Vietnam War and Film

Target Audience:

This lesson is intended for 11th/12th grade students. I would love to teach a class that examines modern American history through the leanse of pop culture and media. This lesson would be nestled within a class including music, television, and movies.

Content: This lesson walks student’s through a selection of movie trailers, each depicting the Vietnam War. It moves chronologically with a series of questions/discussion prompts on each slide asking students to reflect upon how the movie trailer presents the war and the characters (both real and fictional) depicted. The point of this lesson is to examine how American social media reflects the general feelings of the nation.


  1. Students will reflect upon what they have learned about the Vietnam War so far.
  2. As we move through the slideshow, we will watch and comment upon each section of videos. Students will discuss the ways in which the War and the Characters within are portrayed. Students will discuss how they feel about what they just watched. What is the ‘mood’ of the film.
  3. We end the class by discussing how Hollywood’s depiction of the Vietnam war has changed throughout the years and why that might be. What stick out in particular. Does media still influence the way we view history?
  4. The exit ticket will be for each student to write an example of a film that displays a historical event and how the event is portrayed.

Machu Picchu and the Incan Empire

Featured image from PICRYL.

Target Audience

The target audience for this lesson is students in sixth grade social studies. This is particularly useful for teaching lessons that cover indigenous Native American societies and could fit into any unit that covers these societies and the examination of Latin American nations.


Students will need to be aware of how societies come to form, especially when it comes to how ancient civilizations came to be organized. They will need to be familiar with terms such as agriculture, government and settlements. A core component to studying the context of Machu Picchu is an understanding of South American geography. To help students become familiar, a short article detailing the makeup and history of the Andes is attached to help provide some additional knowledge. This exercise allows students to become familiar with a depiction of an ancient civilization, the Incans, and this activity will allow students to study aspects of Incan culture and analyze how the geography and landscape as integral to how this society came to form.

The purpose of this activity is to carry out a tour of Machu Picchu through Google Earth as a way of allowing students to engage with a famous archeological location virtually. Students will be tasked with taking the tour and recording some observations as they navigate through Google Earth. The instructor will provide prompts for the students to follow as they complete a virtual tour of Machu Picchu. Students will answer these questions in breakout groups with other students before returning to the main room to discuss with the class. Additionally, time will be spent analyzing aspects of Incan society through Google Arts and Culture. Students will be put into four groups that analyze a different aspect of Incan Culture. The goal of students during this portion of the lesson will be to help students reflect on the role this aspect of culture had on society, any overlap that might exist with the modern day and help perform the historical analysis carried out by modern historians.


1.) Students will skim the website attached to help become familiar with the Andes. Should take about 5 minutes. See here.

2.) Students will be put into groups where they can take a tour of Machu Picchu using Google Earth. Each group will be tasked with exploring a different historical site and answering questions provided on Zoom.

3.) Students will spend about 10 minutes exploring the site and answering questions as they discuss their findings with their peers. Students will click this link to Google Earth Tour. Group 1 explores sites 2-4, Group 2 explores 5-7, Group 3 explores 8-10, and Group 4 will explore sites 11-12. For those that need help navigating Google Earth, this tutorial exists to provide guidance.

4.) Students will then return to the main group to share some of the observations they made on the tour. This is also a chance to share some responses to the questions provided by the instructor.

5.) Students will then spend 5-10 minutes exploring some of the Wonders of Machu Picchu provided by the instructor. Group 1. Group 2. Group 3. Group 4. One student will take a screenshot of an image that captured their interest, explain something they learned about it and then examine how this could reveal something about Incan culture.

6.) Students will return to the main room after conversing with peers in breakout rooms. They will reveal some of their screenshots and discuss their findings.

7.) Students will then be debriefed by the instructor on how Machu Picchu was tied to the Incan Empire and the continued importance of some of these artifacts. Anything that was missed by the students will be brought up here as the lesson is wrapped up.

American Political Positions: Introducing the Political Spectrum and Compass

Target Audience:

The target audience for this lesson would be a high school history or civics class. Ideally these students would be building off knowledge the had encountered in their middle school high school classes and would be familiar with political terminology such as: the Left, Far Left, Moderate, Right, Far Right, Authoritarian, Libertarian, etc. However, if students had not encountered these terms in school before this lesson can be used a primer to political analysis.


