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Lesson Plan by Lauren Martin M.Ed.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

This free, printable Pixton lesson plan brings American literature to life with comics and storyboards.

Make American literature come to life with comics!

Including these awesome activities:
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Featured Layouts

When students complete the activities in this lesson plan, they will use the following comic layout types.

  • Storyboard
  • Mind Map
  • Character Map

Your students will create amazing images like these in no time!

Pixton Lesson Plan on The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Pixton Lesson Plan on The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Pixton Lesson Plan on The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Main Characters

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

When you import any of the activities below, you can choose to share these ready-made characters with your students.

  • Tim O’Brien from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Tim O’Brien

    Pacifist narrator and protagonist

  • Jimmy Cross from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Jimmy Cross

    Lieutenant of the Alpha Company

  • Mitchell Sanders from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Mitchell Sanders

    Likable soldier who O'Brien looks up to

  • Kiowa from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Kiowa

    O’Brien’s closest friend

  • Norman Bowker from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Norman Bowker

    Veteran who suffers from emotional damage after war

  • Henry Dobbins from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Henry Dobbins

    Platoon’s machine gunner and "gentle giant"

  • Bob “Rat” Kiley from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Bob “Rat” Kiley

    Platoon’s medic

  • Curt Lemon from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Curt Lemon

    Immature and careless member of the Alpha Company

  • Ted Lavender from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Ted Lavender

    Young, scared soldier in the Alpha Company

  • Lee Strunk from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Lee Strunk

    Minor character who breaks his nose in fight and begs Jensen to forget their pact

  • Dave Jensen from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Dave Jensen

    Minor character who breaks his own nose out of guilt over Strunk

  • Azar from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Azar

    Seemingly heartless soldier in the Alpha Company who uses cruelty as a defense mechanism

  • Bobby Jorgenson from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Bobby Jorgenson

    Medic who replaces Rat Kiley

  • Elroy Berdahl from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Elroy Berdahl

    Proprietor of the Tip Top Lodge on the Rainy River near the Canadian border

  • Kathleen from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Kathleen

    O’Brien’s daughter and symbol of the naïve outsider

  • Mark Fossie from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Mark Fossie

    A medic in Rat Kiley’s previous assignment

  • Mary Anne Bell from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Mary Anne Bell

    Mark Fossie’s high school sweetheart who serves in Vietnam

  • Linda from The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
    Linda

    O’Brien’s first love, who died in the fifth grade

Featured Props

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Student creations come alive with these themed objects – in addition to our library of over 3,000 props!

  • Casket
    Casket
  • Church
    Church
  • Explosion
    Explosion
  • Helicopter
    Helicopter
  • Mud
    Mud
  • Prop Letter
    Prop Letter
  • River
    River
  • Rubble
    Rubble
  • Teeth
    Teeth
  • Tree
    Tree
Print this Teacher Guide

Teacher Guide

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Step 1Class discussion with students

Getting Started

Share with students that The Things they Carried is a largely autobiographical story of Tim O'Brien's actual life. After all, he named the protagonist after himself. The author Tim O'Brien was against the Vietnam War. He had just finished college and was about to attend Harvard Graduate School when his draft number was called. He served in Vietnam from February of 1969 to March of 1970. He was stationed in the Quang Ngai Province, where he set The Things They Carried.

The Things they Carried is also unique because it does not follow a typical narrative structure of a novel. Instead, it consists of 21 short stories. While the same characters reappear in various stories, each story is distinct as opposed to a series of chapters in a continuous plot.

Opening Discussion

Introduce the following themes to students, and ask them to make a prediction about the book:

  • The weight of emotional burdens
  • People are motivated by fear of shame
  • Truth is subjective
  • Morality is ambiguous
  • The destructiveness of loneliness and isolation
  • The healing power of storytelling
Step 2Pixton comic-making activities
  • Make a Storyboard
    Plot Summary

    Complete at the end of the novel.

    View Activity
  • Make a Mind Map
    Major Themes

    Complete at the end of the novel.

    View Activity
  • Make a Character Map
    Character Map

    Begin at the start of the novel, and make additions throughout the unit.

    View Activity
  • Extension / Modification
    Graphic Novel (Extension / Modification)

    Create a short Graphic Novel to summarize every story in the book.

  • Extension / Modification
    Mind Map (Extension / Modification)

    Create a Mind Map to illustrate the symbolism in The Things They Carried.

