This lesson plan contains five, 45-minute long lessons to teach about Japanese Incarceration camps in the United States during World War II for the elementary level. These lessons are intended for Virginia Studies (4th grade).

Skills

VS.1 The student will demonstrate skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship by

  1. analyzing and interpreting artifacts and primary and secondary sources to understand events in Virginia history;
  2. interpreting charts, graphs, and pictures to determine characteristics of people, places, or events in Virginia history; 
  3. recognizing points of view and historical perspectives;
  4. comparing and contrasting ideas and cultural perspectives in Virginia history;
  5. determining relationships with multiple causes or effects in Virginia history;
  6. explaining connections across time and place

Virginia: 1900 to the Present

VS.9 – The student will demonstrate an understanding of Virginia during the twentieth century and beyond by 

  1. describing how national events, including women’s suffrage and the Great Depression, affected Virginia and its citizens;
  2. describing the social and political events in Virginia linked to desegregation and Massive Resistance and their relationship to national history

This lesson is filled with approximately 45 minutes worth of content. This includes:

  • KWL chart (about 10 minutes)
  • Word Bank (about 8 minutes)
  • Essential Questions (about 2 minutes)
  • The Orange Story (about 25 minutes)
    • Exploring the Orange Story website includes optional activities/videos that will likely extend the lesson beyond 45 minutes
  1. Was the US Government right to imprison Japanese & Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor?

Students will be able to more deeply understand and describe the United States actions on the home front during World War II, specifically to Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans and incarceration.

Incarcerated: Someone who is held against their will
Synonym: imprisoned

Ancestry: Where someone’s family (parents, grandparents, great grandparents, ect.) are from
Synonym: descent

Incarceration Camp: A place where citizens and noncitizens are imprisoned without due process (Also referred to as internment or relocation camps)

Asian: Someone whose ancestry traces back to a country in Asia

Racism: Having feelings and/or doing something hurtful toward a people because of their ancestry or race

Jap: A racist slur of someone with Japanese ancestry (It is not ok to say this)

Propaganda: Misleading information that promotes a position
Synonym: fake news

Issei [E-say]: Someone who was born in Japan. First generation (Unable to become a US citizen because of US naturalization laws at the time)

Nisei [nee-say]: Someone who was born in the United States, but their parents were born in Japan. Second Generation (A US Citizen)

A black and white photo shows a mountain and clouds in the background, with an American flag waving in the wind in the forefront. Between the flags and the mountain are small square huts.

Activity 1 – KWL Chart

If the students are familiar with KWL charts, this page could be done individually and then gone over together as a class.

If the students are not familiar with KWL charts, this page should be done as a class.

Activity 2 – The Orange Story Film

Watch film (17:34)

The Orange Story includes more than just the Narrative Film. Feel free to explore the website with your students, or assign it to them to explore.

ASK

How did this narrative film make you feel?

What in the narrative film made you feel that way?

The Orange Story: https://theorangestory.org/

This lesson is filled with approximately 45 minutes worth of content. This includes:

  • See, Think, Wonder Activity (about 5 minutes, although this can extend)
  • Prologue (about 2 minutes)
  • Story 1: The US Government (about 15 minutes)
  • Story 2: The Nisei (about 15 minutes)
  • Think, Pair, Share (about 10 minutes)
  • Recognizing a Wrong (about 10 minutes with video, although this may extend the lesson beyond 45 minutes)
  1. Was the US Government right to imprison Japanese & Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor?

Students will be able to more deeply understand and describe the United States actions on the home front during World War II, specifically to Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans and incarceration.