Many students understand US politics, both past and present, through the lens of the left-right/democrat-republican dichotomy as it exists on the Political Spectrum. While this is fine for a superficial understanding of American politics it fails to address the complexities that exist. In terms of the Political Spectrum the economics scale and social scale are compressed together; this fails to highlight relationships that exist between different political parties and politicians. Students also tend to rely on their parents for their political ideology; usually placing themselves in either the Democratic or Republican parties. They don’t necessarily understand how their own feelings on economics and social values relate to the political process.

The Political Compass is a way to introduce students to a more holistic view of US politics. For instance, on the economic scale mainstream Democrats and Republicans are much more closely aligned in their policies than say social outlooks. Students will be able to see how both the Democratic and Republican parties, while often depicted at odds on the Spectrum, lean much farther to the Right of economics and towards the Authoritarian end of social scale when taken together. Students through the use of a survey will be able to see how their own views on economics and social values relate to established political parties.

By building on their knowledge of political positions with the introduction of the Political Compass students will be able to see trends in American politics over time, how politicians tend to change over the course of their careers, and how American politics relates to that of other nations.


  1. Students will do a short Do Now: activity. They will be asked to post anonymously on page 1 of a JamBoard where they believe they fall on the Political Spectrum. Students will see their results in real time. Key Question: How did you feel about placing yourselves on this spectrum? What made this easy or difficult? (3 mins)
  2. Students will be introduced to the Political Spectrum on a PowerPoint. (1 min)
  3. Students will be introduced to the political terminology on a PowerPoint. (4 mins)
  4. Students will be introduced to the Political Compass on a PowerPoint. (2 mins)
  5. Students will be asked to take a survey. (8 mins)
  6. Students will be asked to post anonymously on page 2 of the JamBoard from earlier. Key Question: How did you feel about placing yourselves on this on the compass? How did it compare to the spectrum. (3 mins)
  7. Students will be shown on a PowerPoint the presidential candidates of 2016 and 2020 as they appear on the Political Compass. Key Questions: What do you notice about where the Democratic and Republican politicians stand in relation to each other, historical figures and yourself? What similarities or differences are most notable? How might you explain those similarities or differences? (5 mins)

Photo source.

The 1960s Chicano Movement

Feature image

Target Audience and Setting:

The following is a lesson plan designed for a sixth grade social studies class. In Oregon, sixth grade social studies classes focus on history and geography of the Western Hemisphere. I envision this lesson being taught toward the end of the school year after students have gained some background information on the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo through a series of US history units, and spent some time looking at the Black Civil Rights Movement.  


Students will have some background knowledge on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and its lasting impacts on the people (indigenous and colonial) of the American South West. More recently students will have just finished a unit on the American Civil Rights Movement.

In the days leading up to this lesson, students will have spent some time learning about California’s agriculturally dominated economy through the late 19th and 20th centuries and it’s demand for farm workers. Students will have learned about where the term Chicanx comes from and how this community has been exploited for their cheap labor. Students will have learned about Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta’s creation of the United Farm Workers Association (UFW), and how the commencement of the UFW brought with it a new set of civil rights demands from the Latinx community.


1) Students read the first and last stanzas of the I am Joaquin poem.

2) Students assigned to groups of two.

3) Students will be given ~7 minutes to discuss:

-What key themes did you notice in the poem?

-What does Joaquin’s story reveal?

-What similarities or differences do you see between the Black Civil Rights Movement and the Chicano Movement?

4) As a class we will come back together to summarize what we discussed in small groups.

5) Teacher will lead class discussion to review topics based on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and its lasting impacts on the people of the American Southwest.

6) As a class we will activate our prior knowledge of murals and how/why they are used.

7) Students will spend ~10 minutes observing/discussing the general theme of the murals in groups of two.

8) As a class we will come back together to discuss what stood out to us regarding the murals.  

9) Students’ exit ticket will be to respond to the following prompt with three or more sentences.

-What similarities/differences do you notice between the Black Civil Rights Movement and the Chicano Movement?


I Am Joaquin by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

Emilio Aguayo mural

Exterior of El Teatro Campesino mural