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        A Different Kind of Lottery: Understanding the Draft During the Vietnam War | Lesson Plan

        Learn about the draft lottery during the Vietnam War, and how it affected the lives of young men during that time in Lesson Two of Vietnam War Oral History Lesson Plans.

        Drafted in 1966, Paul Wisovaty left behind his days shooting pool in Taylorville, Illinois for service in Vietnam; an experience which changed his life forever. Steve Allen of Newman, Illinois served as a platoon commander in Vietnam, where he saw firsthand the attitudes of soldiers who were selected to serve while others stayed behind in the United States. Robert Ritter of Monticello, Illinois enlisted in the Navy Reserves before being drafted, but believed the draft was the patriotic duty of young American men and served the nation well. Timothy Kendall grew up in a poor family of 13 children in Richmond, Virginia. He registered for the draft at 18 and later learned how to obtain government scholarships and grants to attend college and defer military induction. Thomas Boaz of St. Joseph, Illinois was living in Germany in the early 1970s when he turned 18 and registered for the draft. His experiences in Germany strengthened his resolve to register as a conscientious objector.

        Lesson Summary

        Students are introduced to the Selective Service’s lottery system through a bell-ringer that asks them to locate their “number” and then segregates the class into the drafted and undrafted. After a debrief about the bell-ringer, students are introduced to the processing sheet and the first learning objective. They then read a short description of the Selective Service’s lottery system (which is still the way a draft would be handled today). The key points from the reading are summarized through a teacher-directed discussion. Finally, students view the oral histories of veterans who discuss the ways the draft impacted their perspectives on the Vietnam War. The lesson concludes with a discussion on the second learning objective. Students turn in their processing sheets or finish watching the videos for homework.

        Time Allotment

        50-75 minutes

        Learning Objectives

        1. Students will be able to describe the Selective Service’s lottery system for drafting soldiers into the military and give their opinion about fairness of the system.
        2. Students will be able to analyze the ways the Selective Service’s lottery system affected perspectives on the Vietnam War.

        Prep for Teachers

        Make copies of the following resource for each student:

        Make sure students will have access to the video excerpts:

        Common Core State and C3 Standards

        Common Core State Standards:

        • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
        • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.11-12.7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
        • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.11-12.9. Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

        College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework Standards:

        • D2.His.1.9-12. Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
        • D2.Civ.2.9-12. Analyze the role of citizens in the U.S. political system, with attention to various theories of democracy, changes in Americans’ participation over time, and alternative models from other countries, past and present.

        Introductory Activity

        Bell-Ringer: Hand out or project Document A: 1970 Selective Service Lottery Table. Have students read the instructions and work together to locate their numbers.

        • Tell the class that the President has announced that an army of terrorists is massing on our border with Canada and seems ready to invade from the north.  Therefore, the US is calling a draft to build an army to protect the homeland.
        • In order to be fair about it, the government has decided to hold a lottery and a list will be made of the student’s numbers to determine which students will go to war. The lower your number, the better your chance to go to war.
        • Ask for student’s numbers, starting with the lowest first, making a list on the board. Have the drafted students (the first, lowest half) get up as they give their number and walk to one side of the room.
        • Once half the class has been drafted, have the other students go to the other side of the room.
        • Facilitate a conversation about the simulation. Ask the “drafted” students the following questions: "How do you feel about being drafted? Are you happy to serve your country, or resentful that you were chosen and others were not?" "Do you feel this system of deciding who is going to war is fair? Explain your thinking."
        • Ask the “un-drafted” students the following questions: "How do you feel about not being drafted? Are you relieved that you don’t have to fight?" "Do you feel this system of deciding who is going to war is fair? Explain your thinking."

        Learning Activities

        Transition to the learning goal by explaining that this is how the United States government decided to draft young men into the war in Vietnam. Hand out Document B: Overview of the Selective Service Lottery and Reading Notes: Overview of the Selective Service Lottery. Spend a couple of minutes making sure the students understand their first learning objective.

        Give students time to read. This could be done in several ways, but partner reading with mixed-ability pairs is often successful. The reading includes line numbers, double spacing and wide margins for note taking and highlighting. This may take as long as 10-15 minutes.

        Once students have completed the reading, have a class discussion about the learning objective. Summarize the class discussion on the board. This may take from 5-10 minutes. Refer back to the learning objective repeatedly as students begin to develop the answers to this objective. Some questions to help facilitate discussion might include:

        • "How did the US choose which men would fight in Vietnam?"

        • "What is your opinion of this system? Does it seem fair? Why or why not?"

        • "Would you be willing to serve if you were drafted under this system, or would you use a deferment? If you chose to defer, which deferment would you use, and why?"

        Transition to the oral histories by handing out the Processing Chart: Oral Histories of Vietnam Veterans. Spend a couple of minutes making sure the students understand their second learning objective. Ask students to consider the effect of this system on ordinary people with questions like:

        • "How do you think young American men reacted to this system during the Vietnam War?"

        Project or have the students watch and listen to A Different Kind of Lottery: Understanding the Draft During the Vietnam War - Media Gallery. Monitor students during the activity to make sure they are completing the chart correctly. 

        Culminating Activity

        Conclude with a teacher-directed discussion of the main points of the oral histories. Students can hand in their processing sheets on the way out the door or can finish analyzing the oral histories for homework and turn in the assignment at the beginning of the next class period.


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