TTTC: Day One

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Mar
  • 19
  • 2009

The Things They Carried, this is the first time I’m teaching it. It’s a great book, one I had a fantastic time reading a few summers back, but I’m not really sure what to do with it in the classroom. Here’s what I did today:

Times And Handout

Reading the first ten pages takes about twenty minutes. You read the first paragraph, other students read in Quaker style for the rest. About ten minutes is good for the list they’ll make and ten at the other end of reading to discuss and set up the homework.

During the course of this novel, plenty of ideas and handouts will come from the NCTE publication Tim O’Brien in the Classroom, these sample poems not the least among them.


  1. Taking out paper and writing instrument, students list everything they brought to class today. Details of what’s in the wallet or purse or backpack are key. Make that list long and full.
  2. Set the list aside and read the first short story, “The Things They Carried” (end at “Sun and waves and gentle winds, all love and lightness”).
  3. Separate the concrete from the abstract things the soldiers carry via class discussion.
  4. Cover what the photos and letters Lt. Cross carries represent (“spent the last hour of light pretending,” “More than anything, he wanted Martha to love him as he loved her,” “understood that Love was only a way of signing and did not mean what he sometimes pretended”).
  5. Mention that “Kiowa also carried his grandmother’s distrust of the white man” and what that says about him.
  6. Develop Ted Lavender (“the unweighed fear,” his dope).
  7. Read sample poems in preparation for homework.
  8. Homework: Using the list you created at the beginning of the period, write a poem called “The Things I Carry.” Be sure to bring up both concrete and abstract things you carry. Also be sure to avoid rhyming. Don’t bother to rhyme “pocket” with “locket” because that’ll simply end up distracting you. Just worry about writing the truth: what are some of the things you carry with you each day?
  9. Start class tomorrow by everyone reading their poems to each other in small groups.

1 comment

1. Miller says:

[4/15/2009 - 11:31 am]

I have a few resources for a Things They Carried unit on my website: