Scenes from the Headlines: Lessons and Ideas for Discussion Lesson Plan

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J. Paul Getty Museum Education Department

Scenes from the Headlines: Lessons and Ideas for Discussion Lesson Plan

Vietnam and the Long-term Effect of War

Grades: High School (9–12)

Subjects: Visual Arts, History—Social Studies

Time Required: 3–4 class periods
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

Lesson Overview

Students will examine an image of civilians affected by the Vietnam War. They will research and discuss the reasons the Vietnam War began, why America became involved, and what some of the long-term effects of this war have been.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

- examine and discuss photographic images.

- research and report on a specific moment in history.

- research and report on the subsequent after-effects of an historical event on later histories.
Featured Getty Artworks

Siege of An Loc, South Vietnam by Barbara Gluck, 1974

- Image of Siege of An Loc, South Vietnam by Barbara Gluck

- For background information, see “Timeline: The Vietnam War”

- Research materials such as encyclopedias, the library, and the Internet

Lesson Steps

1. Begin by discussing the image, Siege of An Loc, South Vietnam by Barbara Gluck using the following questions:

- What do you see in this image? What do you notice first? What can you tell about this woman by looking closely at her face, hands, and feet?

- The woman in the foreground is suffering from shell shock. Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines shell shock as “post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers as a result of combat experience.” If shell shock is defined as a “post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers “ what do you think describes the feelings of the civilians in this photograph? Why do you think they are affected?

- Look at the other figures in this image. What can you tell about them? What are the visual clues that make you think that? What is each of them reacting to?

- What has the photographer captured in this photograph? (In this photo, Gluck attempted to capture the effect of the war on the people caught in the crossfire.)

- What do images such as this communicate about the Vietnam War to us today?
2. Have students research the Vietnam War in groups and answer the following questions:

- Why did the Vietnam War begin? Give three or four reasons.

- Why did America get involved in the conflict? What other countries were involved?

- What was the response of Americans at home to the war in Vietnam in the early 1960s?

- How did this response change by the end of the 1960s? What do you think caused this change?

- What was the outcome of the war?

3. After giving students some time to research the topic, have them report their findings to the class. Discuss the following issues related to their research and the image of Siege of An Loc, South Vietnam:

- If war is fought between two governments, and is put into effect by the military, why were so many civilians killed in the process in this case?

- If around 1,000 shells were dropped each day for over two months on the city of An Loc, how many shells would that make? Many shells dropped on Vietnam did not detonate when they landed. What do you think happened to all of the shells that did not go off when dropped on Vietnam? (Thousands of Vietnamese people have been killed or maimed by bombs, land mines, and artillery shells left over from the war. The U.S. and the United Nations have estimated that between 315,000 and 720,000 tons of bombs, artillery shells, and mortars litter the landscape of Vietnam, and 3.5 million mines are still buried across the countryside.)

- It has been 30 years since the Vietnam War ended, but the people of Vietnam still live with the threat of being injured or killed by the leftover shells and landmines that litter the landscape. Discuss how this threat might affect the way people live their daily lives today? How would living with this threat affect you both mentally and physically over time? How do you think this issue affects Vietnamese people who were born after the Vietnam War?

4. Since the Vietnam War’s conclusion, approximately 7,000 people have been killed or injured by remaining landmines. On average, there are approximately 250 mine-related incidents each year. Have students research the following questions:

- What is currently being done to clean up the land mines in Vietnam?

- Many countries today continue to use landmines as a defense strategy in wartime. Why do we continue to create objects of destruction even when we know that their effects can still be felt in the long-term?
5. After students have researched the Vietnam War and the issue of landmines, have them look at Barbara Gluck’s image again. And consider the following:

- What kind of an impact do you think this image had on the public in the United States when it was seen in 1973?

- Do you think images like this have an impact today on our views of the Vietnam War and the current debate about the use of landmines?

- Do you think this image, and photojournalism in general, can influence the public’s attitudes about war?


Students will be assessed based on their participation in class discussion and their ability to work collaboratively on research of the topic.


- Compare the image Siege of An Loc, South Vietnam to images of war from today’s newspapers. What similarities and differences do you notice? What images of war do we see in the press today? How are today’s images similar to or different from the image made by Barbara Gluck in 1972?

- It is said that the Vietnam War was significant in encouraging the belief that mass protest can influence government policy. Do you think that is still true today? How has the American experience in Vietnam affected how we view war today? How do our experiences in Vietnam compare to our current situation in the war in Iraq?

Standards Addressed
Common Core Standards for English Language Arts

Grades 9–12

Key Ideas and Details

1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.


Comprehension and Collaboration
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
3. Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Visual Arts Proficient for California Public Schools
Grades 9-12

1.0 Analyze Art Elements and Principles of Design

1.3 Research and analyze the work of an artist and write about the artist's distinctive style and its contribution to the meaning of the work.
1.4 Analyze and describe how the composition of a work of art is affected by the use of a particular principle of design.
3.0 Historical and Cultural Context

Diversity of the Visual Arts

3.3 Identify and describe trends in the visual arts and discuss how the issues of time, place, and cultural influence are reflected in selected works of art.
History—Social Science Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 10

10.8 Students analyze the causes and consequences of World War II.

Discuss the human costs of the war, with particular attention to the civilian and military losses in Russia, Germany, Britain, the United States, China, and Japan.

10.9 Students analyze the international developments in the post-World World War II world.

Compare the economic and military power shifts caused by the war, including the Yalta Pact, the development of nuclear weapons, Soviet control over Eastern European nations, and the economic recoveries of Germany and Japan.

Discuss the establishment and work of the United Nations and the purposes and functions of the Warsaw Pact, SEATO, NATO, and the Organization of American States.

Grade 11

11.7 Students analyze America's participation in World War II.

Examine the origins of American involvement in the war, with an emphasis on the events that precipitated the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Describe major developments in aviation, weaponry, communication, and medicine and the war's impact on the location of American industry and use of resources.

Discuss the decision to drop atomic bombs and the consequences of the decision (Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

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