Standard Lesson

Building Vietnam War Scavenger Hunts through Web-Based Inquiry

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Six 50-minute sessions
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This research project brings multiple perspectives into the classroom during or after the reading of any book about Vietnam—fiction or nonfiction, as a whole class or in literature circles. Students, working in small groups, adopt the perspective of members of a group involved in the war (e.g., soldier, nurse, doctor, photojournalist, TV reporter) and conduct Internet research to explore how that particular group was affected. After completing their research, students compose a scavenger hunt, constructing a series of questions leading to the answer of an overarching question: “What was the effect of the Vietnam War on the particular group?” Student groups then share their scavenger hunts with one another and reflect on how their research relates to the books they have read.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Linda Starr explains, "Internet scavenger hunts are a way for students to practice problem solving, improve their reading and comprehension skills, and learn how to search the Internet." "Computers and technology," according to Lara Gillian, "allow students to work beyond the often linear modes that non-technological teaching requires" (22). Designing the scavenger hunts allows students to go beyond their basic research abilities by creating new artifacts in a creative medium. The perspectives of the various people involved in the Vietnam War era provide natural lens for students to investigate the Vietnam War. Learning about the soldiers, doctors, nurses, photographers, and other who took part in the war and applying that knowledge in an imaginative, creative format helps students make connections to literature and the past, which "will enrich their lives long after they leave our classrooms" (Johannessen 62).

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

Materials and Technology

  • Fiction or nonfiction books on the Vietnam War

  • Copy of HBO film Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam or other films. Be aware that many films are R rated.




  • Gather copies of books for whole class book or literature circles. Be sure to review any books to ensure they are appropriate for students. Many novels exploring the Vietnam War include graphic and violent details as well as strong language. Student read the books before or during this project. This project is a supplement to the books that students read, providing additional information on the Vietnam War that students can use to inform their reading.

  • Likewise, check Websites to ensure that all are appropriate for the classroom. Additional links can be found at the Vietnam Veterans WWW Resources Site if needed.

  • Make copies or overhead transparencies of all handouts students will need: Vietnam Scavenger Hunt handout, Scavenger Hunt Template, Creating a Scavenger Hunt Question sheet, Self-Reflection sheet, and the Rubric.

  • If resources do not allow you to share the The War in Vietnam—A Story in Photographs Website with students, you might make overhead transparencies of the first page to use for your evaluation in Session Two.

  • If your students need extra practice or a more structured introduction to evaluating Websites, complete the Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection lesson before beginning this project.

  • Familiarize yourself with Internet scavenger hunts using the Scavenger Hunts resource.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • demonstrate ability to conduct research using Internet resources.

  • formulate questions that lead to the answer to a unifying, overarching question.

  • design a scavenger hunt, as a group, with questions and linked resources.

  • work in groups to solve a student constructed Scavenger Hunt.

Session One

  1. Introduce the project by passing out the Vietnam Scavenger Hunt handout, Scavenger Hunt Template, and the Scavenger Hunt Rubric.

  2. Either assign or have students choose groups from project sheet to investigate. Be sure that students choose a range of groups to investigate.

  3. Demonstrate the process of creating a question from information on a Website. Either display an overhead of Creating a Scavenger Hunt Question sheet or visit National Archive's The War in Vietnam—A Story in Photographs. If you use an overhead transparency, cover the bottom of the Question Sheet so that you do not reveal the questions too early.

  4. Read the paragraph from the sheet aloud, or read excerpts from the Website (the first two paragraphs will suffice).

  5. Based on the information from the paragraph(s) you've read, ask students to brainstorm possible questions that someone could answer by reading the information. Sample questions are included on the Question sheet.

  6. Emphasize the difference between copying information from the site and creating original questions as you explore options.

  7. Once you have gathered a list of potential questions, read over the list and make any revisions or additions.

  8. Ask students to evaluate whether the questions relate to the ways that the group you're investigating was affected by the Vietnam War.

  9. Remind students of the importance of gathering material from a variety of different Websites and from various pages on the site.

  10. Finally, ask students to consider questions that might ask someone completing the scavenger hunt to draw on information from more than one site. For instance, the example site focuses specifically on military photographers. Ask students to consider how a site on newspaper and television journalists can be compared to the sample. If desired, share the Newseum Display on the Vietnam War for students to compare to the National Archive site.

  11. Ask students to write a journal entry about the group they've chosen can be a useful activity. Ask students to write about why they chose the group and what they know about the group before they begin research, including any details they've gathered from the book(s) you have read.

  12. In any time remaining in the session, students can begin sharing ideas for research and sharing their knowledge of the group.

Session Two

  1. Share the Website Evaluation Form, which provides a basic list of questions students can use to determine whether a site is appropriate for the role they are investigating for the project.

  2. Explain that you'll evaluate a site as a class in order to demonstrate how the process works, using the Website Evaluation Form student interactive.

