Skip to contentContribute to ReadWriteThink / RSS / FAQs / Site Demonstrations / Contact Us / About Us

 

 

Contribute to ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.

More

 

Professional Development

Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.

More

 

Reading & Language Arts Community

Did You Know?

Your students can save their work with Student Interactives.

More more

HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Love of War in Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story”

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

 

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

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five

Session Six

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • explore the relationship between war and love.

  • read or view, and analyze texts on camaraderie among soldiers at a time of war.

  • create visual collages that present their beliefs about the relationship between love and war.

back to top

 

Session One

  1. Ask students to take a piece of notebook paper and fold it in half lengthwise. Note that this session is written as if students work individually, but they could easily complete this task in small groups as well.

  2. At the top of the left-side half of the paper, have students write the word War.

  3. Under this label, ask students to brainstorm a list of things (concrete or abstract) that they think of when they think of the word War. Emphasize that, as with all brainstorming, there are no right or wrong answers. Allow 3–5 minutes for students to gather their ideas.

  4. Once students finish, ask them to review their lists and make any corrections for additions.

  5. If desired, ask student volunteers to share superlatives from their lists—the most specific item, the most interesting item, the strangest or most surprising item, and so forth.

  6. Have students turn the paper over, so that only the right-side half of the page is showing.

  7. At the top, ask students to write the word Love.

  8. Under this label, ask students to brainstorm a list of things (concrete or abstract) that they think of when they think of the word Love. Explain that they can reflect on the words that they chose for War, but ask them to keep the page folded rather than looking back at the previous list.

  9. Follow the same procedure used for War: Allow 3–5 minutes for students to work. Once students finish, ask them to review their lists and make any corrections for additions. If desired, ask student volunteers to share superlatives from their lists.

  10. Have students unfold the sheets of paper and compare the lists under each word. Begin by asking students to share ways that the ideas listed under the two headings are different. Encourage students to draw conclusions about subjective and objective ways that the two ideas (love and war) differ.

  11. When observations on the contrasts naturally die down, ask students to share things that love and war have in common, referring to the items on their list and additional observations that have developed over the course of the discussion.

  12. Explain that the class is going to watch a short video (or videos) about the relationship between love and war.

  13. Show the approximately eight-minute segment of the PBS documentary The Mystery of Love that focuses on “Love of War.” If the entire documentary is not available, show the three excerpts from the “Love of War” Vignette, which are included on The Mystery of Love Website.

  14. Invite students to share their reaction to the ideas included in the vignette, encouraging connections to the notions of love and war discussed before viewing the video. These questions can guide the discussion:

    • How is love defined in the vignette?

    • How does the definition of love compare to the ideas that you recorded earlier in this session?

    • How are the ideas of love and war linked in the vignette?

    • How does the relationship between the two ideas compare to the connections you noticed before viewing the vignette?
  15. If desired, use the information in the The Mystery of Love Teaching Guide to raise additional questions about the vignette’s tone and its presentation of the military.

  16. Before the session ends, have students freewrite in their journals about the relationship between love and war, drawing on their brainstormed lists and the details from the vignettes.

  17. For homework, ask students to read “How to Tell a True War Story,” paying attention to the way that the subjects of love and war are presented in the short story.

back to top

 

Session Two

  1. Share some background information on Tim O’Brien, the author of the “How to Tell a True War Story.”

  2. Ask students to share some of their immediate reactions to the story. If the themes of love and war come up naturally, encourage students to make connections to the exploration of the ideas in the previous session.

  3. If computer access allows, play the first video from the “Love of War” Vignette, titled “There’s a beauty in war.” If no computers are available, ask students to recall details on Hillman’s discussion of the beauty in war from the documentary, and note their observations on the board or chart paper for reference.

  4. Next ask students how the speaker communicates the beauty of war in “How to Tell a True War Story.” Encourage students to identify specific passages from the story that demonstrate beauty in war. Possible responses include the following:

    • the description of the location where Lemon and Kiley play catch.

    • the first description of Lemon’s death (where the speaker explains, “when he died it was almost beautiful, the way the sunlight came around him and lifted him up and sucked him high into a tree full of moss and vines and white blossoms”).

    • the section beginning “How do you generalize?” which asserts “war is grotesque. But in truth war is also beauty.”

    • the description of Lemon’s death in the last paragraphs of the story.
  5. If computer access allows, play the second video from the “Love of War” Vignette, titled “The love of the unit in battle.” If no computers are available, ask students to recall details on Hillman’s discussion of the the love of the military unit from the documentary, and note their observations on the board or chart paper for reference.

  6. Turn again to “How to Tell a True War Story,” and ask students to identify places in the story where the speaker communicates the love of soldiers for one another and for the unit. Answers may include Kiley’s (Rat’s) letter to Lemon’s sister, the scene with the baby water buffalo, and, more generally, the speaker’s memories of Lemon.

  7. Read the following line from the end of the story aloud: “It wasn’t a war story. It was a love story. ” You may also write the sentences on the board or chart paper to emphasize the passage.

