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Multiple Perspectives: Turning Non-fiction into ‘Truth’


Prefatory Statement

Class Specifications

Significant Assumptions

Unit Objectives

Possible Activities


Anticipatory Set

Lesson Plans

(3 days)

Week by Week Outline


Teacher Resources



Prefatory Statement:

            This unit delves into the neglected genre of non-fiction, exploring critical and deeper ways of examining it.  Most of the reading we do in our every day life is non-fiction in nature.  So much of that material, not only regarding the past, is presented as ‘truth,’ and it is vital that students be able to critically look at that material and question it in order to find the author’s bias and purpose.  Throughout this unit the traditional non-fiction material (diaries, essays, letters, autobiographies, ect) is presented by looking at several historical events from many sides and perspectives.  The majority of the literature in this genre presents themselves to the reader as illustrating the truth about what happened. However, as you compare different authors’ ‘truths,’ what really happened becomes unclear.  This unit also sets aside a day or two to include poetry and prose perspectives of the same event.   The main objective is to look at the audience and purpose of a piece to understand the point of view it presents.  The skill of finding the relative truth and how to present the ‘truth’ accurately are vital for students as they begin to look critically at the world.  Examples of questions used throughout the unit:  What is the authorial purpose of this newspaper article?  What is the bias of the paper?  Is there another side not presented here?  Where would I find it?  These are all questions students should begin asking in their everyday lives.  Ultimately, this unit prepares students to become critical of everything they read, especially focusing on material presenting facts or the truth.

            Throughout this unit, the students participate in Literature Circles where they read non-fiction accounts of the Vietnam War.  They will also create a multi-genre research paper exploring the many perspectives of a historical event of their own choice.  Finally, as a class, we will examine and explore non-fiction and fiction genres’ treatment of the Civil War. 


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Class Specification-

            This unit is designed for late high school students, specifically 11th and 12th grade.  Due to the material covered in the Vietnam Literature Circle books, the content can be fairly controversial particularly as we begin to look at unconventional viewpoints involving history.  Students need to be able to accept and analyze viewpoints contrary to their held beliefs.  They also need to be open minded enough to accept information that may be in contrast to typical conventional ideas.  This unit focuses initially on the Vietnam War, bringing up issues that should be discussed with older students who are more able to make the connections between the Vietnam War and our current events.  This unit could be adapted for younger high school students by changing the subject matter for Literature Circles.  The issue of war may be difficult for some students and the teacher may need to switch the subject matter of the initial activities or Literature Circle books; however, the assessment and ideas motivating this unit can remain intact for younger high school students. 


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Significant Assumptions- In designing this unit I have made the following assumptions:

·        Multiple perspectives/opinions exist of almost all historical events

·        Students are familiar with a variety of genres

·        Students learn best when given a choice

·        Students are able to effectively read the material

·        Students learn through many different learning styles

·        The material can be made interesting

·        The Internet contains primary sources

·        Students understand primary/secondary sources

·        Students  can research on the web effectively

·        Students have knowledge of basic history involving the Civil and Vietnam Wars from Social Studies classes

·        Students know how to work in groups effectively

·        Students have prior experience with writing journals

·        Students have worked in Literature Circles previously

·        Students have peer edited

·        Students know how to present their work in group presentations


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Desired Outcomes/Standards/Objectives to be Met-

            By the end of this unit, students will have learned:

                        Critically analyze a piece of non-fiction

                        Effectively identify many points of view of a situation

                        Recognize the author’s bias/purpose in a piece of non-fiction

                        Recognize/Argue the relativity of ‘truth’ found in non-fiction

                        Develop effective strategies for reading genres of non-fiction


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Whole class activities-

·        Class discussions

·        In-class readings

·        Movie clips

·        Debate Perspectives

Small-Group Activities

·        Literature Circles

·        Writing groups

·        Webquest activities

·        Group presentation of research

·        Literature Circle Book Talk

Individual Activities

·        Creating a multi-genre research paper

·        Journal responses to different readings

·        Researching primary documentation

·        Present multi-genre paper

·        Webquest activities

Ongoing Activities

·        Journal writing

·        Grammar/spelling logs

·        Writing groups

·        Literature Circles

Student Resources

·        Textbook-English

·        Textbook-History, US or World

·        Writing Journal

·        Writing/Spelling logs

·        Copy of Literature Circle book

·        Word Processor

·        Access to the internet


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Unit Launch/Anticipatory set/Set Induction-

             Students will view portions of the movie “All’s Quiet on the Western Front” in which they cannot determine the nationality of the soldier.  After viewing a portion of the film we will talk about the pro/anti war nature of the film.  How does it present war?  How does it humanize the war?  We will then view more of the movie in which it does become clear it is a German soldier.  Students will then journal how this new information changes how they feel about the war and how the perspective is different than originally perceived. 

