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Portrait of a Service Member

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School Language Arts, Social Studies, Journalism, Veterans Day, JROTC

LESSON TIME:
Several Class Sessions


OBJECTIVES
Students will:

  • develop insightful questions that cannot be easily researched through online resources to ask a service member
  • conduct interviews
  • analyze the challenges of a service member


Medal of Honor Focus: Jay Vargas, U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam War. Any Medal of Honor Recipient may be used for this lesson. Suggestions include Melvin Morris, Leroy Petry, Gary Littrell, or Clinton Romesha.


Teacher Preparation:
Make contact with a local military branch, VFW, or American Legion to find a veteran or active duty service member who is willing to visit the classroom.


DAY 1

Introductory Activity:
Students will read the Recipient’s Portrait of Valor and view the video based on his story.


Small Group Activity:
Students will work with a partner to summarize the action(s) for which the Recipient received the Medal of Honor. Students should identify any words or phrases they are not familiar with and ask for clarification to better understand the citation.


Whole Group Activity:
Discuss as a class the Medal of Honor Recipient’s actions and how difficult it might have been for him to share his story. Explain to students that a veteran or service member will be coming to visit the class and that the students will be preparing questions to ask during the visit. Challenge students to write open-ended questions which are also sensitive to the service member or veteran’s experience.


Small Group Activity:
Students will work with a partner to create who, what, when, where, and why questions to ask a veteran or service member. They will write insightful questions to help them learn more about life in a time of war/conflict.


Whole Group Activity:
Students will share out their questions while the teacher records them for the class. Students will decide as a group the top questions to use during the class interview process. Students will decide which questions are the most thoughtful or thought-provoking as well as appropriate.

The teacher will provide the students with a list of their questions, and students will decide collectively how to divide up the questions. If possible, the list of questions should be provided to the service member ahead of time so that he or she may be better prepared about the interests of the students.


Concluding Activity:
Students will be prepared with the question that they will ask the service member.


DAY 2

Whole Group Activity:
A veteran or service member will come to speak with the class. Students will listen to the veteran or service member tell his or her story based on military duties. The students will ask the questions they prepared on Day 1 and actively listen so that they do not ask a question that the service member already answered.


Concluding Activity:
Students will write a reflection on the veteran or service member’s visit. The reflection should highlight an area or areas within the presentation that were particularly interesting, inspirational, or previously unknown to the student.


DAY 3

Whole Group Activity:
After discussing the visit, the class will discuss similarities and connections between the Medal of Honor Recipient and the guest speaker.


Concluding Activity:
The students will write a thank you card to the veteran or service member.


Assessment:
Prepared questions, written reflection


Resources:
Portrait of Valor for chosen Recipient, Living History video for chosen Recipient