Music, Photos, and More – American Reactions to the Vietnam War

With documents including music, photographs, speeches, and letters from a variety of perspectives, this lesson helps students answer the essential question: How should citizens relate to their government? To examine this question,┬ástudents will work in small groups to examine primary sources and respond to questions embedded throughout the Sway. This lesson could also serve as the foundation for a “flipped lesson” on how Americans reacted to the Vietnam War.

Music, Photos, and More – American Reactions to the Vietnam War
In this lesson, students will use music, images, and primary sources to examine how U.S. citizens related to their government in response to the events of the Vietnam War.
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Nick Krautscheid

America’s Response to Vietnam through Music

In this lesson, students will examine songs created directly in response to the Vietnam War. With release dates ranging from 1965 to 2014, student will identify how sentiments toward the war have changed over time. Additionally, the music provided offers a glimpse of both supporters and protesters of the war.

This lesson would follow an introduction to the protest movement seen during the Vietnam War. Due to one of the songs in the selection, it would also serve students well if they studied the My Lai Massacre prior to this lesson.

To best view the slideshow and Google Form, open them in a separate tab by clicking these links:

Slide Show: Click Here   //   Google Form: Click Here

Inspiration for this lesson comes from PBS Learning Media and the Ken Burns & Lynn Novick Collection

All songs found on and are intended solely for education purposes.

Violence in America – from Lynchings to Police Brutality

Essential Questions:  

  • What motivates violence in America?
  • How have these motivations changed over time?

The Lesson:

In the history class I currently teach, we are briefly covering the trajectory of race relations in America (ie. what would become the United States) from the time the first slaves arrived in the colonies to the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. This particular lesson would  fall somewhere following the death of Emmett Till as a lead-in to our unit on the Civil Rights Movement. The purpose of this lesson is to have students identify how race-based violence led to violence historically and examine how historical violence relates to an experience of violence in the United States today. This lesson will serve as an attention-grabber and primer for our lesson on the Civil Rights Movement and why the movement still matters today. Prior to this lesson, students will already understand the terms lynching and racism, as well as some of the causes of both.

I will conduct this lesson in the form of a Socratic Seminar – drawing on important details in each of the maps provided below. To begin, the class will engage in a discussion on the “Map of White Supremacy mob violence” created by Monroe Work Today. Using this map, I will begin by asking the students what they found interesting, novel, and important to our discussion on violence in America. Most notably, I’d form the discussion to help them notice the geographical and racially motivated nature of the lynchings as seem below (click on image).

Click on image to enlarge it and view in separate window.

Following our discussion on the racially motivated attacks throughout the country, I will guide the students to note that it appears these attacks first tapered off and then ended in the 1960s (leading up to our Civil Rights unit).

Then, I will show them this picture which comes Smithsonian Archives and was used in the 1963 March on Washington:

During this transition from racially motivated violence experienced in the pre-Civil Rights to racially motivated violence experienced during and after the Civil Rights era, I will show students famous images that highlight this police brutally (attack dogs and fire hoses). To end this lesson, I will conclude by asking students if they think these issues have been solved today – thus ending by showing them this map below which highlights the occurrences of people killed by police in 2018 and argues for the bias- or racially-motivated nature of many of these attacks.

Socrates, Zinn, and You – Let’s Talk

A few times throughout each semester, we have students participate in a class discussion based upon the Socratic Seminar method. This week, students discussed the Cold War, McCarthyism, and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg using Howard Zinn’s, “The Twentieth Century,” as their main source of information.

This class period comes toward the middle of our unit on American domestic life and policy during the Cold War. This discussion allows students to demonstrate what they have learned so far, it serves as a reminder/summary of what students should know for this unit, and it allows all students to learn from themselves and their peers in an engaging manner.

Using the Socratic Seminar discussion strategy, the questions posed to students – given to them in advance – serve as a starting point for the discussion. Examples of these include:

  1. Why were independence movements seen as a threat to U.S. interest? Give specific examples. As a former colony ourselves, does this policy make sense to you?
  2. What do you think you would have done had you been in the U.S. Senate with McCarthy?
  3. What is your reaction to the Rosenberg case? Elaborate on the evidence and arguments you find the most convincing. Based on your knowledge, if you were part of the jury, would you have found them guilty or innocent?

These questions enable students to probe deeper into their learning. Additionally, it promotes discussion that relates to the students personally in a way that a textbook never could. This is because it calls the students to consider what they themselves would do in a historical situation. Additionally, it calls to mind questions that still matter today, including topics of integrity, capital punishment, etc.

In facilitating this discussion, I learned first-hand that students thrive when they are given multiple avenues to explore course content. Some students thrive on reading alone, but many do not. This experience proved that it is essential to help all students succeed by providing differentiated learning opportunities. One challenge of this discussion was involving many students when there are a few consistent students who like to have their voice heard. As I practice group discussions more, I hope to discover techniques to help all students feel comfortable in expressing their learning.