The Things They Carried – Activities

The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, is one of those stories from high school lit class that I remember thinking, Wow, I am sure glad they made me read this one. I would have probably never chosen it on my own. But isn’t that what literature class and learning in general is for – to expose us to what we might not have done on our own?

This book was perfect after having finished Slaughterhouse Five, because it is a different way to express similar sentiments towards war.

For the intro, we watched this video and talked about what it means to write fiction (just because it is fiction, does it mean it is not true?)

I then had them make a list about things they carry, based on this list on this page of activities. The activity has the students write a letter, but I wanted to introduce them to spoken word poetry, so I altered the assignment a bit:

  1. Make a list of things that you carry. Consider the following questions when making your list:
    • What do you carry every day in school?
    • What do you carry in the summer?
    • What do you have to bring to work?
    • What things do you carry that are very visible to the world?
    • What things are more hidden?
    • What things are totally invisible, that is, abstract or symbolic?
    • What do others make you carry?
    • What things do you carry that you’d like to put down
  2. We read the first part of Chapter 1 in class, to get an idea of what kind of writing I am looking for in the next point (#3). The students had to keep an ongoing chart of characters and their things that represent them as they read.
  3. (I had them do this for homework.) Pick one of the items that seems to best represent you. Write a paragraph discussing the following topics:
    1. a vivid description of the thing you carry
    2. an idea of the weight of the thing you carry
    3. a sense of whether this thing is a negative burden or a positive pleasure
    4. an explanation of why you carry this thing
    5. a story involving the thing you carry
  4. We watched several spoken word poems to introduce the idea of writing a spoken word poem (also known as slam poetry).
  5. I taught them about the different literary devices found on this website. Repetition, Parallelism, Rhyme (deep rhyme, internal rhyme, outside-in rhyme, compound rhyme, broken rhymes, slanted rhymes, etc.), Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance, Metaphor, Simile, Onomatopoeia, Hyperbole, Personification, etc.
  6. We discussed how these appear in Eminem’s Lose Yourself. We went through slide by slide and they identified the different devices they saw. I made this resource as a free guide.
  7. I had them rewrite the paragraph they had written for homework, using at least 4 of the learned devices and imitating a spoken word poem. The idea is to practice using the devices – it doesn’t have to turn out poetic, but it will start to look poetic if they use the devices well. This is a practice round for their final project, which will be a more fully developed version of this classwork.

    HonduTeach - The Things They Carried - Introduction Activities - Spoken Word poetry - 11th grade
    HonduTeach – The Things They Carried – Introduction Activities – Spoken Word poetry – 11th grade

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