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Lesson One:  Week One Friday:


The Textbook could be WRONG? : Looking Critically at History



            Students will compare the information regarding Abraham Lincoln found in their textbooks about the Civil War to the material found in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. (I choose this as it looks at history from the view of the losers, not the winners.) 



            Students will find differences in the ‘facts’ presented.

            Students will find differences in the presentation of these ‘facts’.

            Students will understand the underlying concept of discrepancies in non-fiction.



            Students need to be able to look critically at all information that is presented as facts.  While facts do exist in the world, the manner in which facts are presented can influence the meaning of them to a reader.  Through this lesson I want students to be able to recognize how the author is presenting facts to make their point. 



  • Students, with the help of their history books journal about what they know about the Civil War.  Causes, peoples, slavery, anything.  (5-10 min)
  • As a class we create a list of the causes of the Civil War.  Slavery will inevitably top the list.  (5 min)
  • Pass out selections from Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States.(15 min)
    • Students silently read the selection.
    • As they read students should write down in their journals any new information they learn. 
  • As a class we compile the list of new information. (5-10)
    • Discuss why they didn’t know this information
  • Discussion Questions: (15 min)
    • Did your textbook and the article ever present the same information?
    • Did they ever both use the same statistics?
    • What do the authors feel about Lincoln?  Is it different? 
    • How do the authors cover the emancipation?  Positively?  How does the different information each uses create different ideas about how to view the event?
    • Have you encountered other instances of history being ‘wrong’?
  • Wrap up the discussion by asking students to compare the two lists and write a paragraph about how their view of Lincoln has changed or how they now question the material? 



            Read Literature Circle Book



            Students will use historical information in two contrasting ways for their multi-

genre paper. 

Students will make judgments on the facts presented in future non-fiction and

question how they are presented. 



Lesson Plan Two:  Week 2 Tuesday



Students will compare/contrast Fredrick Douglas’ “Narrative of a Slave” with “Southern Thought  (an article written by a Southern Plantation owner before the Civil War).  Students will examine how each author’s position in life contributes to their opinions about slavery and how both pieces’ perspectives together create a more complete and perhaps more accurate picture of history. 



            Students can identify differences between two perspectives

            Students con identify similarities between these two perspectives

Students will analyze these perspectives to understand the complexities

of an issue



            This lesson allows for students to begin understanding that while non-fiction is true there are many views of what that truth is and how to present it.  Both of these writers present the truth of their situation yet give very different accounts of slavery.  This begins the process of understand relativity of truth and point of view.  By combining these points through dialogue they begin to understand how these points of view can exist at the same time. 



  • Student review Douglas’ “Narrative of a Slave”  (Read for homework last night) (10 min)
    • Create a list of Douglass’ views of slavery and his objections
    • Create a list of Douglass’ reasons slavery should stop
    • Create a one paragraph summery of Douglass’ life
  • As a class read “Southern Thought” (20 min)
    • Create a list of the plantation owners’ views of slavery and his objections to the protests
    • Reason slavery needs to continue
  • Quick review of Venn Diagram using the material from yesterday (5 min)
  • As a class create a Venn Diagram of these two perspectives (10 min)
  • Discussion:  (15 min)
    • How could two such different views exist?
    • Which is right?
    • What motives these two different perspectives?
    • Is there anything these two men could agree on?
  • As the class begins to discuss their similarities Assign: (5 min)
    • Suppose these two men meet.  What would they talk about?  Slavery?  How would they interact?  Write up the dialogue between these two men.  Its only has to been about a five minute encounter.  If at all possible have them discuss and then come to agreement about one issue. 



            Complete the dialogue exercise. 

            Read Literature Book. 



            Student will be assessed of these skills in their multi-genre paper as they combine perspectives of their event.  Students have understood this concept if they are able to find two perspectives that could co-exist in one genre of their multi-genre paper.  Also if students are able to complete a Venn Diagram of these two pieces. 



