October 29th, 2002
Clint Eastwood: An American Icon
Procedures for Teachers


Media Components

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM and/or Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM. Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Software: Any presentation software such as Power Point or Hyperstudio (optional).

Bookmarked sites:

Bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word processing document listing all of the links to distribute to students. Preview all of the sites and videos before presenting them to your class.

Images of icons for introductory lesson


Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom

Students will need the following supplies:

  • Computers with the capacities indicated above
  • Notebook or journal
  • Pens/pencils


Introductory Activity:

1. Introduce the concept of icons by showing your students images of various iconic people or events (see suggested images below). For each image, the class should brainstorm about the following questions.

  • What does the image represent to you?
  • Does each photograph or image have the same meaning for everyone?
  • Why do most people know these images? What does it say about the people who don’t know them?
  • Why are these images so powerful?
  • Why do these images have staying power? Do all of them have staying power?

General answers to the brainstorming questions may include:

  • the image reminds them of childhood
  • the image is something that most Americans know
  • the image conjures up both happy or sad memories
  • the image has been copied, mimicked and/or used in many different ways and in many different media
  • the image represents a particular time and place in history

Here is a list of suggested images. You can find sources for these images in the “Bookmarked sites” area above.

  • Man on the Moon
  • Three firefighters hoisting the American flag after 9/11
  • Mr. Rogers
  • AOL logo
  • Planes flying into the World Trade Center towers
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Uncle Sam
  • American Gothic
  • Big Bird
  • Clint Eastwood

2. Next ask the students “What is an icon?” Chart these answers so that students can refer to the list of “criteria” when choosing their own icons for the final project. Possible answers include:

  • an image or a representation
  • in computers, a picture that represents a file, window, or program
  • a picture or representation of a religious figure
  • an important and enduring symbol

3. Pose the following questions:

  • Of the images that you have just seen and discussed, some are news-related photographs, some are logos, and some are pictures of people. Why are all of them icons?
  • What is the iconic value of these images?
  • How do these icons convey what is valued in American culture?

Tell students that these are some of the questions they will be exploring during this unit.

Learning Activities:

1. Prepare students to watch the AMERICAN MASTERS episode “Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows” (90 minutes). Introduce the film to students by stating that Clint Eastwood is considered an American icon. Hand out the “Clint Eastwood Organizer” for students to take notes as they are watching the video. Tell students to focus on the following areas.

  • Cowboy in Western movies – 20-30 minutes into the show
  • Dirty Harry (vigilante cop)- 30-40 minutes into the show
  • Director and writer – 40 minutes into the show
  • Politician – 1 hour into the show
  • The Aging Hero – 1:17 into the show

2. Break the class into five groups, one for each of the focus areas about Clint Eastwood. Each group (the cowboy group, the Dirty Harry group, the director and writer group, the mayor group and the aging hero group) should brainstorm the answers to the following questions.

  • Is Clint Eastwood considered an icon in your area?
  • What are the characteristics that make him the “”stereotype”" that you are examining?
  • How is Clint Eastwood iconic in the five different areas?
  • Revisit a question from before: What values or ideals do Clint Eastwood and his characters embody that make him an American icon?

3. View the AMERICAN MASTERS episode with students.

4. Give students time to work on the questions you presented in step 2. If possible, give students access to a TV, VCR, and videotape of the AMERICAN MASTERS episode so that they can review the segment related to their topic.

5. In addition to reviewing the AMERICAN MASTERS episode, students will read the filmmaker interview and feature essay from the AMERICAN MASTERS Web site. Distribute the handout “Guided Reading Questions about Clint Eastwood.” Students will answer the Guided Reading questions to help them with their discussion about Clint Eastwood’s icon status. Questions include:

  • Why does director Bruce Ricker say that Clint Eastwood is a good prototype of American culture? What does that mean? (Reading the feature essay about Eastwood’s choice of films will help answer this question.)
  • Ricker goes on to say, “You might not say high culture, per se, but certainly at the level of Roy Lichtenstein.” Explain what Ricker means by this. (Students may need to do some quick research on the Internet to learn about Roy Lichtenstein and to understand the implication of Ricker’s comments.)
  • In what way does David Kehr consider Eastwood the classic American artist?
  • What are the icons and inspirations in Clint Eastwood’s life?

6. Give students time to work in their groups to prepare a presentation that answers the questions posed above. Encourage students to use presentation software such as PowerPoint or Hyperstudio. Ask students to use images, photographs and other graphics from the Internet and require students to cite their sources. For information about citing Internet resources, visit Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/research/r_docelectric.html.

7. Finally, bring the class together again so that students can present their findings.

8. Following the presentations, divide the class into groups of two to three. To provide further discussion of what an icon is, have students select a famous person or character who could be considered an icon. Ask them to list the characteristics that give the person his or her status as an icon.

Culminating Activity/Assessment:

1. Now that the students have had sufficient practice with the concept of icons, they will look more globally. Divide the class into groups of 2-3 people. Each group will be assigned one of the following groups.

  • icons of America in the 21st century
  • icons of the world in the 21st century
  • icons of America in the 20th century
  • icons of the world in the 20th century

Each group must select five icons and corresponding images for the century/topic they are assigned. As part of the final project, the groups will present their images and the explanations for their choices. Inform students that the images do not necessarily have to be photographs. Students will also include an accompanying caption that describes the contents of the photograph or image and the reason for their choice. All of this information is listed in the “Final Project Assignment Sheet” for the students’ reference.

2. After you assign the task, discuss with students how they will go about choosing their images. Their suggestions may include the following ideas:

  • key moments in U.S. and world history
  • looking at Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” selections
  • advances in technology around the world and in the U.S.
  • world leaders and their impact on the world
  • their history textbooks

3. As the students go through the process of selecting images, they may have to pare down their collections to reach the maximum of five images. Remind them to keep the discarded images because they will need to present their reasons for not including them.

4. Allow time for presentations, comparisons, and discussion.

Cross-Curricular Extensions:

  • History and Law – In the original “Dirty Harry” movie, Harry Callahan becomes increasingly frustrated with bureaucratic obstacles that keep him from doing his job as a policeman. Because of his frustration, he violates certain characters’ civil rights and ignores the Miranda Law. Ask students to explore this question: What is the Miranda law and what is the history behind its existence?
  • Music – Clint Eastwood loves jazz and looked up to Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, and Lester Young (The movie “Bird”, about the life of Charlie Parker, was directed by Eastwood.) Have students conduct research to learn who they are and why they are considered icons in the music world.

Community Connections:

  • Speechwriting – Propose the following scenario to students: Clint Eastwood will be honored with a lifetime achievement award. Your task is to write the speech introducing him.


Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2015 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.