English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Short Stories
  • Vietnam War
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial




    In this lesson, to help students understand the next short story, they will learn about the Vietnam War. Students will watch videos about the Vietnam War, conduct some research, and make a short presentation.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • After you watch the videos, decide if you will pause for note taking, show them twice, or make other modifications during class.
    • If you are unable to show videos, provide other sources of information about general background and combat.
    • Decide how your students will conduct research on the Vietnam War if Internet connectivity is not available in your classroom. You might choose to hold class in the school library or provide a selection of sources for your students.
    • Plan small groups for the research and presentation activities.
    • Determine how you will help students select Independent Readings appropriate to their reading level. You could ask students to submit their selection to you, then conference with those whose first choice may not be appropriate.
    • Facilitate the accessibility of Independent Reading books and help students get the book they need.
    • Decide how often students should submit their Independent Reading Journals to you and whether you will check the journals before they are due in Lesson 28.

    Vietnam Videos and Images

    • ELL: Students may have varying levels of prior knowledge about the Vietnam War, depending on their country/culture of origin and personal connection to those involved in the conflict. Before starting the videos, ask students what they already know about the Vietnam War (for example, do they know it was never an actual declared war? Where is Vietnam? When did the conflict happen? Why were Americans involved?). Provide an overview as necessary so that the videos will be more meaningful.
    • Students are learning background on the 1960s and the Vietnam War era to better understand the short story “The Things They Carried” later in this episode.
    • Lead the students through viewings of the videos. Encourage them to generate questions that they may use for continuing research. You might want to make a class list of questions for research.
    • These videos, particularly the Raymond Torres video (“A Soldier's Story”) can be difficult for students to watch.
    • Many students are visual learners, and might be interested in viewing the videos again. Also, students who are particularly affected by the realities of the Vietnam War (or any other war) may need to view the videos again to get past their emotional response to the videos and pull out the facts.
    • When students are looking at photographs and images, encourage them to find pictures of soldiers on the battlefields, in uniform, and carrying their equipment.


    Watch the videos about the Vietnam War.

    When you have finished viewing the videos, look at images about the Vietnam conflict.

    • As you watch the videos and explore the images, make a note of any questions you might want to explore when you undertake research later in the lesson.

    Open Notebook

    Written Reflection on Vietnam

    • Give students a few minutes to respond.

    Work Time

    Respond to the following questions.

    • After watching these videos, how do you feel?
    • How do these images and videos compare with news reports of current wars?

    Open Notebook

    Vietnam War Investigation

    • Project or display the student instructions for easier viewing.
    • Gauge the amount of time needed for this task based on your class's needs.
    • Review the roles students will take once they are in their groups: recorder, manager, questioner, and researcher. If necessary, guide them in assigning roles.
    • Circulate among the groups to check for understanding and on-task behavior.
    • Encourage students to look beyond the easy answers or the obvious information about the war and the time period.
    • Remind students that citing their sources —and using reliable sources—is not only important, but is a skill that requires practice. Emphasize assessment of sources for quality.
    • Provide written examples of correct citation formats that you will accept, so students can use your model for their work.
    • ELL: Review how to assess the quality of different sources, and provide specific guidelines for sources.

    Work Time

    Join the groups your teacher assigns. Do some quick research on the Vietnam War to help you understand the text you’ll read in the next lesson.

    • Share the questions you wrote down while watching the videos.
    • As a group, choose one or two questions about the Vietnam War that you would like to know more about.
    • Assign a role to each member of the group: the recorder takes notes, themanager keeps the group on track, thequestioner tracks group questions, and theresearcher finds and verifies the reliability of sources.
    • Working in your group, complete the following:
      • Find one reliable source of information about American history.
      • Identify important information about America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, focusing on answers to the question(s) your group chose.
      • Cite your source and identify major points to share with the class. Include how you knew that your source was reliable.

    Open Notebook

    You will be sharing your major findings with the class in a presentation of no more than 2 minutes. Decide how your group will share its findings.

    Vietnam War Presentations

    • It is fine to repeat pieces of information. This can help students realize what points are important. The purpose of this quick immersion in history is to give the students at least a general sense of what was happening in the country at the time that the short story “The Things They Carried” is set.
    • Hold each group to the 2-minute timeline.
    • ELL: Be aware of your students’ inclinations; for some of these students, presenting in front of the class is far easier than writing, while for others, it can be very intimidating. Encourage students to challenge themselves in a way that feels safe.

    Work Time

    Present your findings and listen to the other presentations, keeping the following instructions in mind.

    • When it is your group’s turn to share, begin by informing the class about the questions that interested you most.
    • Remember to present information, findings, and supporting evidence in a way that allows listeners to follow the line of reasoning and organization.
    • As other groups share, be sure to write down any new information about the war or the era.

    Independent Reading Selection

    • When meeting with students, determine how many pages they need to read each night to finish their book by Lesson 28
    • If your students are reading individual short stories instead of a collection, make sure the volume of reading is equivalent to a book.
    • Show students how to use the Independent Reading Journal.


    Make sure the reading chosen by the student is not too far beyond the reading level of that student. A bit beyond is fine, though know that the student might need some extra scaffolding and help in that case. Too far beyond the student's reading level, however, will result in frustration for the student. If a student wants to read a text a bit below her or his reading level, that is fine as well, though you need to ensure that the student does not make a habit of this, or that students choose books that are significantly below their reading level. To increase reading skill, students need to work with text that is on grade level to slightly above level.


    • Review the list, which includes several books and short stories about war and its effects.
    • Choose a text that interests you. If you decide to read individual stories instead of a compilation, choose several.
    • Follow your teacher’s instructions to decide whether your selection is a good fit for you.
    • Review the Sample Independent Reading Journal and create an Independent Reading Journal in your notebook.
    • As you work through this unit, you will read the work you have chosen on your own and fill out the Independent Reading Journal as you go. You will be submitting this to your teacher.

    Reading and Reflection

    • Let students know how you would like them to submit their journal writing, and how often. The final journals are not due until Lesson 28, but you may want to add other check-in points.
    • If students' books aren't available yet, they can begin reading when they have their chosen book. As much as possible, facilitate students' access to the Independent Reading texts.
    • SWD: If you modify expectations and requirements for some students with disabilities, be sure that they know what they are responsible for before working independently from home.


    If your book is available to you, begin reading the title you have chosen and make your first entry in your Independent Reading journal.

    • Let your teacher know if your reading is too difficult or too easy.

    Your Independent Reading Journal will be due in Lesson 28.