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Lesson Plan

Love of War in Tim O'Brien's "How to Tell a True War Story"

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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
Lesson Author

Ellen Greenblatt

San Francisco, California


National Council of Teachers of English


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






“How to Tell a True War Story” in The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (1990)

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Persuasion Map

Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Persuasion Map

The Persuasion Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate.


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  • Arrange equipment to show either the full “Love of War” Vignette from the PBS documentary The Mystery of Love, or arrange to show the three excerpts from the “Love of War” Vignette, which are included on The Mystery of Love Website.

  • Provide copies of the short story “How to Tell a True War Story” by Tim O’Brien, which is included in The Things They Carried (Broadway Books, 1990).

  • Decide how students will create their collages: by pasting, writing, and drawing on a piece of poster paper or construction paper; or by arranging images using a graphics editor, such as PhotoShop, Paintshop Pro, or Picasa.

  • Based on the way students will create their collages, gather the relevant materials:

    • If students will make their collages with paper and glue, gather resources necessary to construct the visual argument collages. Typical materials include old newspapers and magazines that students can cut images from, poster paper, construction paper, markers, glue, and tape. If you have online access and a printer in the classroom, make copies of the U.S. War Images Websites for each student. If you do not have access in the classroom, you might print some of the images elsewhere and make copies for students to use in their collages.

    • If students will be making their collages using a graphics editor, review how to use the software yourself, and arrange for any documentation or cheat sheets that may be helpful to students. If you have Internet access and your school’s acceptable use policy allows, bookmark the list of U.S. War Images Websites for students to use as they work. If you have clip art or other resources available for students to use, gather these materials as well.

  • Make copies of the following handouts for each students (or overhead transparencies for them to view in class): Persuasion Map Planning Sheet, U.S. War Images Websites, Artist’s Journals, Visual Collage Peer Review Sheet, Peer Review Reflection Structure, Visual Collage Comments Sheet, Visual Collage Rubric, and Self-Reflection.

  • For additional ideas on discussing the “Love of War” Vignette, see the The Mystery of Love Teaching Guide, which includes suggestions for discussing the tone of the vignette as well as the overall impression of the military that the piece projects.

  • A note on word choice in this lesson: The vignette and many of the resources that you will see on soldiers in battle use the word brotherhood to describe the relationship among soldiers at war. This term does not include the women who fight alongside the men as soldiers and support staff. For this reason, this lesson plan uses the word camaraderie, an inclusive and gender-neutral word.

  • Test the Persuasion Map on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page. If computers are not available for students to use in Session Three, make a copy of the Persuasion Map Graphic Organizer for each student.

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