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9-12 > U.S. History
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: U.S. History Duration: One class period
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Lyndon B. Johnson

Students will understand the following:
1. LBJ was hailed for a strong legislative program.
2. The passage of time can influence a presidentís reputation.

No special materials needed

1. Tell students they will have an advantage Johnson didnít have: reporting from the 21st century on the status of the acts he signed into law during his presidency. Pairs of students will ask questions, conduct research, analyze the facts, and report on one of the six key pieces of legislation signed during Johnsonís administration.
2. Let students select an act, or assign them in pairs to learn as much as possible about one of the following acts:
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Equal Opportunity Act of 1964
  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
  • The Medicare Act of 1965
  • The Immigration Act of 1965
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965
3. Lead the class through a brainstorming session to come up with questions that all the researchers should ask about the particular act they are studying. You may come up with a list such as the following:
  • What problem did the law address?
  • Whom was it intended to help?
  • When the law first went into effect and, subsequently, did it hurt anyone? Whom?
  • How successful was the law in achieving its goals?
  • How did the law succeed, or why did it fail?
  • Is the law still in effect? Why or why not?
  • If Lyndon Johnson were president today, would he be pressing for exactly the same law? Or would he take a different position on the topic, and if so, what position?
4. Direct students to various sources of informationóin print or online. Remind them of the biases they will encounter in evaluations of a presidentís accomplishments. In particular, alert students to pay attention to who authored whatever they read and whether that author might skew facts or offer interpretations that meet his or her own political agenda. In addition, make clear what type of documentation, if any, you want students to use in their written reports.
5. Discuss with students what format their coauthored reports should take. Should each pair generate an original structure for the report, or should everyone follow a question-and-answer format based on the questions agreed on during the brainstorming session or other questions?
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Have the entire class concentrate on only one of Johnsonís laws. In a hands-on way, lead all the students through the stages of research, and help them analyze the facts and opinions they find. Then expect each student to write his or her own report of the research process and the findings.
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Discussion Questions

1. This film makes a connection between Lyndon Johnson's growing up without conveniences in the Texas hill country and his understanding of and sympathy for the plight of poor people. Is this a reasonable connection? Why or why not? Explain your point of view.
2. Discuss why you think Johnson's fiancee and future wife, Lady Bird Taylor, felt so strongly against his going into politics. Is there something about politics that would make it an undesirable career? If so, what? Since politicians are our political leaders, what could be done to make this career more attractive?
3. There is an implication in the film that suspiciously stuffed ballot boxes were part of the political culture in parts of Texas during the 1940s, and that the suspicious ballot boxes that went against Johnson in 1941 favored him in 1948. If you were running for political office and found that your opponent was planning to steal the election, would you prefer finding a sneakier way to steal the election from him (after all, he started it!) or continue your honest campaign and probably lose? Discuss the arguments on both sides of this question. Explain any other options you might consider.
4. Evaluate Lyndon Johnson's presidency only on domestic issues. What would his legacy have been if the Vietnam War had not been continuing? Do you think he would have run again in 1968? Would he have been able to beat Richard Nixon? Explain why or why not.
5. The Johnson administration is noted for having passed the most comprehensive and far-reaching civil rights legislation since the post-Civil War era. In what areas has civil rights legislation been successful? To what extent is there still discrimination against minority groups or women? What else needs to be done? Discuss what the roles of the federal government, state governments, and local governments should be in enforcing civil rights. When would you say the power of government has gone too far?
6. Investigate the background to the Gulf of Tonkin incident and discuss the validity of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Did the president have the legal right to send American troops to Vietnam? Did Congress have the right to allow the president to do this? Was the Gulf of Tonkin incident sufficient provocation for increasing the U.S. role in Vietnam? Why or why not? What action would you have recommended?
7. Watch President Johnson, in the film, declare that he would not be a candidate in 1968. Discuss the thoughts that must be going through his mind. What emotions can you detect in the tone of his voice or the look on his face? What do you think would have happened if he had run for president again?
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You can evaluate your students on their reports using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points:correct format for report; paragraphs free of errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics; optional: correct documentation style

  • Two points:correct format for report; paragraphs containing some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics; optional: mostly correct documentation style

  • One point:wrong format for report; paragraphs containing many errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics; optional: incorrect documentation style

You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining with them, as suggested earlier, what format the written reports should follow.
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Bending the Presidentís Ear
Organize groups in the class, each simulating principal advisers to Johnson when he took office late in 1963. Have each group read material that discusses the reasons for the expanded U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War from 1964 on. Have each group write a letter to President Johnson outlining its advice about what he should do and stating the reasons that its point of view is the correct one. Each group can then give a brief summary of its view to the rest of the class and answer questions. This activity can also lead to either a class debate on the U.S. involvement in Vietnam or further group work on developing a policy that reflects a class consensus.