Step 3Concluding discussion with students

Discuss the following:

  • How has your interpretation of the title changed from before reading to after reading the book?
  • What are the tangible and intangible "things" the soldiers "carried" during and after the war?
  • Why do you think Tim O'Brien chose to use his own name for the protagonist?
  • There are many similarities between the author and protagonist, except the author never killed a man and he did not have children. Why do you think Tim O'Brien wrote a largely autobiographical work but chose to change those specific details?
  • In your opinion, what was Tim O'Brien's purpose for writing the book?
  • What are some of the recurring symbols and motifs in the book?
Print this Activity

Pixton Activity: The Things They Carried 1 Plot Summary

Featured Layouts

  • Storyboard

Intro

Track major events while reading in order to complete the plot summaries at the end of the novel.

Instructions

Summarize three of the stories in The Things They Carried using three Storyboards:

  • Label the scene in the panel title.
  • Summarize each scene in your own words.
  • Include an appropriate illustration for each panel.

See the rubric for grading guidelines.

Rubric: Plot Summary

Use this interactive rubric for easy, thorough assessment. It can even be used by students for self-assessment!

5 4 3 2 1
Overview The dramatic structure is focused, with advanced use of language/ideas. The dramatic structure is well developed with full and accurate descriptions. The plot diagram is accurate and logical; descriptions may be brief. The dramatic structure is basic, has several errors, and lacks detail. The dramatic structure is inaccurate, and is difficult to follow.
Meaning Ideas, information and use of detail • strong point of view
• summary is clear and highly detailed
• descriptions are thoughtful and highly developed
• relevant ideas with consistent analysis
• summary is clear and accurate
• logical descriptions that clarify and develop the idea
• relevant ideas with some analysis
• summary is short, but accurate
• descriptions are simple and consistent
• some relevant ideas
• summary has several errors
• descriptions are brief and lack detail
• often very brief
• summary is has significant errors
• descriptions are difficult to follow
Style Clarity, variety, impact of visuals and language • varies language to develop meaning
• varies sentence structure for effect
• images and characters have impact on the meaning of the panel
• language is clear with some variety
• varies sentence structure
• makes attempts to use descriptive language
• images and characters have purpose and significance
• language is clear with little variety
• basic sentence structure with a few variations
• images and characters are basic, but have purpose
• basic language; vague at times
• some variety in sentence length and type
• images and characters have minimal development
• vague, incorrect and repetitive language
• poorly constructed sentences; little variety
• images and characters are poorly developed
Form Organization and sequence (5 Act Play design) • proper organization
• sequence is highly effective and has purpose
• panels are thoughtful and detailed
• all panels are organized or logical
• logical sequence
• all panels are present
• most panels are organized or logical
• consistent attention to sequence
• all panels are present
• some panels are organized or logical
• some attention to sequence
• some panels may be missing
• panels are not organized or logical
• no attention to sequence
• panels are missing
Conventions The text demonstrates standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses eloquent words, rich sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses precise words, controlled sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates standard English conventions
• uses words and phrases, telling details and sensory language to convey a vivid picture
• demonstrates some accuracy in standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • contains multiple inaccuracies in Standard English conventions of usage and mechanics
Total
Print this Activity

Pixton Activity: The Things They Carried 2 Major Themes

Featured Layouts

  • Mind Map

Intro

Review the major themes:

  • The weight of emotional burdens
  • People are motivated by fear of shame
  • Truth is subjective
  • Morality is ambiguous
  • The destructiveness of loneliness and isolation
  • The healing power of storytelling

Instructions

For each major theme, identify at least two examples in the novel and depict them in a Mind Map:

  • Identify the theme in the Mind Map title
  • Briefly describe the scene in the panel title
  • Create an image that summarizes the scene
  • Include a quote or specific example that fits the theme

See the rubric for grading guidelines.

Rubric: Major Themes

Use this interactive rubric for easy, thorough assessment. It can even be used by students for self-assessment!