Incarcerated: Someone who is held against their will
Synonym: imprisoned

Ancestry: Where someone’s family (parents, grandparents, great grandparents, ect.) are from
Synonym: descent

Incarceration Camp: A place where citizens and noncitizens are imprisoned without due process (Also referred to as internment or relocation camps)

Asian: Someone whose ancestry traces back to a country in Asia

Racism: Having feelings and/or doing something hurtful toward a people because of their ancestry or race

Jap: A racist slur of someone with Japanese ancestry (It is not ok to say this)

Propaganda: Misleading information that promotes a position
Synonym: fake news

Issei [E-say]: Someone who was born in Japan. First generation (Unable to become a US citizen because of US naturalization laws at the time)

Nisei [nee-say]: Someone who was born in the United States, but their parents were born in Japan. Second Generation (A US Citizen)

Activity 1 – Use the Thinking Routine See, Think, and Wonder for this photograph

A black and white photo shows a metal train with Asian Americans and Asian people lined up in front of it. There is a bench in the middle of the photo and military men with round hats standing at attention with their hands clasped behind their backs behind the bench. Many of them have guns holstered.

Activity 2 – Briefly go over the following information

December 7, 1941: Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, a US Naval base in Hawaii

February 19, 1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. This forced over 120,000 Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans to be incarcerated.

Activity 3 – Story 1: The US Government

Read through the word bank and then watch the video. Think about what words come to mind as you watch the video. Then complete the chart. 

This can be done in a whole group or individually. When discussing, ask the students to explain their reasoning. What in the video made them think of that word?

Word Bank
Watch video (9:15)

What are some words that came to mind as you watched the video?  You may either highlight the words in the word bank or type in your own words.

Activity 4 – Story 2: The Nisei

Read through the word bank and then watch the video. Think about what words come to mind as you watch the video. Then complete the chart. 

This can be done in a whole group or individually.  When discussing, ask the students to explain their reasoning.  What in the video made them think of that word?

Word Bank
Watch video (4:16)

What are some words that came to mind as you watched the video?  You may either highlight the words in the word bank or type in your own words.

Activity 5 – Think, Pair, Share

Choose at least one question to answer on your own. Then discuss your question(s) and answer(s) with a partner.

  1. What were some differences in how the Incarceration Camps were described from the videos? 
  2. The narrative film, The Orange Story, ended with Koji selling his beloved store and loading onto a bus to be sent to the Incarceration Camps. What do you think would be the next chapter of The Orange Story for Koji?
  3. The story from the US government was propaganda. Why do you think the US government described the Incarceration Camps the way they did?

Possible answers for each question:

  1. The US government framed the incarceration as necessary and that the Japanese Americans understood the situation and were happy to cooperate. The conditions weren’t great, but everybody tried to make the best of it. The nisei shared their contempt for being persecuted for doing nothing wrong.  They were forced out of their homes and into either horse stables or cramped living quarters.
  2. Answers will vary but should connect with what they learned above. 
  3. There are a lot of possible answers, and we’ll likely never know since the photographed weren’t interviewed.  However, it’s almost certain that they weren’t smiling, because they were happy about being incarcerated.  They might have been happy seeing their friends.  They might have been trying to show the government that they were not the enemy.  Or maybe they were simply asked to smile for the camera.  It’s important to note that the government controlled the photography and wanted to present the internment camps in a positive light.

Activity 6 – Recognizing a Wrong

On August 10, 2988, then President Ronald Reagan recognized that the US Government made a mistake and formally apologized for the Japanese and Japanese American Incarceration Camps.

Watch video (8:52)

Activity 7 – Use the Thinking Routine See, Think, and Wonder for this photograph

A black and white photo with a large wooden crate on a truck shows a few peeking Asian faces in between the slats.

Kids Meet a Survivor of the Japanese-American Internment (6:26)

This lesson is filled with approximately 45 minutes worth of content. This includes:

  • See, Think, Wonder Activity (about 5 minutes)
  • Jigsaw Method
    • Explain the Jigsaw Method (about 5 minutes)
    • Student Group Work (about 15 minutes)
    • Student Sharing (about 15 minutes)
  • Essential Question (about 10 minutes)
  1. Was the US Government right to imprison Japanese & Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor?

Students will be able to more deeply understand and describe the United States actions on the home front during World War II, specifically to Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans and incarceration.

