Rediscovering Japantown Through Images

Matsubu Laundry

For use with the Nikkei Center Suitcase, I wanted to create a lesson that could be used in upper elementary. This is the age range that most often checks out the suitcases. However, one has to be discerning of what one can discuss with students at that age, and for the most part, I left that up to the person teaching the lesson. Therefore, this lesson focuses more on the changes in physical features. It is a compare and contrast lesson on the past and future. There are elements of history, current day features, discussion and writing. This is a lesson that focuses on Japan town before Japanese Incarceration during World War II. Students will gain an understanding of change over a long period of time as well as some of the causes for that change. Students will also gain some writing practice.

It was very interesting learning about a part of this city’s history. I feel that this lesson can be used and modified across the elementary grades and that it will give a foundation of deeper learning about the situation in the future. Having written several lessons at the third grade level at this point, I believe that this is both appropriate and useful at that grade.This lesson is merely a guide to a deeper lesson. Teachers may chose to modify it as they see fit for their classroom or grade level.

Teacher:                                                                     Location:

Class/Topic: Social Studies

Time: approx. 35 minutes for discussion and some writing time. Might be a good supplement for regular writing lesson.

Grade Level: 3-5                                                       Date:


This lesson would be a basic overview of how things have changed in what used to be Japantown (and is now partly Chinatown) and what might have caused physical features as well as themes and ideas to change. To do this, students will look at old images; find similarities and differences to their own experiences and time. Then students will discuss and write about these themes. This is a lesson on the general Japanese-American experience before Japanese Incarceration occurred during WWII.


  1. Students will gain a familiarity with how and why things change over time.
  2. Students will be able to discuss things stay the same across time and how things change.


Students will be gaining knowledge of how to work with images and documents as well as gaining familiarity over their own community as it was in the past and how it is now. This will also give them experience in finding similarities and differences as well as some writing skills.

More: Download Incarceration Lesson PDF version of the complete lesson (81kb)

Image Credit:

DBQ “The Red Scare” Reflection


Christina Steiner and I have been working on this project for several weeks. We started out with the idea that propaganda is meant to stir feelings in a certain direction, bad or good. Then we decided that we wanted students to recognize the use of propaganda throughout history. Our general question was “What do we want students to learn from the DBQ overall?” The generative question that we formed out of this starting idea was: “How does a nation develop such an intense fear of an enemy, creating mass hysteria?”

We thought that a good starting point to understand such hysteria would be the Red Scare in 1950’s America. We wanted students to learn about the paralyzing fear of communism that existed among Americans at that time. We wanted students to understand what caused such terror to develop. We wanted students to think about what words, images, actions, and depictions might cause fear and what is needed to cause mass hysteria. Student will then be able to understand the driving force of the Red Scare in 1950’s America. The DBQ slowly leads students to think in an investigative manner.

Christina and I chose documents that would help answer the generative question. We found A LOT of interesting documents and images, but we tried to stick to those that would answer that generative question. This kept us focused on the task at hand. We also ended each document or image with follow-up questions, to scaffold student understanding of propaganda. We wanted each document or image to provide a great deal of information that could lead to greater student discovery and interaction with each piece.

The final project can be found here on Learnist and will soon be part of a larger iBook. Through this project, students will come to see and learn how America held such great fear of communism though images, books, comics, films, and posters. We looked specifically at media, examining the creation of enemies based on common perceptions rather than true events or facts.

This DBQ is part of our class-produced, multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes

Red Scare in America


Christina Steiner and I are in a group. For our topic we are looking at the 1950’s Red Scare in America. The generative question we have right now is “How does a nation develop such an intense fear and enemy, creating mass hysteria?”

For this DBQ we will be looking at what the media produced and the tactics they employed. Of course there are plenty of propaganda posters depicting the “evil commies,” as well as “informational” videos created about the communist threat. We are also thinking of having the students read an excerpt from the McCarthy hearings, and possibly newspaper clippings from the time, so the DBQs will not be all image based.

Hopefully students will be able to use the material to see the different ways people were influenced by imagery in the media to believe in the communist threat. Students will be able to see what tactics the media used to scare citizens.

Students will be able to look at the DBQ, whether it is images or documents, without any previous knowledge of it and point out different aspects that either promote or reject a certain group, person, or country. Students can then answer questions such as: what is it saying about that group? How does it say it? Etc.

Additionally the generative question can span to almost any war era or period of fear. Also students will be able to draw connections between how media portrays the “wrong” thing today, to how it did in the 1950s.

A Study in Lessons and Learning.

I was unsure about this lesson study when I first received the assignment. I had created lesson plans before, plans that had usually turned out pretty well. I was not completely new at this and already had an idea of where I wanted my lesson plan to go.However, as I wrote the lesson study, I realized that it helped me focus my vague thoughts in a cohesive direction. It forced me to look further into my lesson and think about how it might play out in the classroom.

Even though it was a brief overview of an introductory lesson that I did not end up teaching (instead I taught the first lesson of the text book), I was able to think about how this lesson tied to all other lessons I would teach from this Social Studies unit. It helped me to prepare a more meaningful lesson when I actually wrote my lesson plan.

Explaining that lesson study to another person was equally helpful in understanding my own thought process. It has been said that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else and this is what happened. The more I explained my own lesson and justified my decisions in the lesson, the more I was able to understand the lesson itself and prepare for teaching it to my third graders.

Used as the illustration to the poem, "Lovelorn Poet in Brooklyn, NY: Talk is Talk"
Used as the illustration to the poem, “Lovelorn Poet in Brooklyn, NY:
Talk is Talk”