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Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Changing Perspectives on the Japanese Internment Experience
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional Activities
Community Connections -- Real world actions for students after completion of the lesson.


The teacher will need to do the following before the classes begin.

Read through the bookmarked links below and check out books from the school library and/or have books available for students to use during research times in the classroom. You should have a broad selection of books to accommodate a variety of reading levels and abilities.

BASEBALL SAVED US by Ken Mochizuki
BLUE JAY IN THE DESERT by Marlene Shigekawa
A CHILD IN PRISON CAMP by Shizuye Takashima
THE CHILDREN OF TOPAZ by Michael O. Tunnel and George W. Chilcoat
FAREWELL TO MANZANAAR by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
I AM AN AMERICAN by Jerry Stanley
JOURNEY HOME by Yoshiko Uchida
THE MOON BRIDGE by Marcia Savin
THE MOVED-OUTERS by Florence Crannell Means

Teachers may also want to arrange to have the computer teacher help individual students with the online research and scavenger hunt components of the lesson.

Media Components:

Computer Resources:

  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.
Bookmarked sites:

Students should be able to find many more, but these will be a good start for each group.

U.S. Government-related materials from the 1940s:

The War Relocation Authority's official report
This is the official report about the "Relocation of Japanese Americans" by the War Relocation Authority from May of 1943.

Lt. Gen. J.L. Dewitt on the Japanese evacuation
A portion of Lt. Gen. J.L. Dewitt's letter of transmittal to the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army about his final report on the Japanese evacuation from the West Coast in 1942.

A SAN FRANCISCO NEWS article defending the conditions of the internment camps. In addition, this site has links to dozens of news articles and editorial pieces from the newspaper that carried almost daily reports about the internment experience. All of the articles are from March and April of 1942.

Executive order No. 9066
Executive Order No. 9066 - On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the evacuation of all Japanese Americans into the camps.

Sites from the last decade that demonstrate a dramatic shift in attitudes toward the Japanese and the Japanese internment experience:

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988: Redress for Japanese Americans
Nearly 50 years later, the U.S. apologized to Japanese Americans for this grave injustice and this Act was signed into law, authorizing the payments of $20,000 to each person who had been evacuated in the 1940s.

An apology from President George Bush
Scroll down for an image of the U.S. Government apology by President George H.W. Bush.

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE article "S.F. Seeks Students Denied Diplomas Quest for Japanese American internees". The article is about recent efforts to make up for the past injustice.

Sites that give first-hand accounts from the survivors of the Japanese-American internment experience:

This article is about a Japanese-American couple, their lives as newlyweds, and the time they served at the Tule Lake Camp.

This article describes President Clinton's efforts to memorialize World War II internment camps.

The Densho Project
The Densho Project site has a whole archive of personal stories about the Japanese internment experience.


Students would need the following supplies:
  • index cards for notetaking


Introductory Activity:
(Half a class period)

  • Begin by pairing up students. Ask one student in each group to describe an argument he or she had and then ask their partners to describe what the other person might have been thinking at the time. Is there a difference in the two versions of the argument? Are there two (or more) versions to all events or conflicts? Introduce the concept of subjectivity and objectivity.

  • Ask students to freewrite about the following: You just saw that there may be two sides to one story. One may be more based in fact than the other, but there are still two different perspectives about the same event. How do you think this phenomenon impacts the creation of history? What do we need to keep in mind when studying history?

  • Ask the students to respond to the following questions with their partners, then share the answers with the entire class:

  • What is history?
  • How is history recorded?
  • Whose history is the correct one?
  • Is the history written in your textbook the absolute truth?

  • If time permits, you may want to discuss the following. Since this unit will be part of a high school social studies class, students should have some knowledge about one of the topics listed below. Ask students: Are there two (or more) perspectives to one of the following topics? Which is the most accurate history?

  • Slavery: How would slaves write about it and how would slave-owners record history?
  • July 4th: How do Americans view the holiday and do the British celebrate it?
  • Holocaust: What do Germans feel was the main priority of the Holocaust and how do Jews view this period of history?

