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Love of War in Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story”
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Unit|
|Estimated Time||Six 50-minute sessions|
San Francisco, California
Love and war may seem like opposites at first; but they hold a complex relationship, especially for those individuals who are involved directly in the events occurring at a time of war. In this unit, students explore this relationship by examining texts on camaraderie among soldiers. After viewing a video on the topic and reading the short story "How to Tell a True War Story" by Tim O'Brien, students use freewriting as a means to develop a thesis statement stating their belief on the relationship between love and war. They then compose a visual collage depicting those beliefs.
This lesson was developed as a companion for The Mystery of Love a PBS documentary featured in the lesson. For additional information on the documentary and those who made it possible see The Mystery of Love Website.
Love's Shadow: This section of The Mystery of Love Website explores the relationship between love and war.
Artist's Journals: This handout guides students in keeping an explanatory journal to accompany their collage.
In reference to a unit on the Vietnam War, Larry R. Johannessen explains the reasons that nonfiction texts offer strong options for the secondary classroom:
After years of teaching the nonfiction of the Vietnam War, it is my students who continually remind me of a simple truth about this literature, and indeed all literature, if it is worth studying: it is the people, the characters, or the human beings, that hold their interest, fascinate them, and evoke their empathy, and it is through the characters that they come to understand some truths about the Vietnam War.
This lesson focuses on just such human beings, exploring the emotions that inspire them in the many situations they face in warfare. Because it captures the moments that move beyond general aphorisms about war, this lesson challenges students to "understand some truths about . . . war," including the ways that love for one another emerges when people face the battlefield together.
Johannessen, Larry R. "When History Talks Back: Teaching Nonfiction Literature of the Vietnam War." English Journal 91.4 (March 2002): 39-47.