Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan:
The War in Vietnam -
A Story in Photographs
This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
- Era 9 -Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
- Standard 2C -Demonstrate understanding of the foreign and domestic consequences of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard IV.B.1. -Explain the principal foreign policy positions of the United States and evaluate their consequences.
This lesson relates to Article I, Section 8, which grants Congress powers to raise and support armies and make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.
Share this lesson with your history, language arts, and journalism colleagues.
- Make a transparency or distribute copies of Document 1 (Marines
riding on an M-48 tank). Ask the students to study the photograph for 2 minutes.
Then ask them to create a chart listing the people, objects, and actions in the
photograph. Ask students to share with the class what they saw in the photograph.
Direct students to answer the following questions:
- What can you infer from the photograph?
- What questions does this photograph raise in your mind?
- Where might you be able to find answers to your questions?
- How might you categorize this photograph? (Try to lead students to a category/topic they would be able to research relating to the war in Vietnam, such as battle tactics, weapons, tanks, or jungle warfare.)
- Create a caption for the photograph.
- Divide students into small groups and distribute one of the featured photographs
to each group. The photographs can be printed from the digitized image, or they
can be downloaded onto a disk and each group can work from the image on their
computers. If your classroom has the advantage of the Internet, students can
locate their photograph through the National Archives Catalog by using the control number listed below for the assigned photograph.
Ask each group to analyze their photograph as they did in Activity 1. Each group
should categorize the photograph as a topic that will be easy to research and
generate 2 to 3 questions from the photograph. Topics might include land warfare,
air warfare, Marines in Vietnam, and roles of women serving in Vietnam.
Research and Present
- Using the questions generated from the photograph and the category they defined in Activity 2, instruct groups to conduct research in order to answer their questions and obtain information about the war in Vietnam relating to their category. Next, ask each group to create a presentation about their photograph and general topic. The format for each presentation should include a display of the photograph, an overview of the research they completed on their topic, and a reading of a caption they created for their photograph that was based on their research. Encourage students to be creative! Following the presentations, lead a class discussion on the foreign and domestic consequences of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
- Direct students to take on the role of an exhibit curator who has selected
these photographs to create an exhibit that will help people understand the foreign
and domestic consequences of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Direct student groups
to write an exhibit script (story) that incorporates all of the photographs.
Students may then share their scripts and discuss how their exhibits compare
- As an independent writing activity, ask students to write a review of one of the other group's exhibits.
The documents included in this project are from Record Group 127, Records of the United States Marine Corps; Record Group 111, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer; and Record Group 428, General Records of the Department of the Navy. They are available online through the National Archives Catalog National Archives Identifiers:
You can perform a keyword, digitized image and location search in the National Archives Catalog. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.
The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the online catalog to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.
Currently, about 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the online catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the online catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the online catalog will grow continually.
This article was written by Linda Darus Clark, a teacher at Padua Franciscan High School in Parma, Ohio.