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        The Lengths to Which Some Will Go: The Self-Immolation of Thích Quảng Đức in 1963 | Lesson Plan

        Learn about the ways that the self-immolation of the Buddhist Monk, Thích Quảng Đức, in South Vietnam impacted a American man, and a South Vietnamese woman, in Lesson One of Vietnam War Oral History Lesson Plans.

        Timothy Kendall was a young man with little awareness of politics or the debate about the Vietnam War when he saw the media reports about this act of self-immolation and became aware that there was more than one way to view Vietnam. Ut Ha lived in Dalat, Vietnam at the time of this incident and saw it as ploy to harm the president of South Vietnam. Learn about this iconic act and its impact on the lives of Americans and the South Vietnamese.

        Lesson Summary

        Using Visual Thinking Strategies, students are introduced to the iconic photograph of Quảng Đức’s self-immolation in Vietnam in 1963. They then analyze Quảng Đức’s last words to determine what they know and why they still need to know about this incident. Students read a short description of the causes and effects of the event. The key points from the reading are summarized through a teacher-directed discussion. Students are then introduced to the oral histories of two people whose perspectives were changed by Quảng Đức’s actions. The lesson concludes with a "quick write" asking students to assess Quảng Đức’s actions through the lens of citizenship.

        Time Allotment

        50-75 minutes

        Learning Objectives

        1. Students will be able to analyze the causes and effects of Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation.
        2. Students will be able to analyze how Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation shaped people's perspectives.
        3. Students will be able to evaluate Thích Quảng Đức's effectiveness in addressessing the social and political problems in South Vietnam.

        Prep for Teachers

        Prepare all of the following resources for this lesson

        Common Core and College, Career, and Civic Life (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.3.9-12. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.
        • D2.His.4.9-12. Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
        • D2.His.5.9-12. Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.
        • D2.His.14.9-12. Analyze multiple and complex causes and effects of events in the past.

        Introductory Activity

        Begin with projection of the photo of Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation. Ask students to analyze the photo and try to determine what is happening in the photo. Use Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) questions such as:

        • What is happening in this picture?
        • What are the details in the picture that helped you draw your conclusion(s)?
        • What else do we need to know in order to understand what really happened?

        Hand out, read aloud or project the following quote:

        • “Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngo Dinh Diem to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organize in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism." Quảng Đức's last words before his self-immolation

        Ask these questions after the quote has been read:

        • What questions have been answered from this quote?
        • What questions has it raised?
        • How can we find more information about this event?

        Learning Activities

        Introduce Learning Objective 1 for the lesson: “Analyze the causes and effects of Thích Quảng Đức’s self-immolation.”

        • Explain the meaning of “self-immolation”.
        • Explain that the monk’s name can be shortened to “Quảng Đức” pronounced “Koo-waang Duck”.
        • The objective should be visible throughout the rest of the lesson.

        Transition to the secondary source, “TWE Remembers: Thích Quảng Đức’s Self-Immolation” by James M. Lindsay by asking:

        • So … what happened here? Let’s investigate to find out.
        • Alternatively, as a time saver the teacher might choose to lecture through the main points of the article.

        Hand out the Lindsay reading and 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 15-20 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.

        Transition to the oral histories by introducing the second learning objective. Ask students to consider the effect of this event on ordinary people with questions like:

        • How do you think this event impacted the perspectives of ordinary people in South Vietnam?
        • How do you think this event impacted the perspectives ordinary people in the United States?

        Project or have the students watch and listen to the video testimony of Timothy Kendall and the video testimony of Ut Ha, answering the following questions:

        • How did this event impact Ut Ha? How do you know? Use a quote from her oral history to support your claim.
        • How did this event impact Timothy Kendall? How do you know? Use a quote from his oral history to support your claim.
        • Which source is the most helpful and which is less helpful in addressing learning objectives one and two? Why? Use specific quotes from the interview to support your answer.

        Culminating Activity

        Conclude the lesson with a formal assessment / quick write on the following question:

        • What is your opinion about Quảng Đức’s action?
        • Was it effective in addressing the social and political problems in South Vietnam?
        • Support your opinion with at least two pieces of evidence from today’s lesson.


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