Lesson Plan Three: Week Four Wednesday



            This is an example of a typical lesson plan for Literature Circles involving how to keep them on task and accomplishing something.  I assign a project/writing for the group to complete by the end of class to give t hem both something to spark conversation and prove accountability.  For this lesson students will discuss a character’s evolution and predict how the character will continue to evolve. 



            Students will

                        be able to discuss literary work without direct teacher guidance

                        use a variety of reading strategies to understand the material



  • Overview/reminder of Literature Circle procedures.  (10 min)
    • Reminder: Peer reviews are part of you grade for Literature Circles.
    • that groups must assign new roles/pages for next week. (note they should be just over haft way through their books)
  • Student discuss using the following questions as guidelines.  (20 min)
    • Post the following questions on the overhead.  Remind the students these are only a starting place and they should go where the discussion leads. But stay on task.
      • Describe the type of person your character is now. 
        • Use only 5 words to sum him/her up
      • How did they react to combat?
        • What does this say about them?
      • What motivates the character?
        • Has that changed since their arrival in Vietnam?
      • Have their opinions/beliefs about war changed?
        • What motivated that change?
      • Has your view of war changed?  How do society’s current opinions of war differ/support your or the main character’s opinions?
  • Assign the following.  (10 min)
    • Draw three pictures to illustrate your character’s evolution.
      • 1- the beginning of the book, either before they left of their arrival in Vietnam
      • 2- their current situation
      • 3- predict what the character will be like in the beginning of book. 
    • Include 5 adjectives to describe the character as a person underneath each drawing
  • Student work as a group to create images (15 min)
  • Collect at the end of the hour
    • Note: the students will get them back as they plan their book talks. 



            Read Literature Circle Book

            Research Multi-genre topics



            This lesson will be assessed as part of the larger Literature Circle Grade.  These character development illustrations will be used in book talks, as part of completion grade, and covered in peer/self evaluations to be completed at the end of the unit.


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Organization of the Unit:

Week One: 

  • Monday
    • Launch Activity
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • Students will listen to Literature Circle presentations and break themselves into groups.  List of possible Literature Circle books located in Teacher Resources.  They will journal/discuss about their prior knowledge of the Vietnam War.  They will discuss their predictions about the plot, content, and theme of the book.  They will also assign first reading and role assignments. 
  • Thursday
    • The rest of the week is whole group class exploration of non-fiction genres. In class I suggest tackling a different event time period than Literature Circles.  I have chosen the Civil War because I think that it offers a wide variety of types of non-fiction from a variety of viewpoints. 
    • Introduction to letters, diaries, newspapers, the Gettysburg Address, and even photographs
    • Emphasis is placed on the type of non-fiction.  What information is found?  Is their a bias?  What was the author’s purpose and audience? 
  • Friday
    • Compare Douglass’ “Narrative of a Slave” to “Southern Thought” See Lesson Plan One

Week Two:

  • Monday
    • Literature Circles.  Discussion of main character.  Each group by the end of class should complete a time line of the main character’s life thus far.  
  • Tuesday-Friday Lesson Plan Two
    • The rest of this week completes the class’ look at different types of non-fiction. Friday would cover genres of fiction that describe the Civil War.  Excerpts from “Red Badge of Courage” or Civil War poetry.  *NOTE:  make sure the ‘fiction’ you choose is talking about a specific historical event.  Discussion on these days should continue looking at the bias of non-fiction genres with questions such as: What information is given? What is the author’s purpose/audience?  Beyond this the discussion should begin to describe how the genre itself contributes/takes away from the presentation of the event.  Does the poetry help describe the facts of battle, or does it get in the way?  What information is not found in a private’s letters?

Week Three: 

  • Monday
    • Literature Circles.  By this point they should be at least half way through their Literature Circle book.  Discussions should focus on the main character’s first encounter with morality/death.  Also their changing attitudes and opinions involving war.  How do the characters feel now versus when they first started?  Have students predict end of book. 
  • Tuesday
    • Start of multi-genre papers.  Explain the assignment, look at examples, and brainstorming different non-fiction genres that students could use in their papers.  Time could also be spent looking at possible topics.  Encourage students to try to pick a historical event, person, or era that has many perspectives and opinions.
  • Wednesday and Thursday
    • All about research.  Go down to the computer lab and show students how to find primary sources and other information that will be useful to them. 
  • Friday
    • Literature Circles


Week Four:

