Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Using excerpts from Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides by Christian G. Appy

Brief Overview: To supplement my unit on the Vietnam War, I shared three excerpts with my students from Christian G. Appy’s book. I used three different teaching styles with these readings and assessed their enduring understanding through their analysis of three quotes on our unit test. Included below are the three excerpts I used, the questions I posed to the class and my reflection on their use in the classroom. It is my hope that maybe you could use or modify some of this in your own classes. I would love to hear about other excerpts you have/plan to use!
Connection to MA Frameworks: US II 20. Explain the causes, course, and consequences of the Vietnam War and summarize the diplomatic and military policies of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

“Kick the Tires and Light the Fires” pgs 61-75
Method of Instruction: Informal Class Discussion In class I gave out this reading and gave students about fifteen minutes to skim. We then spent about fifteen minutes discussing the answers to these questions.
1. What did “sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem” mean?
2. Discuss JFK’s role in Vietnam.
3. Do you agree with Malcolm Browne’s idea that in the early 60’s the U.S. was waging a secret war in Vietnam?
4. Explain Le Lieu Browne’s perception of President Diem.
Connection to unit objective(s):
• Summarize Vietnam’s history as a French colony and its struggle for independence.
• Examine how the United States became involved in the Vietnam conflict.
Reflection: I think my students really understood the problems that stemmed fro Diem’s policies and the complexity of U.S. involvement at that time. They were most fascinated with Malcolm Browne’s account and we had a great discussion about the impact of the media and powerful images. Lastly, they loved the story behind Malcolm and Le Lieu. In retrospect, I think I could have saved on class time by asking them to read the account at him and coming in prepared to discuss in class.

“From Civil Rights to Antiwar” pgs 142-145
Method of Instruction: Individual Written Assignment I gave this assignment for students to complete in class on a day I was out on at a TAH seminar. Students were asked to complete the reading and answer the following questions individually and hand in for a graded assignment.
1. Describe the paradoxical relationship between civil rights and antiwar movements.
2. Analyze the following quote: “The promises of the Great Society have been shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam.”
3. Briefly explain the impact that the Vietnam War had on SNCC.
4. What was the controversy surround Muhammad Ali? Do you agree with his decision? Explain.
Connection to unit objective(s):
• Explain the impact of the war on American society.
• Explain the draft policies that led to the Vietnam War becoming a working-class war.
• Trace the roots of opposition to the war.
• Describe the antiwar movement and the growing divisions in U.S. public opinion about the war.
Reflection: A great deal of students did not understand the idea of a paradox. I have plenty of dictionaries in my classroom and I always stress being an active learner so I was disappointed that not many took the initiative to grab a dictionary! I also had to address question #2 in class because instead of answering the question based on the reading, they drew from prior knowledge. Most of their answers focused on funding of the Great Society being affected by the war, when in the article they suggested Martin Luther King, Jr. was referring to the contradictory goals of this working-class war and the philosophy behind the Great Society. Students did seem to be engaged about brief account of Muhammad Ali and they had some questions for me the next day!

“From Cambodia to Kent State” pgs. 376-389
Method of Instruction: Jigsaw Discussion For this assignment, I asked all students to read the introduction and then answer questions 1 and 2. After that, I assigned each student one of the three primary source accounts (Anthony Lake, A.J. Langguth and Tom Grace) and assigned them the corresponding questions. After ten minutes of silent reading time, we got into groups of three and students shared their answers to questions 3-5. This took about fifteen minutes. We then reconvened as a class and shared out the responses to all questions.
1. Explain Nixon/Kissinger’s military strategy in Vietnam at the start of 69.
2. How did Nixon deal w/the media, pubic knowledge and support of the war? Give 2 examples.
3. Explain Anthony Lake’s moral dilemma when he resigned. Do you agree with is decision to resign?
4. What did A.J. Langguth find in his research about the effectiveness of Vietnamization?
5. How did Tom Grace’s experiences at Kent State shape him? Were you surprised by any of his account?
Connection to unit objective(s):
• Describe the antiwar movement and the growing divisions in U.S. public opinion about the war.
• Describe Nixon’s policy of Vietnamization.
• Explain the public’s reaction to the Vietnam War during Nixon’s presidency.
Reflection: Students did really well with this excerpt and method of instruction. We had a really active discussion on all three questions as students expressed their personal opinions about the topics. We discussed mistrust the government, the scariness of Kent State from both sides, the decision of Lake to resign and the battle for the hearts and minds in connection to Vietnamization.

Formal Test Assessment
Quote Analysis: Pick three of the following quotes. In a paragraph, briefly explain what they mean and whether you agree with the idea behind them. (5 pts each)

1. “Sink or swim with Ngo Dihn Diem.”-American journalist in regards to Washington’s policy.
2. “You could smell the burning flesh.”-Malcolm Browne
3. “The promises of the Great Society have been shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
4. The United States is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
5. “No Viet Cong never called me nigger.”- Muhammad Ali
6. “Quitting wasn’t heroic.”-Anthony Lake
7. “They didn’t want to fight.”-A.J. Langguth
8. “As much as we hated the war on April 29, we hated it more on April 30th.”-Tom Grace
Below is the percentage of students that chose the above quotes to analyze


I was pleased that all quotes were chosen at least three times and not surprised that students gravitated towards #3 and #8 since those were the ones we had the liveliest discussions on. Click here to view some student samples.

Image of book was taken from:

1 comment:

  1. Tracy, Thanks for sharing these detailed ideas for lessons using Christian Appy's Patriots. I too like teaching with quotations - thoughtfully selected quotes can have such power to impact students' understanding and appreciation of history. The quotes that your students selected most often are multifaceted - clearly your students are interested in grappling with the complexity of this era.