldier’s Heart

1.  Review and share from previous day.  Ask some students to share a few   things about themselves.

2.   Introduction to Soldier’s Heart: YouTube Video: Soldier’s Heart.  (See Sources to get correct Website). Posted by an educator, this slideshow of photos and question will create an interest in reading the book. 

3. Read Forward & June 1866 p xiii-6

4.  Have students partner up to do Civil War First MN Company K Venn Diagram.  Share some things with the class.

5.  When they are finished, use one of the tally sheets from the day before to create a bar graph on the First Minnesota Company K graph sheet.

(Can partner up to do this project.)


Day 3:  Soldier’s Heart Chapters: Fort Snelling & Toward Manassas

1.  Review and share from previous day.  Ask some students to share a few things about themselves.

2. Using the First Minnesota Company K Travels Map, map from Winona to Ft.   Snelling.  Use the Fort Snelling Website to show the fort and discuss (5 minutes). Check out the MNHS website and pick and choose from pictures and descriptions.

3.               Read pages 7-20.  Continue to map where Charley has traveled.

4.               Charley uses slang terms like “crackers” on page 16.  Using the First Minnesota Company K Cards from the MN Historical Society, use the slang terms that are on the cards to complete the Civil War Slang worksheet.

Day 4:  Soldier’s Heart Chapters: Bull Run & Night

1.               Review and share from previous day.  Ask some students to share a few slang terms.   Could post these around the room too or for a hallway display.

2.               Read pages 21-39.

3.               Using the First Minnesota Company K Travels Map…map latest travels.

4.               Civil War Letters Lesson 1-Worksheet.  Focus area: teaching to use primary documents.  Go over and introduce, using Christie Family Letter Website.  Need Computers for Students.  You could partner them up or have them work alone.

Christie Letters:

       Civil War Letters from around the country:


Day 5: Continue Christie Letter Lesson. 

1.  Review and share from previous day.  Ask some students to share a few things about their letters that they found.

2. Work on Civil War Letters Lesson # 2

3.  Complete own letter home as the soldier from the MN First Company K cards. Complete the first draft on the workbook page.  For a more authentic looking letter, use tea bags to dye paper and have them write in cursive.

Day   6: Soldier’s Heart Chapters: Farming and Town Life

1.  Review and share from previous day.  Ask some students to read their letters.  Option to display or make a book with them.

2.               Read pages 40-70

3.               Map Travels.


4.               Battlefield Food Projects…. Create the food.  See if we can use the kitchen or prepare it ahead to just eat.  Pass out recipes. Use recipes from either Hands on Heritage: Civil War or Great Civil War Projects You Can Build Yourself.

5.               Optional games that are in the books as well.

Day 7: Soldier’s Heart Chapters: Winter and Gettysburg

1.               Read pages 71-96

2.               Map Travels.

3.               Writing a Diary Entry. Students will write a diary entry as if they were Charley.  Use the worksheet provided.

Day 8: Soldier’s Heart Chapters: June 1867 and Author’s Note

1.  Review and share from previous day.  Ask some students to share diary entries.

2.  Read pages 97-104

3. Discuss what might have happened after the Civil War for the soldiers involved.  See settlement sheets of your area. (Clay County had records of Hawley settlers who came after the Civil War).

*Since these lessons have never been taught, the days may be off as time allows for each activity.**As this book ends, continue on with the Civil War talking about other key people around the country.  I did not include a final test, but that can easily be included.  I also thought that some other research topics on the Civil War might be a great way to end this or bypass using a textbook to teach the Civil War basics.  ***Annotated Bibliography and MN Standards included with these lesson plans as well as PDFs of all worksheets & guides that I’ve created for this unit.

Questions? Contact Project Director Audrey Shafer-Erickson

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