5 4 3 2 1
Overview The theme is highly developed; examples have significant purpose and are highly detailed. The theme is well developed; examples are specific and provide ample support. The theme is briefly discussed; examples are accurate but not fully explained. The theme is poorly discussed; vague or irrelevant examples. The theme is not identified; lacks any supporting examples.
Meaning Ideas, information and use of detail • strong point of view
• develops ideas clearly and logically with details, examples, and descriptions
• relevant ideas with consistent analysis
• logical descriptions or examples clarify and develop the ideas
• relevant ideas with some analysis
• examples or descriptions are simple and consistent
• few relevant ideas
• examples or descriptions may be poorly developed or illogical
• ideas are not developed
• few details or descriptions
Style Clarity, variety, impact of visuals and language • language is clear, varied
• flows smoothly; variety in sentences
• images and characters are fully developed; high attention to detail
• language is clear with some variety
• includes a variety of sentence lengths and patterns
• images and characters have purpose and significance
• language is clear with little variety
• basic sentence structures with a few variations
• images and characters are basic, but have purpose
• basic language; vague at times
• repeats a few basic sentence structures
• images and characters have minimal development
• vague, incorrect and repetitive language
• poorly constructed sentences; little variety
• images and characters are poorly developed
Form Organization and sequence • proper organization
• examples are properly referenced
• panels are thoughtful and detailed
• all panels are organized or logical
• examples are properly referenced
• all panels are present
• most panels are organized or logical
• examples are properly referenced
• all panels are present
• some panels are organized or logical
• examples are not/improperly referenced
• some panels may be missing
• panels are not organized or logical
• examples are not referenced
• panels are missing
Conventions The text demonstrates standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses eloquent words, rich sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses precise words, controlled sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates standard English conventions
• uses words and phrases, telling details and sensory language to convey a vivid picture
• demonstrates some accuracy in standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • contains multiple inaccuracies in Standard English conventions of usage and mechanics
Total
Print this Activity

Pixton Activity: The Things They Carried 3 Character Map

Featured Layouts

  • Character Map

Intro

Determining character traits is an important skill necessary to understanding the conflicts and themes of the plot. The characteristics that make up the main character and supporting characters help shape the outcome of the narrative.

Instructions

Choose three of your favorite characters from The Things They Carried and create a Character Map for each one.

  • It's important to add as many details as you can to all the parts of the map.
  • Include an appropriate illustration based on the character traits outlined in the novel.

See the rubric for grading guidelines.

Rubric: Character Map

Use this interactive rubric for easy, thorough assessment. It can even be used by students for self-assessment!

5 4 3 2 1
Overview The character map is thoughtful; descriptions are detailed and informative. The character map is fully developed; accurate details and insightful descriptions. The character map is complete; descriptions are simple and settings are accurate. The character map includes basic details, but is not fully developed. The character map does not accurately reflect the characters.
Meaning Ideas, information and use of detail • strong point of view
• summary is clear and highly detailed
• descriptions are thoughtful and highly developed
• significant details that make characters unique and dynamic
• relevant ideas with consistent analysis
• summary is clear and accurate
• logical descriptions that clarify and develop the idea
• characters are similar; includes relevant details
• relevant ideas with some analysis
• summary is short, but accurate
• descriptions are simple and consistent
• characters similar to description
• some relevant ideas
• summary has several errors
• descriptions are brief and lack detail
• characters vaguely looks like description
• often very brief
• summary is has significant errors
• descriptions are difficult to follow
• characters do not look like description
Style Clarity, variety, impact of visuals and language • language is clear, varied
• flows smoothly; variety in sentences
• images and characters are fully developed; high attention to detail
• language is clear with some variety
• includes a variety of sentence lengths and patterns
• images and characters have purpose and significance
• language is clear with little variety
• basic sentence structures with a few variations
• images and characters are basic, but have purpose
• basic language; vague at times
• repeats a few basic sentence structures
• images and characters have minimal development
• vague, incorrect and repetitive language
• poorly constructed sentences; little variety
• images and characters are poorly developed
Form Organization and sequence • proper organization
• panels are thoughtful and detailed
• all panels are organized or logical
• all panels are present
• most panels are organized or logical
• all panels are present
• some panels are organized or logical
• some panels may be missing
• panels are not organized or logical
• panels are missing
Conventions The text demonstrates standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses eloquent words, rich sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates precise English conventions
• uses precise words, controlled sensory language and mood to convey a realistic picture
• demonstrates standard English conventions
• uses words and phrases, telling details and sensory language to convey a vivid picture
• demonstrates some accuracy in standard English conventions of usage and mechanics • contains multiple inaccuracies in Standard English conventions of usage and mechanics
Total

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