  8. Ask students to discuss what the speaker means by the passage. Encourage them to explain how the story is a love story rather than a war story. Additionally, have students consider how truth plays into whether the story is a war story or a love story.

  9. Turn attention back to the “Love of War” Vignette from The Mystery of Love. Ask students to reflect on the documentary. If time and resources allow, you might play the entire segment again. Invite students to compare how the documentary discusses love and war to the ways that the subjects are discussed in “How to Tell a True War Story.”

  10. Ask students to synthesize the discussions of love and way by asking the following questions:

    • Does the documentary tell true war stories?

    • Does the vignette tell war stories or a love stories?

    • How is the depiction of soldiers and war in the documentary different from that in “How to Tell a True War Story” ? Why are there differences?
  11. For homework, ask students to reread the lists they brainstormed in the first session and freewrite in their journals about how they would revise their lists, based on the “Love of War” Vignette and “How to Tell a True War Story.”

  12. Arrange for computer access for students during the next session, if possible.

back to top

 

Session Three

  1. Invite students to share their reflections on love and war, drawing on their homework journal entries. Encourage connections to the “Love of War” Vignette and “How to Tell a True War Story.”

  2. Once discussion begins to die down, ask students to spend the next 5–10 minutes freewriting on their position on the relationship between love and war. To frame their writing, you can offer one or more of the following statements:

    • There is no love at a time of war.

    • The love at a time of war is a love for ____________.

    • Love and war are opposites.

    • Love and war are inextricably bound.

    • Make Love, not war.
  3. Ask students to reread their notes and highlight or underline the idea about the relationship between love and war that is strongest or closest to their beliefs in their freewriting.

  4. Pass out copies of the Persuasion Map Planning Sheet.

  5. Display the Persuasion Map, using an LCD projector; or pass out copies of the Persuasion Map Graphic Organizer, if computers are not available for students.

  6. Using the Persuasion Map or Persuasion Map Graphic Organizer, and the Persuasion Map Planning Sheet, discuss the basic purpose of persuasion and how the organizer works.

  7. Have students use the main idea that they have highlighted or underlined in their freewriting to sketch out a thesis that communicates their stance on the relationship between love and war. Because the thesis is key to success in this project, spend as much time as necessary on this stage to ensure that students are off to the right start. You might walk around and spot-check students’ work or have students share their ideas with partners before moving on.

  8. Demonstrate the rest of the Persuasion Map or Printed Graphic Organizer, referring to the information on the Persuasion Map Planning Sheet as appropriate.

  9. After students understand the way that the resource for gathering ideas on their thesis work, allow the rest of the session for students to complete their work.

  10. Encourage students to make connections to the “Love of War” Vignette and “How to Tell a True War Story” as they work on their facts and examples.

  11. Remind students to print their work if they are using the online Persuasion Map.

  12. Collect students Persuasion Map printouts or Printed Graphic Organizers at the end of the session.

  13. For homework, choose the relevant option below:

    • If students will make their collages with paper and glue, ask them to gather newspaper, magazine, and other images or quotations that fit their stance on love, war, and the relationship between the two ideas. Ask students to keep track of the sources of all images and quotations that they gather.

    • If students will be making their collages using a graphics editor AND you have a scanner available, students can still gather images for homework, and then scan them during later work sessions if they want to include the image in their final piece. Ask students to keep track of the sources of all images and quotations that they gather.

    • If students will be making collages using a graphics editor and you have no scanner, ask them to gather URLs of images and quotations, working in their journals, that fit their stance on love, war, and the relationship between the two ideas. Ask students to keep track of the sources of all images and quotations that they gather.

back to top

 

Session Four

  1. Introduce the project that they will complete during the rest of this lesson: students will create visual collages, combining images and words, to communicate their stance on the relationship between love and war.

  2. Review the existing resources that students can draw on: their freewriting from the previous sessions, their Persuasion Map or Printed Graphic Organizer, details from the “Love of War” Vignette and “How to Tell a True War Story,” and, if relevant, the images and quotations that they gathered for homework.

  3. Explain how students will create their collages: online or using paper and glue. Show students the available resources they can use as they work.

  4. Before students begin their work, introduce the related Artist’s Journals that students will keep as they work.

  5. Emphasize the importance of tracking decisions as well as documenting the various sources of images and quotations that they choose.

  6. Pass out copies of the Visual Collage Rubric, and review the expectations for the project. Be sure that students understand the requirements before they begin their work.

  7. Allow the rest of the session for students to begin gathering the words and images that will make up their visual collages:

    • If students will be working with paper and glue or tape, ask them to gather their resources and track details in their Artist’s Journals. Suggest that students begin moving images and words around without attaching them to the piece of poster paper or construction paper. This process will allow them to make revisions easily after they get feedback from others in the class on their designs.

    • If students will be working with images in a graphics editor, pass out copies of the U.S. War Images Websites, or point students to the online version of the list. Demonstrate how to copy images from Web pages and paste them into the editor. Ask students to save copies of the original images to a hard drive or other storage device, and track details on where the source of the images as well as the filenames in their Artist’s Journals. Students can import or copy and paste the images into the collage file, and still have access to the original images later if necessary.
  8. If students need additional time to complete the gathering and design process, allow additional time in class or at home for students to work.