Incarcerated: Someone who is held against their will
Synonym: imprisoned

Ancestry: Where someone’s family (parents, grandparents, great grandparents, ect.) are from
– Synonym: descent

Incarceration Camp: A place where citizens and noncitizens are imprisoned without due process (Also referred to as internment or relocation camps)

Asian: Someone whose ancestry traces back to a country in Asia

Racism: Having feelings and/or doing something hurtful toward a people because of their ancestry or race

Jap: A racist slur of someone with Japanese ancestry (It is not ok to say this)

Propaganda: Misleading information that promotes a position
Synonym: fake news

Issei [E-say]: Someone who was born in Japan. First generation (Unable to become a US citizen because of US naturalization laws at the time)

Nisei [nee-say]: Someone who was born in the United States, but their parents were born in Japan. Second Generation (A US Citizen)

Activity 1 – The Jigsaw Method

The class will be divided into three groups. Each group will receive 4 images to examine and write a caption/description for. Each group should break off into subgroups so only 2 or 3 students are examining a photograph. Each subgroup is responsible for writing a caption or description to share with their group (and later, the class)

Three circles are shown with the words "EXECUTIVE ORDER 9066," "THE JAPANESE CONCENTRATION CAMPS," and "LIFE AFTER INCARCERATION" are shown. Each circle has arrows pointing to four small pictures.

Share the following captions that accurately depict the images. You can share these with the students as a way for them to check their own interpretations.

Activity 2 – Essential Questions

Have the students use what they have learned so far to answer the essential question.

  1. Was the U.S. Government right to imprison Japanese and Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor? Use details to justify your reasoning. 

The Orange Story: https://theorangestory.org/

This lesson is filled with approximately 45 minutes worth of content. This includes:

  • See, Think, Wonder Activity (about 5 minutes)
  • Japanese American History in Virginia (about 15 minutes)
  • The Pearl Harbor Effect in Virginia (about 20 minutes)
  • Essential Question (about 10 minutes)
  1. How did Executive Order 9066 affect people in Virginia?
  2. How do Japanese Incarceration Camps connect with other events in the United States?
  • Students will be able to more deeply understand and describe the United States actions on the home front during World War II, specifically to Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans and incarceration. 
  • Students will be able to describe what happened to Japanese Virginians during World War II and provide examples.

Incarcerated: Someone who is held against their will
Synonym: imprisoned

Ancestry: Where someone’s family (parents, grandparents, great grandparents, ect.) are from
Synonym: descent

Incarceration Camp: A place where citizens and noncitizens are imprisoned without due process (Also referred to as internment or relocation camps)

Asian: Someone whose ancestry traces back to a country in Asia

Racism: Having feelings and/or doing something hurtful toward a people because of their ancestry or race

Jap: A racist slur of someone with Japanese ancestry (It is not ok to say this)

Propaganda: Misleading information that promotes a position
Synonym: fake news

Issei [E-say]: Someone who was born in Japan. First generation (Unable to become a US citizen because of US naturalization laws at the time)

Nisei [nee-say]: Someone who was born in the United States, but their parents were born in Japan. Second Generation (A US Citizen)

Historical Background

January 27, 1874

  • Japanese student studied in Lexington, VA
  • Japanese immigrants have been in Virginia dating back to at least 1874!

Activity 1 – Show image of the Loving family

A black and white photo shows a family of five sitting on outdoor porch steps. The woman is Black and the man is white, while three children of mixed race heritage are also depicted.
ask

Does this family look familiar?

Answer: At the time, there were state laws that banned people of color from marrying Whites. Since the Loving v Virginia case hadn’t been heard yet, states like Virginia were still allowed to ban interracial marriages, so Japanese immigrants like Arthur Tada married his wife, Mary Whiley in Maryland in 1908.

Activity 2 – Map

Have students identify where:

  • Lexington, Virginia 
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Norfolk Virginia
A map showing Virginia is shown with major cities labeled.

ACTIVITY 3 – Use the Thinking Routine See, Think, and Wonder for this photograph

Examine the photograph. Write what you see, think, and wonder. 