    Learning Activities:

    First Day
  • At this point, the teacher should introduce the next unit. Tell your students they will look at biases in history by focusing on a traditionally under-emphasized event - the Japanese-American internment. The World War II period is particularly interesting because of the drastic change in attitudes of the American government and public toward the Japanese and Japanese Americans. This unit will look at the primary documents from the 1940s and the present to evaluate the perspectives and attitudes that existed. Ultimately, students will create their own documents that demonstrate these biases.

  • Ask the students if they have ever heard of the Japanese-American internment camps. Elicit answers and take notes on the board detailing what they know. The teacher should briefly explain the treatment of Japanese-Americans by the U.S. Government and the American public.

  • Tell students they will learn more about the internment camps by participating in an online scavenger hunt using the bookmarked Web sites. Distribute the Scavenger Hunt Organizer to student groups and have them follow the instructions listed on the sheet. At the end of the class period, discuss the findings with the class.

    HOMEWORK -- Students should write about their impressions of the camps and express how they think the Japanese Americans must have felt about the experience. Have students support their opinions with facts gained in the scavenger hunt.

    Second Day
  • Begin by sharing the completed homework assignments with the class. Tell students now that they've formed their own opinions about the camps, they will examine other people's opinions by looking for biases in primary and secondary source documents about the event. Begin by examining biased language in a passage by reviewing President George Bush's apology. For example, the following words or phrases demonstrate contemporary attitudes toward the Japanese internment experience.
      lost years; erase painful memories; rectify injustice; uphold the rights of individuals; we can never fully right the wrongs of the past; restitution; sincere apology
    All of these words and phrases indicate that the United States is clearly sorry for the injustices that it committed against the Japanese Americans during that time. The President seems apologetic and sincere in his statement and makes a commitment to repair some of the wrongs.

  • Now it's time for students to practice finding examples of bias on their own. Begin by breaking the class into at least four groups of two to four people. Explain to the groups that as they read through the articles listed below (either online or printed out in advance) they should keep in mind the following questions:

    Questions for groups to consider as they read articles

  • How is the Japanese-American internment camp experience presented to the reader?
  • What is the general opinion of the Japanese?
  • What is the general opinion of Japanese Americans?
  • Which words in particular demonstrate these biases?
  • According to the documents written in the 1940s, why were the Japanese Americans evacuated?

    Articles for "bias" activity Review group findings with class.

    Culminating Activity/Assessment:
    (2-4 class periods)

  • Since we are looking at how history is written, students will form a version of history that will be expressed in one of the project types below. First have students select one of the following perspectives to convey in their project:

  • The U.S. Government in 1943
  • The U.S. Government in 2001
  • A survivor of the Japanese-American internment camps

  • After each student selects his/her perspective from the above list, he or she should express the chosen perspective in one of the following projects:

  • photographic essay
  • an entry in a textbook
  • a newspaper
  • a children's book
  • a government press conference

    Give each student a copy of the Activity Guidelines and Mini-Rubric so they can see the requirements and guidelines for each activity. Explain that each activity requires some research that must be documented on the Recording Your Bibliographic Information.

    You may also need to present a variety of note-taking techniques to the class. These may include: using index cards, creating bibliographies, highlighting and/or underlining information, and organizing and categorizing facts.

    Allow several periods to conduct research and construct projects. When complete, have each group present their projects.

  • After all of the presentations, the class should discuss the differences in the content of each report. Here are some questions:

  • Does this episode in American history remind you of anything else?
  • Why are attitudes about this incident in history so drastically different today than they were almost 60 years ago?
  • What would you have done if you were a Japanese American living at the time?
  • What could the U.S. Government do to right the wrongs? Has it done enough?
  • Do you think racism toward Japanese Americans still exists today? Why or why not?


    Mathematics: Think about the number of people who were affected by the evacuation and consider the cost of reparations compared to their actual losses in property, income and life experiences.

    Architecture: Build a model of one of the camps.

    English: Teach some historical fiction that chronicles the life in the internment camps, like FAREWELL TO MANZANAR.

    Language: Teach a mini-course on the Japanese language.

    Community Connections:

  • Read children's books to younger classes about internment camps and discuss what happened based on their research.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students