  • Monday-Tuesday
    • Investigation of the other perspectives of the Vietnam War.  Looking at the protestors and civil rights movements through non-fiction.  Again newspapers, Howard Zinn’s People’s History, letters, diaries, and newscasts.  Trying to find pieces of non-fiction that glorify and protest the war.  These pieces should try to contrast the readings in the Literature Circle book.  In class discussion should include such topics as why so many differing accounts of the war?  Why did so many people protest?  How can you tell how the author feels about the war?  What truth is there in this piece? 
  • Wednesday  Lesson Plan Three
    • Literature Circles.  They should now be talking about the characters moral dilemmas and how the war is changing the characters physically, emotionally, and developmentally.  Students should begin to predict how the character will deal with coming home and those he left behind.  Also discuss any interactions the main character has had with the other perspectives we’ve talked about.
  • Thursday
  • Friday
    • Debate of ‘roles’ from Webquest arguing the validity of the War. Wrap up discussion of different truth and points of view. 
  • Note:  This week all reading should occur in class while students are still researching outside of class. 

Week Five: 

  • Monday
    • If Literature Circles need to meet once more, this will be the last day.  Groups will discuss how their author fits into the perspectives of the Vietnam War we discussed in class last week.  They will also prepare “book talks” to describe their book and their author’s perspective to the rest of the class. 
  • Tuesday
    • Book Talks. Also wrap up discussion on the Vietnam material and discussions on the different ‘truths’ each non-fiction work presents. 
  • Wednesday
    • Students have completed research of their event. 
    • Complete Task Three of the Webquest. The prewriting list of possible pieces of non-fiction is presented.  Students begin to outline which pieces they are going to write for their multi-genre paper and what researched information goes into each piece. 
  • Thursday and Friday
    •  Writing days.  Student should be writing non-fiction genres for their multi-genre papers.  Students should have 5 pieces by the end of the day Friday. 

Week Six:

  • This whole week as needed is centered on writing, writing groups and time in the computer lab to produce final drafts. 

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            Students will be graded on the following:

                        35% Literature Circles

Grade based on participation, satisfactory completion of Literature Circle activities including role sheets, and peer and self evaluations.

                        35% Multi-genre Paper

Grade based on number of genres, research, creativity, use of different perspectives, rough drafts, and mechanics

See Multi-genre Rubric for more specifics about each. 

                        30 % In-class exercises

Including but not limited to:

Responding to Readings and class participation

                                    Journal writing                                                

                                    Homework assignments                                               


Grade based on completion of journal writings (based on journal criteria), contributing to class reading and discussion (at least twice a week), and completing outside homework assignments as assigned.   

All in-class activities will be graded on a traditional point scale. (90,80,70,60)  This grade will then count 30% of the unit grade.



Student receives a B for literature Circles based on peer/self evaluations and failure to demonstrate that they completed reading the book.

Student received an A for the multi-genre based on the rubric

Student received 287 of the 350 points or 82%  available for in-class activities. 

The three grades are then weighted for a unit grade of B. 




Multi-Genre Research Paper


           As a part of our Non-fiction Unit you will write a Multi-Genre Research Paper.  This is an opportunity for you to combine research and creative writing to explore the many perspectives of a historical event, period, or person.  You will research the many sides, points of view, and opinions about your topic. Use will then incorporate your research into your own non-fiction genres. 


Checklist:                                         Due Date:                      Completed:

     Topic Proposal Paragraph                                                                       


          min. 8 sources                                                                                    

          2 primary                                                                                           


     Outline of genre ideas                                                                              

          and use of research        


Works Cited containing                                                                                 

          8 sources                        

     Rough Drafts of all 8 genres                                                                    

     Peer Editing worksheet                                                                            

     Final Draft                                                                                               


A few helpful hints:

Choose a topic that you are interested in, can be interpreted many different ways,

     and will produce enough research.   

Choose a variety of NON-FICTION genres.  Fiction genres can be done for

     extra credit but finish the 8 non-fiction ones first.

Get rough drafts done early.  Take time to peer edit and revise you work.

Multi-genre Rubric

Student Name:     ________________________________________












Writing Process

Student devotes a lot of time and effort to the writing process (prewriting, drafting, reviewing, and editing). Works hard to make the story wonderful.

Student devotes sufficient time and effort to the writing process (prewriting, drafting, reviewing, and editing). Works and gets the job done.

