National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried

by Tim O'Brien

Abstraction may make your head believe, but a good story, well told, will also make your kidneys believe, and your scalp and your tear ducts, your heart, and your stomach, the whole human being.


Tim O'Brien (Copyright Marion Ettlinger, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin)

Teachers may consider the ways in which these activities may be linked to other Big Read community events. Most of these projects could be shared at a local library, a student assembly, or a bookstore.

  1. The story "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" was made into a film in 1998, called A Soldier's Sweetheart. Show the movie to your class. Afterward, discuss how accurately the film represented the story. What changes were made in the plot? Did these enhance the story or detract from it?
  2. Ask students to illustrate a scene from the book and provide a short synopsis of the scene. Display the artwork at a local gallery, in your school's hallway, or at a local Big Read event.
  3. Have students choose one or more powerful scenes from the book to dramatize, using O'Brien's dialogue and his narration as direction. Present the scenes as part of an assembly or a showcase for parents.
  4. Create a photography exhibit using archival photos to illustrate the Vietnam War and the war protests. Have students caption each photo and be prepared to discuss the photos and explain the significance of each. Display the photo gallery at the school or a local library.
  5. Visit a local museum that has an exhibit on the Vietnam War or invite a Vietnam veteran to talk with your class.
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