  9. For homework, ask students to choose a design for their collages and to explain in their Artist’s Journals why they are using each image and why it is used in the way that it is in the collage. Emphasize that students should NOT fix their images to the paper if working with paper and glue or tape, so that they can easily make changes later. If students are working online, emphasize the importance of having separate copies of the individual image files to simplify changes later in the process.

back to top

 

Session Five

  1. Have students arrange their collages on their desks, or display the images on computer screens. Alternately, if color printers are available, students might be asked to print the images as part of their homework.

  2. Ask students to place their Artist’s Journals on the desk as well, but to leave the journal closed or upside down so that peer reviewers do not see the information until the appropriate step in the review process.

  3. Pass out copies of the Visual Collage Peer Review Sheet, and go over the questions with students.

  4. Draw connections between the questions on the Visual Collage Peer Review Sheet and the Visual Collage Rubric.

  5. Have students trade seats with a partner and complete the Visual Collage Peer Review Sheet.

  6. As students work, provide feedback and support as necessary.

  7. Once students have completed the peer review process, have them return to their seats and skim through one another’s feedback.

  8. Draw everyone’s attention together, and discuss how to use the feedback on the Peer Review Sheet by working through the information on the sheet. To begin, ask students to read through their reviewers’ first reactions and list of brainstormed words (questions 1 and 2). Have students consider whether the information matches the focus they intended for their collages. If it does not, ask them to underline or circle items that are different so that you can address them in their revision.

  9. Move on to the list of facts or examples that supported the reviewers’ interpretation (question 3). Ask students to read through the lists, and mark any that were not interpreted as they intended. Students might add brief notes (ideally, in another color of ink) on what they intended the images to suggest.

  10. Have students read through the reviewers’ responses to the Artist’s Journals (question 4), looking in particular for the differences that the reviewers identified. Have students underline or circle these differences and then compare them to the items that they marked in response to questions 1–3.

  11. Now that students have worked through the first four questions, have them read through the remaining questions, marking anything significant in the comments (positive or negative).

  12. Once students have finished this careful reading of the feedback on the Visual Collage Peer Review Sheet, have them move to their Artist’s Journals, and create a new entry that follows the Peer Review Reflection Structure, writing a paragraph or so for each bullet point listed below:

    • The peer reviewer who examined my collage thought the connection between love and war was ___________.

    • The peer reviewer’s understanding of my collage differed from my intentions in these ways: ___________.

    • To make sure my intentions are clear in my collage, I need to ___________.
  13. Once students finish their journal entries, arrange the class in small groups and have students share these Artist’s Journal entries with one another. Ask group members to make additional suggestions to support one another.

  14. If class time remains, students can begin reworking their collages. Emphasize that students can rearrange the components that they already have as well as choose new images and words to add to their collages in the revision stage.

  15. Remind students that the finished collages and Artist’s Journals are due at the beginning of the next session. Point out that the final Artist’s Journal entry should be an artist’s statement that includes the title for the collage. Make sure students know that the next session will be a gallery display of all the collages.

back to top

 

Session Six

  1. Give students a few minutes to make any last minute preparations and set up their collages and Artist’s Journals for one another to view.

  2. Pass out copies of the Visual Collage Comments Sheet, and have students place the sheet near their collages so that viewers can add responses and notes about their work.

  3. Explain the process that students will follow as they explore one another’s work: Ask students to visit the collage of every other student, and leave comments on the Comments Sheet for at least 5 other students.

  4. If desired, discuss the importance of making positive comments, and brainstorm some sentence beginnings for appropriate comments, such as the following:

    • The images in your collage made me think of ___________.

    • I love the way you ___________.

    • Your collage made me feel ___________ because ___________.

    • My favorite part of your collage is ___________ because ___________.

    • Your collage reminded me of ___________ from the “Love of War” Vignette because ___________.

    • Your collage reminded me of ___________ from the “How to Tell a True War Story” because ___________.
  5. After everyone has had a chance to see the collages, have students return to their own work and answer the Self-Reflection prompts in their Artist’s Journals.

  6. Collect students’ work at the end of the session so that you can provide feedback. If desired, you may post the collages in a public place so that other students at the school can see the work as well.

back to top

 

EXTENSIONS

back to top

 

STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Focus on observation and anecdotal notetaking as students work on their collages to provide ongoing assessment of their progress.

  • Review students Artist’s Journals for a snapshot of their work process. Provide feedback that supports strong composing processes and critical thinking. Look to the Self-Reflection responses in the Artist’s Journals for additional comments on students’ process and critical thinking about the project.

  • Use the Visual Collage Rubric to assess students’ collages, paying particular attention to how well the collage matches student intentions, as identified in the Artist’s Journal entries. Review the comments left during the final session, and echo student voices from the Visual Collage Comments Sheet as appropriate.

 

back to top