Lesson Plan

Understanding the Anti-War Movement Through Primary Sources: Lessons from Northeastern Student Publications and Other University Materials

Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections (NUASC) has put together a lesson plan using digitized primary source materials related to Northeastern student anti-War protests. The plan is designed to be implemented through either synchronous online class sessions or asynchronous student work and assignments
This lesson is designed to take about 60 minutes, with an additional optional follow-up activity for students to complete on their own time. Instructors should feel free to adjust this plan as needed to different class durations, class sizes, and/or learning objectives and goals. There are primary source materials for up to five breakout groups, but not all groups may be need to be used depending on class size. Breakout group analysis is intended for small student groups, but students may also complete the activity independently if instructors see fit.
Students will work with the following types of digitized materials:
•  Essays and summaries found in the Northeastern student yearbook, the Cauldron, from the early 1970s
•  Articles and excerpts, mainly from the Northeastern News, as well as photographs and images originally published elsewhere which have been  reproduced in the Cauldron
•  Photographs from the Northeastern University Photograph collection (A103) and Jet Commercial Photographers negatives (A060)
•  Textual documents from the Office of University Administration records (A034) and the Faculty Wives records (A005)
We invite you to reach out to NUASC at archives@northeastern.edu for further information on this lesson plan or other possible teaching collaborations.

I. Suggested Agenda


•  Understand Learning Objectives and Access Note
•  Read Preliminary Reading

Session (About 60 minutes)

•  Introduce Icebreaker Questions
•  Conduct Document Analysis
›  Look at Primary Source Materials
›  Answer Questions
•  Re-Group and Share Ideas
•  Assign Follow-Up Activity


•  Conduct Follow-Up Activity

II. Access Note

Students will need internet access to conduct this exercise. All materials are provided via hyperlinks in the primary source materials section. Students may also need hard drive space for PDF downloads as well as a PDF reader application such as Adobe Acrobat. For synchronous sessions, instructors will ideally use a video conference platform that supports breakout group sessions.
The primary source materials in this collection are held on two platforms used by NUASC: the Internet Archive and the Northeastern Digital Repository Service (DRS).

Internet Archive (used for copies of the Northeastern Cauldron)

•  Students will need to zoom in on certain materials using the + or – buttons in the bottom right corner of the page viewer. Students can flip pages using the arrow keys, also in the bottom right corner.
•  Optionally, students can download file copies of the documents – including PDFs and Full Texts – using the “Download Options” menu on the right-hand side of the screen beneath the page viewer. These documents may also be searchable, although please bear in mind that full text transcription may be inexact. It is best to only refer to full text if the student is having trouble reading documents due to poor image resolution after zooming in or if the text is cut off by the page gutter.
•  The metadata provided underneath the page viewer (“Publication date”, “Topics”, etc.) refers to the digitized document rather than the physical materials. Students may find some information here helpful (for example, “Volume”), but it is likely more useful to look at the front and the back of the yearbooks for contextual information.

Digital Repository Service (used for NUASC photographs and documents)

•  Students may look at the metadata to the right of the document thumbnail for contextual information.
•  To view multi-page documents and to zoom in on materials, students will need to click the “PDF” or “Small Image” (JPG) download buttons underneath the metadata.

III. Preliminary Readings

Students should have a basic understanding of context surrounding the Vietnam War before this lesson. Optionally, students may want to familiarize themselves with developments at Northeastern during this time period. Instructors may choose to assign their own readings, or draw from some of these resources:
• Any or all pages from this CERES Exhibit Site
• Excerpts from “A Time for Us: A History: 1965-1970” by Robert J. Flavell. Available on pages 12-27 and 34-47 in the Cauldron, 1970. Available through the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/cauldron1970nort/page/26/mode/2up?q=time+for+us
•  “The Cauldron Bubbles, A University Emerges: Northeastern’s Era of Protest” by Linda Smith Rhoads, Sarah J. Schoenfeld, and Dolly Smith Wilson. Full chapter available on pages 110-127 in Tradition and Innovation: Reflections on Northeastern University’s First Century, Ed. Linda Smith Rhoads, 1998. Available through the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/traditioninnovat00bake/page/110/

IV. Icebreaker Questions

Synchronous sessions: Instructor should ask students the following questions at the beginning of the lesson. Students share ideas with the group. Asynchronous sessions: Students reflect on questions individually. Instructor may ask students to write down responses.

What are Archives?

•  Have any of you been to the Northeastern Archives and Special Collections before, or any archives?
•  What do you typically think of when you think of archives?

Whose Archives?

Spend a few minutes looking at the cover of the 1971 Cauldron yearbook.
•  What are some initial observations you have about this image?
•  Do you recognize any people, places, or other images featured on this cover?
• What biases or opinions may have gone into the creation of this image? Whose perspectives do you think this image represents or omits?
•  Why do you think students on the Cauldron staff may have decided to use this image as the cover of the yearbook in 1971? Can you think of events, movements, or ideas that may have influenced that decision?
• Any other thoughts?

V. Document Analysis

Synchronous Sessions
•  Students are split into up to five breakout groups.
•  Each group will focus on a selection of digitized primary source materials centered around a specific topic or theme related to Northeastern’s anti-War movement.
•  Students should be given a generous amount of time to read materials and discuss analysis questions as a group.
•  Instructors should encourage students to move on to answering questions after a certain amount of time.
•  Instructors may ask students to designate a scribe to write question responses, and/or one group spokesperson to share findings with the class.
Asynchronous Sessions
•  Students may work in small groups on their own time. Alternately, individual students may select a group number of their own choosing, and independently examine and reflect on the materials listed under said
•  Students should reflect on questions while reading materials. Instructor may ask students to write down and submit responses, or share on a class discussion board.