  3. Visit the National Archive's The War in Vietnam - A Story in Photographs Website. If Web access is limited, return to the overhead of Creating a Scavenger Hunt Question sheet.

  4. Work through the questions on the Website Evaluation Form student interactive or Website Evaluation Form to evaluate the site.

  5. Take the opportunity to demonstrate the technical process of using the student interactive, providing pointers on how the tool works. Be sure to work all the way through to printing the responses by using the Finish button at the top of the interactive after answering all of the questions.

  6. Remind students that Vietnam War Websites can include both factual information and emotional information. Re-evaluate the information on the The War in Vietnam—A Story in Photographs Website with this distinction in mind.

  7. Encourage students to think about how both factual and emotional information can tell them about the influence of the Vietnam War on the groups they are investigating.

  8. Answer any questions that students have about the process.

  9. Once you're certain that students understand the basics of evaluating Websites, point them to the Website Evaluation Form student interactive or distribute copies of the Website Evaluation Form (PDF) for them to use as they evaluate the sites that they find. If you use the interactive, explain that students can use the tool as many times as needed to evaluate all the resources that they find.

  10. Ask groups to divide sites listed on the Vietnam War Resources list, noting those that include details that relate to the group they are investigating.

  11. As they evaluate the sites, students should keep track of which ones are most useful for their investigations and the kind of resources they provide for the scavenger hunts. Students do not need to create the questions for their scavenger hunts at this point. They are simply narrowing down the list of sites that can be used to explore how their group has been affected by the Vietnam War.

  12. Circulate among students as they work, providing feedback and support. If some students complete the task earlier than others, you might allow them to search the Internet, using a site such as Google, Alta Vista, Yahoo, Dogpile, Ask Jeeves or using a school-safe site such as Yahooligans, Ask Jeeves For Kids, Education World, KidsClick! for more sites pertaining to the topic, as time allows.

Sessions Three, Four, and Five

  1. If possible, provide students with an electronic copy of the template for Scavenger Hunt or display an overhead of the template and ask students to construct their own. (In a word processor or HTML editor, students can make a table with one column and five rows to get started.)

  2. Explain that students will spend the next three class sessions working on their scavenger hunts.

  3. Remind them that they all have the same overarching research question: how a particular group of people was affected by the Vietnam War. All the resources and questions in their scavenger hunts should lead to the answer that question.

  4. Caution students against using the first information they find at each Website and to look for meaningful questions and answers which will help them in answering their big question in an essay.

  5. If possible, at the end of the third session, students should publish their scavenger hunts on the Web. Publishing the projects electronically will make the next session run more smoothly. If you do not have a Website where students can publish their work however, have students print their finished scavenger hunts and make copies of the hunts before the next session.

Session Six

  1. Share the URLs for students' scavenger hunts or pass out photocopies of the hunts for students to use. It's ideal for students to have an electronic copy of the scavenger hunts so that they do not need to type the URLs for the search.

  2. Have groups explore each other's scavenger hunts at their own pace. Circulate among students as they explore the sites.

  3. After students have completed the scavenger hunts, ask students to talk about what they learned about the influence of the Vietnam War. Encourage students to compare the effect of the war on different groups (e.g., how were the experiences of soldiers similar, regardless of the country they were fighting for? how were the experiences of men and women different?).

  4. To finish the session, ask students return to the journal entries they wrote in Session One. Ask students to read the entry and write a new entry about how their knowledge has changed (or not) as they conducted their research and participated in the class scavenger hunts.

  5. For homework, ask students to complete the Self-Reflection.


  • Show a film such as Dear America: Letters Home to Vietnam to further understand the roles each group played in the war. There are numerous films focusing on events related to the Vietnam War. Depending upon the books that your students have read, a film can make a nice addition. Do be sure to evaluate any film you choose before showing it in class to ensure that it will be appropriate. Most of the films exploring the Vietnam War are rated R, so there may be portions that will not be appropriate for the classroom.

  • Arrange students in roundtable discussion groups of approximately five each, making sure there is only one of each role that has been investigated in the group (e.g., one student who investigated the nurses, one who investigated U.S. soldiers, one who investigated Vietnamese farmers, one who investigated anti-war protesters, and one who investigated "draft dodgers"). Show episodes of "Meet The Press" or a similar discussion program. Using the information they gathered as they determined the effect of the Vietnam War, have students write (or just speak from notes) about their findings, following a "Meet The Press"-roundtable format. Encourage students to adopt the perspective of the group they have researched by discussing the lasting effects of the war on the group's lives. If possible, have someone videotape each group discussion then share the videotapes with the whole class.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Using the Self-Reflection questions, ask students to think about the steps they took as they worked on this assignment—what they had problems with, how they worked out their problems, and how they feel about their final project.

  • Use the Scavenger Hunt Rubric to evaluate students’ work on the project itself.

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