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who was lee harvey oswald?



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Pre-Viewing Lesson Plan
  • The Era That Shaped Oswald
  • Student Handout: Part One: What Do You Know About JFK?
  • Student Handout: Part Two: Checking Your Answers

  • Viewing Lesson Plan
  • Student Viewing Guide
  • Student Handout: Student Viewing Guide

  • Post-Viewing Lesson Plan
  • The "Trial" of Lee Harvey Oswald

  • Extending the Lesson
  • Trying to Make Sense of the World
  • "Truth" and "Fiction"

  • Internet Resources

    Printable .pdf of Entire Guide
    (Adobe Acrobat required)

    » About the film:

    "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" is an investigative biography of the man at the center of the political crime of the 20th century. The three-hour documentary special traces Oswald's life from his boyhood to that fateful day in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, and poses a number of questions: Was Oswald the emotionally disturbed "lone gunman?" Was he one of two gunmen that day in Dallas? Or was he an unwitting scapegoat for the real assassins?

    » A Note to Teachers:

    • For classes in Social Studies, Language Arts and World History; Grade level 9-12

    These teaching activities are designed to help students understand the political world that shaped Lee Harvey Oswald and to explore the influences on his life that contributed to his decision to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

    "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" is a documentary film that examines the life of the president's assassin through multiple lenses. Beginning with the family circumstances that shaped his early life, the film follows Oswald's actions leading up to and immediately following President Kennedy's assassination. Interviews and film footage illuminate Oswald's attraction to Marxism and his life in Cold War Russia, as well as his many travels in the U.S. Drawing upon the expertise of several authors and scholars, the film concludes -- as did the Warren Commission report following the assassination -- that Oswald acted as a lone gunman.

    The program provides a resource for students to:

    • Learn about the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs Invasion and other events that shaped Lee Harvey Oswald's political beliefs in the early 1960s
    • Examine the character and motivations of Lee Harvey Oswald
    • Think about why people experience the need to search for meaning behind a national trauma such as President Kennedy's assassination or the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
    • Understand the techniques of "truth-telling" in fiction and film-making

    » Lesson Plans

    Pre-Viewing Lesson Plan:
    The Era that Shaped Oswald
    Students will research the world that shaped Lee Harvey Oswald's political beliefs.


    Viewing Lesson Plan:
    Student Viewing Guide
    Students will view the film, paying particular attention to a "character" they have been assigned to follow.


    Post-Viewing Lesson Plan:
    The "Trial" of Lee Harvey Oswald
    Through their participation in a mock trial, students will explore Lee Harvey Oswald's personality and possible motivations for assassinating President Kennedy.


    Extending the Lesson:
    Trying to Make Sense of the World
    Students will explore the reasons why people use a context of coincidence and conspiracy to explain national tragedies.

    "Truth" and "Fiction"
    Students will examine how reality and fiction are used in storytelling and movie making.

    » Purchasing the Video

    "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers.

    » Credits

    This teacher's guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Ellen Greenblatt of University High School, San Francisco, Calif. Pat Grimmer, chair of the Social Studies Department at Carbondale Community High School, Carbondale Ill. was an adviser.

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