Tim O'Brien
Lesson plans for The Things They Carried and other books

| "Ambush" | | "How to Tell a True War Story" | | If I Die in a Combat Zone | | The Things They Carried | | Other Resources |


"Ambush" by Tim O'Brien
Overview and activities, including class discussion questions.

"How to Tell a True War Story"

Love of War in Tim O'Brien's "How to Tell a True War Story"
Students explore the relationship between love and war 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.

If I Die in a Combat Zone

If I die in a Combat Zone
Fifteen discussion questions.

The Things They Carried

Burke's Pentad and The Things They Carried
Prewriting questions.

Close Reading through Repetition
Students annotate and analyze a passage. The model uses an excerpt from The Things They Carried but will work with other passages, too.

Discussion Questions for The Things They Carried
Discusson questions designed for college students and organized by general area of interest.

Looking Back at the Vietnam War with Author, Veteran Tim O'Brien
Video and transcript of a 2010 PBS Newshour interview with O'Brien. The interview runs 7:25. Transcript included.

Photoblogs Part 2: Classroom Use
If you want to incorporate a media component that focuses on characterization and/or point of view, this project will serve well. Scroll down for suggestions specifically related to The Things They Carried.

A Reading from The Things They Carried
Video of Tim O'Brien reading about the men imagining they are flying home. It runs 1:58.

Sixties Project: Poetry Archive
A collection of poems published in Viet Nam Generation Journal and by its sister press, Burning Cities.

The Things They Carried
Assignments, worksheets, and in-class writing guidelines organized by chapter. Scroll down for a video that could serve as an introduction to the unit.

The Things They Carried
Scroll down for extensive study guide questions.

The Things They Carried
A list of 15 book-club-style discussion questions.

The Things They Carried
Analysis and commentary.

The Things They Carried
This teacher blog discusses the Time magazine photoessay on things American soldiers carry (see link below). It also suggests character interviews as a postreading activity.

Vocabulary from The Things They Carried
Words are presented in context and with definitions. Click on a word for pronunciation, synonyms, examples of use, more.

War Literature: Final Projects
Two tech-integrated activities to conclude any unit on war literature. "Every Day Carry" asks students to consider what items they carry with them and why. "Single Sentence Animations" asks students to convey visually the emotional power of a single sentence from their reading.

War Literature: Images and Videos
Scroll down on this page to the link to a TED talk by Deborah Scranton, "The War Tapes," followed by 3 discussion questions. Scranton, a war documentarian, put hand-held video cameras in the hands of soldiers in Iraq.

We Were There: Letters From the Battle Front
Background information, primary documents and transcripts, photographs, discussion questions, writing tasks, and learning activities: the National Postal Museum presents letters, envelopes and commemorative stamps from the American Civil War, WW II, and Vietnam War "to engage students in historic analysis." The section on Vietnam begins on p. 30. 44 pages; requires Adobe Reader or compatible application for access.

Worth Its Weight: Letter Writing with "The Things They Carried"
This lesson pairs reading and discussion of Tim O'Brien's story "The Things They Carried" with a letter-writing activity intended to help students develop the empathy needed to be insightful readers and to give students the opportunity to examine the symbolic weights they carry and, in turn, create meaningful, dynamic, and publishable prose. Students begin by listing all the things they carry, both literal and symbolic, and then think about the symbolic weight of these items. Next, after discussing O'Brien's story and how some of the things listed in the story reveal character, they return to their own lists to add anything they may have forgotten. They next write about three of the most significant weights they carry from their lists, describing the items and their importance to them. Finally, students write a letter to someone with whom they can share the weight of one of these things they carry.

Writing about a Text
Seven writing topics.

Writing About Literature
This page offers several suggestions for writing about literature in general; scroll down a little to find 8 journal prompts related to The Things They Carried.

Writing Vietnam
Text of speech about writing war stories, some audio files, and a question-and-answer session.

Other Resources

Sound Learning Monthly Feature: American RadioWorks' "Revisiting Vietnam"
Lesson plan and a unit plan using audio clips and transcripts of interviews with Vietnam veterans.

Vietnam War
Follow links to a history, a glossary, pictures, and a timeline.

Viet Nam War Oral Histories
As part of a unit including The Things They Carried, students interviewed people who were affected by the war. Their oral histories are here.