Primary Source Materials

Click on the designated breakout group title to navigate to that group's primary source materials page. Each page contains links to materials hosted on the Internet Archive or the Digital Repository Service.  Students should spend time examining the digitized student publications and archival materials listed for their group.
•  Group 1: Student Opinion in the 1960s
•  Group 2: Escalating Protests
•  Group 3: Police on Hemenway Street
•  Group 4: Public Image and the Press
•  Group 5: ROTC on Campus


Students examine and analyze materials through the following seven questions. This may be done by reflecting on all materials listed for their group, or focusing in-depth on two or three primary sources they are interested in.
Questions 1-4: Observations
1.  What format or kind of materials are you working with (newspaper articles, yearbook pages, photographs, letters, etc.)?
2.  What are some key names, places, dates, or events that you noticed in these materials?
3.  Do we know who authored the materials? If not, which documents do you think were created by Northeastern students? Which by Northeastern administrators?
4.  If you are looking at photographs, what kinds of images do you see?
Questions 5-7: Reflections
5.  Look back at your answers for questions 1-4. What are some general themes or ideas you see represented in the materials?
6.  Why do you think some of these materials were created, and for whom?
7.  Do these materials affect your opinion and ideas about Northeastern’s history? If so, how?

VI. Re-Group and Share

Synchronous Sessions
•  Instructor reconvenes the class and asks group spokespeople to summarize their group’s observations and reflections.
•  Students should be given the chance to share additional thoughts and respond to their classmates.
•  If time allows, the instructor may revisit some of the icebreaker questions asked at the beginning of class to see if students’ opinions of archives have changed.
Asynchronous Sessions
•  Students may share their ideas and respond to others on a discussion board.
•  Alternately, the instructor may choose to skip this part of the activity, and simply ask students to submit question responses and/or complete a follow-up activity.

VII. Follow-Up Activity

After students have completed the lesson, instructors may assign students a follow-up activity to build on primary source analytical skills. Below are several suggestions for informal essay topics and creative outputs. Some instructors may prefer formal research papers on historical topics using primary sources, or different creative or reflective prompts. Please feel free to be in touch with NUASC staff for assistance in designing alternate follow-up activities.

Option 1: Reflection Paper: Then and Now

Students respond to one of the following three prompts.
•  Themes and Ideas: Reflect on some of the themes and ideas you observed in question 5 of the document analysis questions. How do these themes compare to the social and political conversations happening today? Did any of these issues resonant with you personally?
•  Documents and Archives: Look back at your answer for questions 1, 3 and 6 of the document analysis questions. Imagine fifty years from now, you are looking through an archive of  materials produced from your time at Northeastern. What kinds of materials do you think you'd find, and how might they be similar or different to those produced by students in  the 1960s-1970s? Why do you think students choose certain material mediums to express and document certain information?
•  Student Voices: Rather than listing student organizations and activities, the 1971 Cauldron opted to accompany senior photos with reflections from the senior class. In forty words or less, students were asked to "define himself by voicing his interpretation of the view of the past half-decade." The prompt clarifies: "The range of experience and reaction may cover activities and academics in school, but we would like each senior to feel free to call on references to national and international events, politics, life styles, social change, people, and events to form their own portrait in the "biography" section of the yearbook..." (the full prompt is available here.) Read through some of these senior testimonies, which can be found between pages 302-362 of the 1971 Cauldron. What kind of sentiments do you notice, and how do they compare to your response to question 5 of the document analysis questions? If you were given this prompt, how would you respond? Keep your formal prompt answer to forty words or less, but feel free to elaborate and explain your reasoning for your answer. If you are not a senior, you can reflect on your experience at Northeastern so far or the past five years of your life.

Option 2: Analysis Paper: Different Perspectives

Look at two or three of the primary source materials from this lesson that address the same event or subject matter. The materials can be the same format, but do not need to be (e.g. feel free to compare an article and a photograph).  Feel free to pull from the materials you worked with, or use materials from other group handouts. You may also use any of the articles from the Boston Globe listed on the References page, which you can access through the Snell Library databases.
Compare the perspectives of the materials. Think about how characteristics like format, subject matter, author, and intended audience may affect the messaging and biases the materials convey. In your opinion, what stories do these materials tell on their own? Do you find the narrative changes when they are viewed together?

Option 3: Creative Project: Your Own Cauldron

Spend some time looking through the 1971 Cauldron, using its table of contents as a guide. Observe the format, layout, and kinds of materials represented particularly as assembled in the"5 years" section(pages 5-281.) Note that in addition to the bound volume, the Cauldron also included an "audio essay" record insert documenting "the shouts and songs of the times we had."
Now create your own documentary project, archiving your time at Northeastern. Think about the materials that define your personal experience as a student and that of your classmates.  The product can be digital, analog, or multimedia, as long as you can explain your reasoning for its content, medium, and arrangement. Possible formats may include, but are not limited to: a video, an audio recording, a scrapbook, a collage, a social media project, a performance piece, or a combination of these formats. Be prepared to present your piece to the class and explain your decisions and process.