Hawai’i, More Than Just a Vacation

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Target Audience

The target for this lesson is for students from 9th to 11th grades. The purpose of this target is since high school students tend to take courses such as 20th Century History, U.S. History, and A.P U.S. History. However, younger students can learn about the annexation of Hawai’i as well.


The annexations of Hawai’i will go along the topic of U.S. Expansionism during the 19th century to 20th Century. Students need to be learning about this topic because Hawai’i is often overlooked as a cultural nation and considered more of a vacation spot. Even when tourists go to a lū’au, they would not take the time to learn about the Hawai’ian culture and why it is they can experience this. Hawai’i is rich with culture and the United States had a big presence in overtaking Hawai’i’s sovereignty for their gains. Therefore, giving students the context of a recent moment in history will give students more context on U.S. imperialism.


At the start of the lesson, students will take a pre-assessment for me to see what they know about Hawai’i and get the students warmed up to discussing the topic. The purpose of this is to ease students into the subject rather than jumping straight in without some kind of warm-up for the students. The students will also be using a guided outline to take their notes on. I will be modeling the notes by giving them the vocabulary and essential questions to fill in as we move along the next two days. On the first day, the students will be watching a video called “How the U.S. Stole Hawai’i”. This will serve as a primer for the students since I will be going further in-depth the next day. The video will provide a basic overview of how the United States annexed Hawai’i. After the video, the students will work on an interactive activity where they will fill in information about Queen Lili’uokalani, Sanford Dole, President Cleveland, President McKinley, and the Public Safety Committee. The students will make identifications of the individuals and then make connections between the individuals listed. On the second day, I will lecture to the students about the annexation. The students will write down follow the lecture and answer the essential questions that were written down from the day before in their guided outline. Then, after the lecture, I will have the students complete an assignment regarding Queen Lili’uokalani’s letter to President McKinley and then a political cartoon about U.S. Imperialism. At the end of the two days, the students will complete a post-assessment.

Resources for Lessons

The resources that will be available to the students on Google Classrooms. The video that will be played, the lecture PowerPoint (and the Loom recording of the lecture), and the assessment, and assignments. In addition to these online resources, the students will be able to utilize their guided outline. All of these resources will guide them on their upcoming test that will cover U.S. Imperialism.

  1. How the U.S. Stole Hawai’i
  2. Entrance Ticket Day 2 (review)
  3. Hawai’i Assignment

Delivery Considerations

For in-person classes, the lecture would be presented in class. The assignments could be printed and adapted as in classwork. Utilizing Google Classroom would be important as the world moves to more digital formats for everyday uses. As such, incorporating the digital world into in-person classes would make for an easy transition for online classes. For online classes, the adaptation would be giving students time to ask questions. I think that using a flipped classroom format would be most useful for the lesson. The students would be able to view both videos before live classes and then ask questions or seek more information during synchronous classes.

6 Replies to “Hawai’i, More Than Just a Vacation”

  1. Really excited to see this lesson develop! I truly believe that more people, especially on the mainland, need to know about this.

    1. Hi Nic!

      Thanks, I think so too. I’ll be honest, there are a lot of pieces about Hawai’i’s history that I still want to keep researching but I hope that this lesson gives you a glimpse of what you could look into!

  2. Angela, I love the idea of this lesson plan! I have a close friend who lives in Hawaii and it’s always interesting to hear him speak about the local people and culture. The annexation of Hawaii is something I am mostly uneducated about so I’m excited to hear what you have to say! Surf on!

    1. Hi Alex,

      Thank you! I’m teaching the lesson this week in my own class and I hope that I can bring Hawai’i justice in my U.S. History class as well as ours!

  3. Great idea for a lesson, especially for an AP History class. This is the kind of stuff I wish we had learned about in high school. I did notice on your form that in the second section there is no correct answer listed for why Hawaii isn’t in the basket, so you may want to check that out. Also the entrance ticket says that we don’t have access.

  4. Hi Tyler!

    I agree the history of Hawai’i seems to be overlooked since it’s so widely considered to be either a vacation spot or Pearl Harbor.

    Thank you for letting me know! Those two should be fixed now!

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