A black and white photo shows what looks to be a school classroom. 11 Asian American men are sitting in the desks, while 12 men in military uniform are standing in the back and around the room.
Historical Background: 

December 7, 1941

  • Hours after the attack at Pearl Harbor, 11 of 14 local Japanese were taken and photographed.  They were detained by the US Navy Shore Patrol and Norfolk police.
  • All but 2 of the men had lived in Norfolk for at least 15 years.  Some lived there for over 35 years.
  • They were fingerprinted and then sent to jail.  At least 3 of them were sent to one of the concentration camps.
  • Who did we learn about who lived in Norfolk, VA?

Not all Japanese and Japanese Americans in Virginia were imprisoned. Women and children in Virginia were not incarcerated. The Japanese and Japanese Americans on the West Coast were considered the greater threat.

Activity 4 – The Pearl Harbor Effect

historical background

Japanese diplomats, people who represented Japan, were in Washington, DC at the time of Pearl Harbor.

The diplomats and their family were brought to the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA to be watched by the FBI. Their stay was short, about 4 months, before they were transferred to another Greenbrier, a resort in West Virginia.

An aerial image depicts a black and white photo of a very large, spread out building in the midst of trees.
Homestead Resort, 1943
A black and white photo shows many people - men, women, and children - gathered in front of a very large, columned building.
The conditions were nicer than incarceration camps, but they were still held against their will, were being watched, and were unsure of their future.
ask

Why do you think they weren’t put in jail?

Possible answer:  According to Robert Conte, a former researcher at the National Archives in Washington who has been the resort’s historian for nearly 40 years, the US government wanted to treat diplomats of other countries well in hopes that US diplomats in enemy countries (Germany, Japan, and Italy) will be treated well too.

historical background

With special conditions, some Japanese students were able to continue studying in Virginia.

A old, sepia photo shows four women staring at the camera. One woman is Asian American with round glasses on her face and the other three women are white women, one with glasses on her face as well.
In Richmond, Kei Keneda was able to continue studying. She went to school with the daughter of a well-known man, Henry Mack, who pulled many strings to get her out of an incarceration camp. 
An older Asian American man with glasses and a white clergy collar stands while flipping through a book. Books and papers fill the shelves behind him.
In Alexandria, Father K.W. Nakajo studied at Episcopal Seminary and was an assistant priest in D.C.

Activity 5 – Map

A map showing Virginia is shown with major cities labeled. A red dot sits on the text that reads "Lexington," a blue dot sits on the text that reads "Richmond," and a purple dot sits on the text that reads "Norfolk."
Red is Lexington, VA
Blue is Richmond, VA
Purple is Norfolk, VA
Ask

Can you find Alexandira, Virginia? Hot Springs, VA? Hot Springs is marked with a star. It’s near the border of West Virginia.

Ask

What does this map show us? 

Possible answer:  Japanese Americans lived all over Virginia.

ask

Looping back to our essential question, “How did Executive Order 9066 affect people in Virginia? Use details to support your answer.”

Answers will vary. They might include…

  • Japanese and Japanese Americans being jailed / sent to an incarceration camp.
  • Japanese diplomats were detained.
  • Americans were ok with the Japanese and Japanese Americans.  Some segregation laws weren’t enforced against them. However, those opinions changed after Pearl Harbor.

The Norfolk Public Library Sargeant Memorial Collection Digital Collection (Norfolk, Virginia): https://cdm15987.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15987coll9/search/searchterm/Japanese%20Americans/field/subjea/mode/exact/conn/and

This lesson is filled with approximately 45 minutes worth of content. This includes:

  • Title Page (about 5 minutes with See, Think, Wonder)*
  • KWL Chart Update (about 10 minutes)
  • Recognizing Wrongs (about 10 minutes)
  • Essential Question (about 20 minutes)
  • Make the Difference (about 5 minutes)
  1. How do Japanese Incarceration Camps connect with other events in the United States?
  • Students will be able to more deeply understand and describe the United States actions on the home front during World War II, specifically to Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans and incarceration. 
  • Students will be able to apply this knowledge and provide examples of contemporary connections with the history of Japanese American Incarceration.

