Themes of Courage

Wendy Johnson
11th grade
Kuna School District

Content Area Objectives Addressed:  

Students will finalize their research presentations on a change in their school, community or workplace. Students will explore the themes of courage by studying about the Vietnam War and reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

Technology Objectives Addressed:  

Students will create PowerPoint presentations and/or a brochure in which they explain their research. They will use the technology to help them persuade an audience of their choice why their solution is the best for the problem they tackled. They will also be using email to verify the attendance of the people they invited to attend their presentations.

Activity Description

What was the process that your students went through to complete this lesson?

Day One:

Students will write a journal in which they describe a time in their life where they were courageous or a time where they lacked the courage to act.

Students will share the journal and the teacher will make the connection from their stories to the centers they will be working on.

Teacher explains centers and where they exist in the room. Then teacher presents short PowerPoint on tips for creating presentations.

Students complete one center.

Day Two:

Students complete a journal about a time that they were sorry for something they did and never had the courage to apologize. They will apologize in the journal.

Students share their journals with a partner.

Students will complete the center activities.

Here’s the student handout:

The Courage to Do What’s Right:

Studying the Past and Working Towards Making the Future Better

You will be working in a group of five to complete the tasks at each center and will have approximately 25 minutes at each center. Each of you will be responsible for a job in your group. You will need one person to take on the role of each of the following tasks:

Group Leader             Scribe              Big Ben             Connector      Chatty Cathy/Chuck


Information Center (at desks): find out the facts about the Vietnam War

Discuss as a group what you know already about the Vietnam War. Did anyone in your group have friends or family members who fought in Vietnam? What were their experiences?

Read articles from Writing Magazine entitled “The War on the Evening News” and “The Words at the Wall” about the history of the Vietnam War. There is also a map of the location so you can see where Vietnam is located.

When you have finished reading the articles, the scribe will write down five things that you discovered about the Vietnam War.

History Center (at computer #5 with tape player at front of the room): experience what it would be like to have been alive during the time of the Vietnam War

Listen to the music of the time as indicated on the copies at the center. While you are listening to the words, peruse the Life magazines from the time.

When you have finished experiencing the culture of the time, discuss these two questions (your scribe should jot down your observations as well as participate):

In general, how did the young people of the time feel about the war? Cite evidence from the music and magazines to prove your answer.

In general, how did the older generation feel about the war? Cite evidence from the music and magazines to prove your answer.

How, if at all, do you imagine popular culture influenced attitudes about the war?

Reading Center (at desks): read the story The Rainy River from Tim O’Brien’s novel The Things They Carried about his experiences on learning that he was drafted to fight in Vietnam. It is written in stream of consciousness (remember this word from the beginning of the year?). You might choose to read aloud or to yourself. When you are finished reading (you probably won’t finish in the center) answer the questions as a group and define three vocabulary words from the reading.

Tech Center (at computers 1-4 & 6: one computer per presentation group): finalize letters of invitation if necessary and begin creating your presentations on your proposed change. As you create your presentations and/or flyer, keep in mind your purpose and audience as well as draw from your research and cite your sources correctly. If time permits, check your email.

The Vietnam War information is a new topic for them.

The research activity began first semester with the traditional research paper on a school, community or workplace reform issue (as explained on my website). Then this semester students are working on the second part of the project: getting the word out!

How did you monitor student progress?
While students were working in the various centers, I walked around to each group to make sure they were on task and to help them answer questions if they hit roadblocks.

Students also had previously completed storyboards and outlines of their PowerPoint presentation and/or brochure.

Was there a template or an example that students were expected to follow?
For the PowerPoint, I gave them some tips to putting together their slides. They could create their own idea of how it would look—it just had to be effective for their intended audience.

How much time did you dedicate to this project?
The research project as a whole took about 2 months total: one month for the traditional research paper and one month to get ready for the presentation. For these particular centers, it took two, 90-minute class periods

The information on Vietnam took two days and set the stage for the upcoming reading groups on Coming of Age in America.

How was the final product presented?

1.  Vietnam Center Info:  Students answered questions for me to check.
2.  Research Presentation:  Presented via PowerPoint using the laptop and projector

Who was the audience for the final product?
Students invited people who were somehow related to the topic they were presenting. For example, a student who did a project on “Why Kuna School District needs crossing guards at the elementary schools” invited the superintendent, building principals and the PTA presidents from the elementary schools.

Learning Issues

What prior knowledge was required on the part of the students in order for them to be successful in this project? (include curriculum and technology knowledge)
Students had to know how to find information and cite their information correctly using MLA format. 

Students already knew how to use their email accounts and login to the network. Some students already knew how to use PowerPoint to create a linear presentation; I helped those that didn’t know. (It was easier to help those that didn’t know in centers.)

Resource Management

What was the student to computer ratio?
Well, I have 48 juniors total in 2 classes and I have 6 computers.
But I have 20-25 students in a class.

How did you schedule your students’ computer time?
Centers: I made two technology centers so that students would have more time on the computers. If students don’t finish their presentations, they will come in during tutorial to finish.

What was the location of the computers and other technology equipment used by students?
On counters at the back and front of the room.

How would you suggest beginning teachers obtain computer resources for their students? (Knowing some of your strategies would be valuable for our pre-service teachers.)
Participating in projects like this one (we received a laptop in this program).
Take classes and educate yourself on what’s available

Rate the level of access for students to use computers/other technologies as they needed  --high, medium, low
High if teachers structure class time appropriately so every student can use the technology. Plus, they can come in before and after school.

Rate the level of supervision required for students during the project, specifically for computer and other technology use –high, medium, low
High—the teacher’s job is to supervise, ensuring that students are using the equipment appropriately and effectively.


What hardware was required for your project?
I used all 6 of my computers, but could modify the lesson for fewer if necessary (it would just take more time).
Some kids also used the digital camera to supplement their projects
Projection device

What software was required for your project?
Microsoft PowerPoint
Microsoft Publisher
Internet access
Pegasus Mail

Anything else?
Magazines, music, The Things They Carried novel
It is SO helpful for each student to have his/her own school account!


What kind of assessment did you use for this project? (Include a copy if you can.)
Peer, self & teacher

What categories did you assess? (I.e.:  content, screen design, depth/breadth, etc.)
See rubric.


What did you like best about this project?
Student interest and involvement: students chose topics that they were interested in and completed real research for a real project—a project that some of students had immediate impact on ensuring its success and follow-through.

What did the students like best about this project?
Being actively involved in the problem-solving process.

Rank the level of student involvement in this project –high, medium, low
High: every student completed the activities and every student completed their presentation. (It helps because the audience isn’t just the teacher and/or other students in the classroom.)

Rank the level of student interest in this project –high, medium, low
High: again, they chose their topics so they were in control
Medium for the Vietnam info—they liked the story and the music/magazine

Would you teach this lesson again?