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.
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.
Students will gain a familiarity with how and why things change over time.
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.
For the Museum in a Suitcase project for the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, I wanted to create a lesson plan that encompassed the cultural experience during the time of Pearl Harbor and Incarceration of Japanese-Americans as well as discussing the question of whether it was Constitutional or not. It is a unique story that lends itself well to the study of marginalized communities throughout American History. This lesson is adapted primarily from OPB’s The Fillmore Neighborhoods and Japanese-American Internment Lesson. The following lesson plan can be utilized in any social studies classroom studying the Constitution for a lively role-play or those American Studies classrooms investigating what really happened to the Japanese-Americans after the bombing at Pearl Harbor. Enjoy!
For a PDF of the whole lesson plan, click here (File size 161 KB).
Overview of the Japanese-American Incarceration Experience: What would it feel like to have family and friends rounded up and ‘deported’ because of their race? In this lesson, students will gain a sense of what the experience may have been like for Japanese-Americans from Portland, Oregon’s Japantown during World War II. This lesson would fit it reasonably well with students who have already studied WWII, the bombing at Pearl Harbor, and constitutional history.
Goal: To analyze the Japanese-American experience of leaving their homes for years of incarceration. To observe and analyze the photographs and newspaper articles that describe this experience. To interpret the incarceration policy as constitutional or not.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
Students will be able to analyze photographs and newspaper clippings from the time period in which Japanese-Americans were incarcerated.
Students will be able to write a reflection that explains the experience of these Americans making connections from prior knowledge, experience, images analyzed.
Students will be able to interpret the U.S. Constitution to uphold or reject the incarceration policy; discuss the constitutional issues in conflict during this time (habeas corpus, treason, equality before the law, citizen rights, search and seizure).
This project was really interesting to work on, because we had to take the images from the suitcase and then build lesson plans around them. We looked at the images to decide what point they were trying to make, and then we took those images and included them in our lesson plans. Making the lessons was a very educational experience, as I thought that it forced us to think more critically about the images – what does it say? How can a teacher use this? What would a elementary/middle/high school student take away from this image?
My lesson, titled Legalities of the Incarceration, is designed to be used with a travelling collection of artifacts from the Nikkei Legacy center. It is also intended to be used in a legal or government class or unit – for example, a unit on Japanese-Americans in World War II that concentrates on the legal question of incarceration, or a unit on the Bill of Rights with an examination of the Japanese-American incarceration as it relates to the Constitution, etc. I deliberately made this lesson extra-long, so that teachers can pick and choose what aspects they want to focus on in their classes. Continue scrolling down to find the lesson:
1. Identifying Information
Class/Topic: Social Studies/Japanese-American Incarceration Legal Study
Time: 50 minutes
Grade Level: Middle School
This lesson is meant to be used as an overview of the legal aspects of the Japanese-American incarceration in concentration camps during World War II. The lesson can be used to introduce the history of the Japanese-American incarceration, or as a lesson meant to challenge students to think critically about the legal aspects of the incarceration. In this lesson, the students will be asked to think about the various legalities of interning people based on race and ethnicity, particularly how it relates to the incarceration of Japanese-Americans. This lesson is meant to complement a unit on either the Constitution/Bill Rights or World War II.
Note: Teachers, please use your discretion on what material you wish to cover. If your classroom is studying World War II, please feel free to just cover the vocabulary from WWII – make the lesson fit your needs!
TSW: develop an understanding of the Japanese-American incarceration.
TSW: be familiar with various legal terms (internment, incarceration, detain, lawsuit, civil rights, etc).
TSW: be familiar with the social, legal, and ethical arguments surrounding the Japanese-American incarceration.
TSW: be familiar with the causes and effects of the Japanese incarceration.
TSW: be able to give definitions for the legal terms used in this unit.
TSW: describe the importance of the Japanese-American incarceration in its historical context.
TSW: describe the similarities and differences of the Japanese-American concentration camps to the concentration camps used by Nazi Germany.
Image credit: Library of Congress LC-USF3301-013292-M2
Title: Los Angeles, California. Japanese-American evacuation from West Coast areas under U.S. Army war emergency order. Reading evacuation orders on bulletin board at Maryknoll mission
Creator(s): Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1942 Apr.
Writing lesson plans for elementary students was simple. The kids lack the cognitive development of secondary students, so one does not have to bother with exploring abstract ideas. Instead, the lessons can be more basic and focus on developing skills students will rely upon as they progress through school and life. I had two goals when writing my lessons: don’t bore the students, and let them create something.
The Lessons Both lessons were designed to be used in conjunction with the photographs included the Nikkei Center’s traveling suitcases. One lesson is targeted at lower elementary, the other at upper. Both lessons challenge students to analyze what they see in the photographs, make connections between the past and their lives, and create a product demonstrating their understanding. Overviews of the lessons and links to PDFs are provided below.
This lesson offers students a chance to develop their critical thinking skills and make connections between their community and the Japanese community that existed in Portland in the first half of the 20th century. Students will draw where they live, examine the photographs in the suitcase, create a second drawing depicting life in Japantown, and finish by comparing their two pieces and presenting their findings to the class.
In this lesson students will explore how personal experience can vary based on the community in which you live. Students will imagine they live in Portland’s old Japantown. They will examine the photographs in the suitcase to develop an interpretation of life there during the early 20th century. Using what they learned, students will write a letter to a friend describing their life in Japantown.
Image credit: These girls are the Japanese Community Queens Court, voted for by the Japanese community, 1931. From left: Emi Somekawa, Frances Maeda, Fumie Marumoto (queen), Chizuko Inouye, and Takako Saito. The queen and princesses ride on the Japanese community’s float in the Rose Festival floral parade.