Incarcerated: Someone who is held against their will
Synonym: imprisoned

Ancestry: Where someone’s family (parents, grandparents, great grandparents, ect.) are from
Synonym: descent

Incarceration Camp: A place where citizens and noncitizens are imprisoned without due process (Also referred to as internment or relocation camps)

Asian: Someone whose ancestry traces back to a country in Asia

Racism: Having feelings and/or doing something hurtful toward a people because of their ancestry or race

Jap: A racist slur of someone with Japanese ancestry (It is not ok to say this)

Propaganda: Misleading information that promotes a position
Synonym: fake news

Issei [E-say]: Someone who was born in Japan. First generation (Unable to become a US citizen because of US naturalization laws at the time)

Nisei [nee-say]: Someone who was born in the United States, but their parents were born in Japan. Second Generation (A US Citizen)

Two pictures are side by side. On the left is a black and white photo of many Asian American faces behind barbed wire and wooden posts. On the right is a colored photo of families sitting behind a metal cage with a yellow sign that says "POD 2."

Activity 1 – Have students update KWL Chart from Lesson 1

  • Affirm or correct what you thought you knew
  • Answer questions you originally had and add it to what you learned

Activity 2 – Recognizing Wrongs, Making a Difference

The US government has made many mistakes. Every country has made many mistakes. The forefathers even anticipated we would. They wrote about it in the Preamble for the US Constitution. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”

Whatever mistakes have happened, have happened. They’re in the past, and we can’t change that. What we can do is learn from those mistakes, so we can stop them from happening again.

ask

What other injustices have occurred in the United States?

Possible responses include: Trail of Tears, slavery, Jim Crow Laws, etc.

Headline text on the top reads, "Directions: Research at least one of these injustices and complete the venn diagram." Two large circles are drawn with overlapping space in the middle. On top of the left circle is the text "The Japanese Concentration Camps" and the top of the right circle is a blank space that can be filled in.
A slide is shown with 15 images that are numbered. On the top of these images is the text "Make the Difference." The images show the following 1.) Can’t Burn Us All - China Mac and Will Ham. 2.) Civil Rights Movement - Malcolm X. 3.)Delano Grape Strike - Larry Itliong and Cesar Chavez. 4.) #MeToo Movement. 5.)Civil Rights Movement - Yuri Kochiyama. 6.) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Protest. 7.)Muslims Ban Protest. 8.)Equal Pay for Women Protest. 9)Gay Marriage Protest. 10.) Women's Reproductive Rights Protest. 11.) Dakota Pipeline Protest. 12.) Police Brutality on George Floyd Protest. 13.) Forced Sterilization on Immigrants Protest. 14.) Civil Rights Movement Protest - MLK. 15.)Police Brutality on Peter Yew Protest.
  1. Can’t Burn Us All – China Mac and Will Ham
  2. Civil Rights Movement – Malcolm X
  3. Delano Grape Strike – Larry Itliong and Cesar Chavez
  4. #MeToo Movement
  5. Civil Rights Movement – Yuri Kochiyama
  6. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Protest
  7. Muslims Ban Protest
  8. Equal Pay for Women Protest
  9. Gay Marriage Protest
  10. Women’s Reproductive Rights Protest
  11. Dakota Pipeline Protest
  12. Police Brutality on George Floyd Protest
  13. Forced Sterilization on Immigrants Protest
  14. Civil Rights Movement Protest – MLK
  15. Police Brutality on Peter Yew Protest
A sepia photograph of grass is overlaid with the text "Be the change you wish to see in the world"

The Norfolk Public Library Sargeant Memorial Collection Digital Collection (Norfolk, Virginia): https://cdm15987.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15987coll9/search/searchterm/Japanese%20Americans/field/subjea/mode/exact/conn/and

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