The Votes Are In
Remind students that Lyndon Johnson was a candidate in elections that were either very close or considered a landslide. Have students investigate local or state elections in your region that fit either of those categories. Direct them to be prepared to discuss the following questions in class:
  • Why was the margin of victory so great or so small?
  • What were the reasons for the results?
  • What effect did personality, campaigning style, issues, and national events outside the candidatesí control have on the election?
  • Could the campaigns have involved scandal?
  • Were there any accusations of cheating or voter fraud? If so, how were they resolved?
After their investigation and discussion, students can make posters that show the most unusual aspects of these campaigns or demonstrate the need for electoral reform.

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Suggested Readings

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Quick Facts: Lyndon B. Johnson
A brief and factual summary of Johnson's life. It also lists all the cabinet members who served during his administration.

The Presidents: Lyndon B. Johnson
This is the official White House biography of Reagan, with links to information about the First Lady, Ladybird Johnson, and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.

New Book of Knowledge: Lyndon B. Johnson
Academic American Encyclopedia: Lyndon B. Johnson
Encyclopedia Americana: Lyndon

These three sites offer varying levels of difficulty and depth in providing biographical data and internal links to their other encyclopedia topics related to Johnson.

The Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum
One of nine presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The White House materials of President and Mrs. Johnson and their staffs form the core of the library's resources.

Lyndon Baines Johnson

Vietnam: Yesterday and Today

The War on Poverty: 1964 - 1968

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    elocution
Definition:The art of effective public speaking.
Context:She taught what we called elocution.

speaker    parity
Definition:An equivalence between farmers' current purchasing power and their purchasing power at a selected base period maintained by government support of agricultural commodity prices.
Context:We'll have no parity payments for our farmers.

speaker    frantic
Definition:Marked by fast and nervous, disordered, or anxiety-driven activity.
Context:He resumed the same frantic pace.

speaker    assassinated
Definition:Murdered by sudden or secret attack, usually for impersonal reasons.
Context:The young John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

speaker    excise
Definition:An internal tax levied on the manufacture, sale, or consumption of a commodity.
Context:You're not going to beat me on excise taxes and ruin my budget this year.

speaker    languish
Definition:To suffer neglect.
Context:The new economics he got through and some of those bills that were languishing.

speaker    turbulent
Definition:Causing unrest, violence, or disturbance.
Context:There would be but one hint of the turbulent years ahead.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:U.S. history
Understands the legacy of the New Deal in the post-World War II period.
Understands the legacy of the New Frontier and Great Society domestic programs (e.g., how they differed, the impact of the Kennedy assassination on the passage of reform legislation during the Johnson administration, how Kennedy's and Johnson's leadership styles differed, factors that contributed to greater public support for Great Society legislation, the lasting impact of both programs).

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:U.S. history
Understands the Cold War and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts in domestic and international politics.
Understands political and social characteristics of the Vietnam War (e.g., early U.S. involvement in Vietnam following World War II and the policies of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations; growing disillusionment with the Vietnam War and the impact of the war on American society; the Vietnam policies of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations and consequences of the war's escalation).

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:civics
Understands what is meant by "the public agenda," how it is set, and how it is influenced by public opinion and the media.
Knows how Congress, the president, the Supreme Court, and state and local public officials use the media to communicate with the citizenry.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:U.S. history
Understands the legacy of the New Deal in the post-World War II period.
Understands characteristics of the Johnson presidency (e.g., Johnson's presidential leadership and the reforms of the Great Society, how Johnson's presidential leadership contrasted with and was affected by the Kennedy legacy).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:U.S. history
Understands the Cold War and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts in domestic and international politics.
Understands U.S. foreign policy from the Truman administration to the Johnson administration (e.g., U.S. policy regarding the British mandate over Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel, the major arguments supporting and opposing the "containment" policy, Kennedy's response to the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile crisis, the Kennedy-Johnson response to anti-colonial movements in Africa, U.S. responses to "wars of liberation" in Africa and Asia in the 1960s, how the Korean War affected the premises of U.S. foreign policy).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:civics
Understands what is meant by "the public agenda," how it is set, and how it is influenced by public opinion and the media.
Understands the influence that public opinion has on public policy and the behavior of public officials.

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Sandy and Jay Lamb, history and social studies teachers, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia.
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