Student devotes some time and effort to the writing process but was not very thorough. Does enough to get by.

Student devotes little time and effort to the writing process. Doesn't seem to care.

Using Different Perspectives

The entire story is related to the assigned topic and allows the reader to understand at least 4 different perspectives.

Most of the story is related to the assigned topic. The paper presents 3 different points of view.

Some of the story is related to the assigned topic, and includes 2 different perspectives.

Only the mainstream perspective is presented.

Using Research

Student uses at least 8 different sources.  Effectively incorporates facts into various genres.

Student uses at least 6 different sources.  Facts are almost all used effectively into genres.

Student uses 4 different sources.  Facts are not used effectively into the genres.

Student uses 2 sources.  No attempt is made to incorporate facts into the genres.

Spelling and Punctuation

There are no spelling or punctuation errors in the final draft.

There is one spelling or punctuation error in the final draft.

There are 2-3 spelling and punctuation errors in the final draft.

The final draft has more than 3 spelling and punctuation errors.


The story contains many creative details and/or descriptions that contribute to the reader's enjoyment. The author has really used his imagination.

The story contains a few creative details and/or descriptions that contribute to the reader's enjoyment. The author has used his imagination.

The story contains a few creative details and/or descriptions, but they distract from the story. The author has tried to use his imagination.

There is little evidence of creativity in the story. The author does not seem to have used much imagination.


Student successfully used 8 genres.  At least one is one is not an example discussed in class. 

Student successfully used 7 genres. Perhaps one is not an example discussed in class

Student successfully used 6 genres.  Struggled with one or two genres.

Student successfully used 5 genres.  Struggled with many genres. 


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Teacher Resources

Civil War Non-Fiction Pieces of Literature for Class Discussion:

Frederick Douglass                   Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

George Fitzhugh                       Southern Thought

Harriet Ann Jacobs                   Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Mary Boykin Chesnut               Mary Chesnut’s Civil War Letters

Abraham Lincoln                      Gettysburg Address

                                                Second Inaugural Address

Howard Zinn                            A People’s History of the United States


      Civil War Fiction Literature

            Stephan Crane                          Red badge of Courage


      Vietnam Non-fiction Literature

            Le Ly Hayslip                           When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

            John Steinbeck             Why Soldiers Don’t Talk

            Tim O’brien                              Ambush

            Frances Fitzgerald                    Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the

                                                            Americans in Vietnam

            Lerone Bennett, Jr.                   What Manner of Men: A Biography of King, Jr.       

            Howard Zinn                            A People’s History of the United States


      Vietnam Fiction Literature

            Lanford Wilson             Wandering

            Larsen and Nga                        Deciding

            Denise Levertow                      At the Justice Department, November 15, 1969

            Tim O’Brian                             The Things They Carried

            Bobbie Mason                          In Country


      Literature Circle Book Possibilities

            Phillip Caputo                           A Rumor of War

            Micheal Herr                            Dispatch

            Tim O’brien                              If I Die in a Combat Zone

            Al Sontoli                                 Everything We Had: An Oral History of the

                                                            Vietnam War ….

            Bernard Edelman                      Letters Home from Vietnam

            Ron Kovic                                Born on the Fourth of July

            Winnie Smith                            American Daughter Gone to War: On the Front

                                                            with an Army Nurse in Vietnam

            Thomas B Allen                        Offerings at the Wall: Artifacts from the Vietnam

                                                            Memorial Collection

            Mark Baker                             Nam: The Vietnam War in the Words of the Men

                                                            and Women Who Fought There. 



References:  Literature or titles for literature taken from the following sources:

      Applebee, Arthur N. Ed.  The Language of Literature. McDougal Littell: Evanston,

            Illinois.  1997

      Applebee, Arthur N. Ed.  The Language of Literature: American Literature.  McDougal

            Littell:  Evanston, Illinois. 2000.

      Johannessen, Larry R. “When History Talks Back:  Teaching Non-fiction Literature of the

            Vietnam War.”  English Journal. Volume 91, Number 4.  March 2002.  

      Lauter, Paul. Ed.  The Heath Anthology of American Literature.  Vol. I. 4th Ed. Houghton

            Mifflin Company: Boston.  2002.

      Oldham, Perry.  “On Teaching Vietnam War Literature.” English Journal. Volume 75,

            Number 2.  February 1986.

      Zinn, Howard.  A People’s History of the United States. Perennial Classics. 2003.


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