Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

The Things They Carried

Vietnam Era

Susan McHale, Lindsey Link, Tanner Lusher, Michelle Grogan | Published: July 12th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 11th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 150 minutes
  • Duration More 3 class periods


Students will compare the readings from the novel, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, with textbook information about the Vietnam War using an H Chart. During this unit, students will choose and research a name from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and find out about a soldier's life and military service. Upon completing the research, the students will make a short video or poster to honor the soldier and share their research through video presentations to the class. Students will connect what they learned about the Vietnam era and a real Vietnam veteran with what they read in The Things They Carried.

Essential Question(s)

How does war impact people?  How did the Vietnam War impact soldiers?



Students brainstorm what might be essential items for soldiers to carry into war.


Students read two different texts about Vietnam and in pairs complete an H Chart Synthesis Activity


Student pairs synthesize the information with the question: How do these two readings give you a view of and a viewpoint about the Vietnam War?


Students will choose a fallen soldier from the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. They will research and create a memorial video of the vet.


The H Chart response essay and the video of the Vietnam Vet will serve as assessments.


  • Internet and computer access for students

  • Excerpts from The Things They Carried (provided)

  • Access to the textbook or websites about Vietnam. Websites are provided with an Internet Resource List.

  • H Chart Graphic Organizer for all students (provided)

  • iPads or cameras with video capabilities--enough for sharing in a classroom.

  • Rubric for memorial presentation


Students brainstorm a list of 5 items that they would "carry" in a backpack if they had to pack for a trip where they knew they would not return for an extended time. With a neighbor, the student compares his or her list and discusses why they chose certain items. Discuss as a class what items might be "essential".

The teacher introduces the idea of soldiers going to war and ask student pairs to brainstorm what might be essential items for soldiers to carry. Student pairs share their lists through a class discussion, reasoning what might be important or essential items.


H Chart Activity: All students receive an H Chart graphic organizer. the teacher chooses students to work in pairs. Using their textbook, the student pairs create a list of important events, ideas, places or information about the Vietnam War. This list is written in the first "leg" of the H Chart. If not using the textbook, pass out or post the resource list of websites about Vietnam.

Students receive selected passages from "The Things They Carried". There is an excerpt handout provided. Student pairs write the important ideas about the reading in the second "leg" of the H Chart.


The class discusses the legs of the chart, explaining why they chose the main points that they did. Discuss how the two pieces of text differ or are similar.

Student pairs work together to write bullet points in the center of the H chart of how the readings together contribute to a more in-depth understanding of Vietnam. The students should answer the following question: How do these two readings give you a view of the Vietnam War (what it was like) and a viewpoint about the Vietnam War (how the war impacted people).

H Charts can be discussed and shared with the class or once completed, turned in as a daily assignment.


Remembering the Fallen—Pass out the internet resource list and the rubric for the video presentation. Go over expectations for the memorial video. Students in groups of 2 or individually find a Vietnam War soldier who was killed or declared missing in action during the Vietnam War from the suggested websites provided. Students will create a short respectful video using the rubric as a guide for memorializing the fallen soldier.


Student video presentations are presented and assessed according to the rubric. The H Chart can also be an assessment for this lesson.