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«Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald? Teacher's Guide About the Film: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald? is an investigative biography of the man at the center of the ...»

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Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?

Teacher's Guide

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 •



The Era that Shaped Oswald Students will research the world that shaped Lee Harvey Oswald's political beliefs.


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


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.


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 [http://teacher.shop.pbs.org/home/index.jsp].

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.


The Era That Shaped Oswald

Lesson Objectives:

In this lesson, students will:

• Learn about the world that shaped Lee Harvey Oswald's political beliefs

• Begin to think about why people might assign so much importance to this assassination

Materials Needed:

• Internet access

• Student Handout: Part One: What Do You Know About JFK?

• Student Handout: Part Two: Checking Your Answers

Time Needed:

45-80 minutes, depending on the extent of the discussion


1. Instruct students to answer the questions on the student handout entitled "What Do You Know About JFK?"

2. After students have attempted to answer these questions, give them the second handout, "Checking Your Answers," which contains resources for them to follow up on their answers to the first handout.

–  –  –

Media literacy note: As with all issues, especially ones charged with controversy, students must learn to be savvy and discriminating readers. No Web site can provide all the information a student needs to know, and teachers should encourage students to "interrogate" Web sites even as they are reading.

Guiding questions as they work through these activities should be: What did you learn from this source? What didn't you learn from this source? Who sponsors this source? What bias might the sponsor have?

4. Conduct a classroom discussion about the students' answers.

Methods of Assessment:

Class discussion Submission of student handout after discussion

–  –  –


Answer the following questions on your own before discussing them as a class.

1. Have you ever heard your parents, grandparents or another person discuss where they were or what they remember about Nov. 22, 1963, the day that President John F.

Kennedy was shot? What are their memories?

2. Do you remember where you were on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks? If so, where were you? What were you doing?

3. Why do you think people might remember where they were on these days?

4. What do you know about the assassination of President Kennedy or about Lee Harvey Oswald?

5. What was the Cold War?

6. What is Marxism?

7. What is Communism?

8. What is Capitalism?

9. What was the Cuban Missile Crisis? Which world leaders were involved?

10. What was the Bay of Pigs Invasion? Which world leaders were involved?

11. Who was the leader of Cuba when Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy in 1963?

12. How do you think pro-Castro Cubans might have felt about President Kennedy as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs Invasion? How do you think anti-Castro Cubans might have felt?

13. Who is the leader of Cuba now?

14. What form of government does Cuba have today?

–  –  –


Using the Web sites below, as well as books in your classroom or library and other resources suggested by your teacher, answer or check your answers to the questions from Part One.

Make changes or additions if your answers were incorrect or incomplete.

President Kennedy's Assassination Kennedy is Killed By Sniper As He Rides In Car In Dallas; Johnson Sworn In On Plane http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/1122.html This Nov. 23, 1963 front-page story from The New York Times describes the nation's reaction to the assassination of President Kennedy.

Key Political Definitions Here are some Web sites with important definitions for understanding Lee Harvey Oswald, who called himself a Marxist and whose ideas were shaped by the Cold War.

Marxism http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=marxism Communism http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=communism Capitalism http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=capitalism The Cold War The Cold War http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=cold%20war Here is a definition of the Cold War.

CNN Knowledge Bank: Timelines http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/kbank/timeline/ This Web site, part of the CNN documentary series "The Cold War," has several different chronologies of key events during this period. The two chronologies entitled "Cold War Flashpoints" and "The Bomb Timeline" have descriptions of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion The Bay of Pigs Invasion http://www.bartleby.com/65/ba/BayPigsI.html Here is a short summary of the invasion from The Columbia Encyclopedia.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/rcah/html/ah_008400_bayofpigsinv.htm Another short summary of the invasion, from The Reader's Companion to American History.

Invasion at Bay of Pigs http://www.historyofcuba.com/history/baypigs/pigs.htm This Web site gives one Cuban exile's view of the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

The Cuban Missile Crisis The Cuban Missile Crisis http://www.hpol.org/jfk/cuban/ This Web site, from "History and Politics Out Loud" gives, in its introduction, a good overview of the crisis. It also has a timeline of the crisis and audio of President Kennedy and his staff discussing the events.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: The 40th Anniversary http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/declass.htm The introduction to this book from The National Security Archive at George Washington University gives a good overview of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

The Cuban Threat Will Be Removed http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/government/kennedy/1962/10/22b.htm Marxists.org has featured on their site President Kennedy's Oct. 22, 1962 letter to Premier Khrushchev, the leader of Russia, in which he outlines the U.S. position on the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: A Political Perspective http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/ This Web site was published by the National Security Archive at George Washington University for the Cuban Missile Crisis' 40th anniversary. It contains two chronologies of the incident, declassified documents, photographs, and analysis from a conference featuring U.S., Russian and Cuban veterans of the crisis. Also, this site offers a link to the original Washington Post coverage of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

VIEWING LESSON PLANStudent Viewing Activity: "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?"

Lesson Objectives:

In this lesson, students will:

• Watch the documentary, "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?"

• Practice critical observation and thinking skills as they view the documentary and take notes

• Follow and take notes on the character, expert, or people they have been assigned. This will allow students to become "specialists" on one aspect of this film and then, through the Post-Viewing Activity, to share their knowledge with their classmates

Materials Needed:

• The video, "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" [Note: This video can be purchased online at ShopPBS for Teachers. See the URL on the front page of this guide.]

• Student handout: Student Viewing Guide

Time Needed:

Three hours for viewing the documentary (Note: This could be an extra credit assignment for out-of-school viewing)


1. Give students the viewing guide, and assign them a "character," "expert," or "other people" to follow. Depending on the size of your class, you may assign more than one student to each person.

2. Inform them that Oswald's story is a complex one. If students completed the PreViewing Activity, "The Era That Shaped Oswald," their notes will help them as they follow Oswald's life and actions.

3. Inform students that, after viewing the film, they will be using their viewing notes to "testify" on behalf of the person they are following in the trial Oswald might have had if he had not been shot by Jack Ruby.

Method of Assessment:

Students should be prepared to submit the notes they took during the film.

–  –  –


• As you are watching the film, keep this handout and a pen or pencil in front of you so you can note important facts.

• You should have several entries by the end of the film.

• Use both your observation and interpretation skills as you watch the film, because you will be called upon to "testify" at Oswald's trial.

What character(s) are you following?

What is your character's position or relationship to Lee Harvey Oswald?

Write at least four important things you learn about Lee Harvey Oswald based on your character's interactions with or observations of him. (If you are one of the "other people," write four observations from the film that will help you to build your testimony for the trial. For example, if you are someone who knew Oswald in Russia, pay special attention when the documentary focuses on his life there.) 1) 2) 3) 4) What else did you learn that surprised or interested you?


The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald

Lesson Objectives:

In this lesson, students will:

• Put Lee Harvey Oswald on trial for the assassination of President Kennedy, to decide not if he assassinated the President, but what motivated him to assassinate the president

• Examine, during the trial, Oswald's personality and possible motivations

Materials Needed:

• Internet access

• Student Viewing Guide Notes •

Time Needed:

One to three class periods, depending on the whether students prepare for the trial during class or as homework


1. Instruct students to consult the notes they took on the Student Viewing Guide and to meet in three groups: Main Characters, Experts, and Other People to plan their testimony.

Note: Students working in the Other People group might seek more information on Oswald from the following excerpts from Chapter Six of the Warren

Commission's report, subtitled "Investigation of Possible Conspiracy":

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