“My Japan” Edpuzzle

This activity is designed for a high-school class learning about World War II.
This lesson should be used when teaching about U.S. involvement with Japan during the war.
Ideally, I would do this with my students before teaching them about the dropping of the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I feel it is a good demonstration of propaganda to explain why the U.S. decided to take such drastic measures to end the war.

This activity was created on Edpuzzle. It involves students watching a video from Youtube and answering questions along the way. Questions are timestamped in to the video, and the video atomically stops to allow students to answer the question. The video then continues when students submit their question.

The video “My Japan (1945)” is a propaganda film made by the U.S. to portray Japan in a terrifying light.

Throughout the film, I ask the following questions:
1. How is Japan portrayed so far in this film?
2. What does the narrator refer to as “the heart” of Japan?
3. What are some of the comparisons made between the people of Japan and the people of the U.S.?
4. In making these comparisons, how are the people of Japan being portrayed? How are the people of the U.S. being portrayed?
5. How is Japan being portrayed later in the film?
6. What do you think was the purpose of this film? Why?
7. After seeing the very end of this film, did your mind change on what the purpose of this film was?
Do you think this film was successful in achieving its purpose?

Link to activity on Edpuzzle

I really enjoyed creating this activity. It was easy for me, as the teacher, to create. The Edpuzzle platform was very simple to use.
I like this method for this activity because I think it will keep students engaged, as it is interactive. Usually when films are shown in class, teachers may have students take notes or answer a worksheet with questions to make sure the student is following along. However, with Edpuzzle, students can go their own speed and can’t “miss” questions. Since in Edpuzzle the video stops for them, students have the time to really think about their. They can also re-watch parts if they need to.
It can be a great activity to do in class, with students wearing headphones, or would even make a great homework assignment, too.

Holy Propaganda Batman! Comic Book Covers and World War II

wonder-womenSensation Comics Jan. No. 13 (Source)

Overall I really enjoyed and found value in creating a document based lesson. This semester I’ve been reading, Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen and a quote that really stood out to me was, “What would we think of a course in poetry in which students never read a poem? (pg. 7).” I kept thinking about this quote throughout this lesson because that’s how high school social studies have been teaching history to students, and I feel document based lessons is an alternative that fixes that problem. It gives students a chance to work with primary resources and challenges them to be the historians in the process. The challenge for me was what primary resources to use, and what questions did I want my students to answer. I am glad I got to use a topic that I am super passionate about and be able to use it as my document based lesson project. The hard part was finding comic book covers that was available to share. Especially because Marvel and DC comics have heavy copyright laws that protect their work. My plan is to use this next year with my students at OPEN School.

What I gained most from this project was the skills of using google and Apple’s book author program. I am already thinking of creating another document based lesson on a different subject just so I can continue to grow my skills in using this program to be a better teacher. My only feed back I would give about this project that it’s a bit difficult for people that may not have a Apple device on hand.

Keeping Focus: a Reflection on Writing DBQs


(Link to DBQ: Images and Emotion – World War II Propaganda.)

When I began this project, I expected that choosing documents for a DBQ would be easy, while writing the text and questions to accompany them would require the greater effort.

As it turns out, the effort came in keeping myself terse. The fundamental question in this project was “what do you want the reader to do?” Once I decided that the reader would examine propaganda posters and analyze what emotional impact they had, it became clear that my main task would be curating the posters themselves. Too much text would only distract from the real focus of the DBQ. Thus, I tried to limit myself to minimal introductions to set the frame, and one or two open-ended questions.

It seems to me that simplicity is at the heart of the DBQ format. As long as the reader is oriented, the documents, visual or textual, should speak for themselves. I’ll keep this principle in mind not only when designing formal DBQs in the future, but when presenting primary documents to students in a classroom context.

I’m satisfied with the final project: its narrow focus has allowed it to stake out its own niche. There are many DBQs out there relating to World War II propaganda, but few ask the reader to look across cultures for parallel concerns. Still, this project only scratches the surface: the five propaganda themes I included are hardly the only possible points of comparison. I hope readers find this to be a source of ideas and inspiration for other projects.

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

Image Source: Miami University Libraries

Reflecting on the DBQ Assignment


The goal of my DBQ project was for students to gain an appreciation for how one’s perceptions of an event can be manipulated through media. The idea was for students to examine a variety of items, identify the techniques employed in conveying the message, and evaluate whether or not the techniques were effective. After investigating the media content within the lesson, students would apply what they learned by curating a series of media items that depict a certain perspective in a contemporary conflict.

Reading my original proposal for the project, I feel the final product achieves the goals I initially set forth. The lesson contains a variety of media types (print, posters, photos) and each example is accompanied by a set of questions that challenge students to do more than just identify what they see. I’m pleased with what I created because it approaches the study of history through a different lens. I can see this being more enjoyable than reading a history text or listening to lecture on a more traditional topic.

Though I am pleased with what I created, reservations do exist. This product has yet to be used. I don’t know how students or educators will react. Will they learn or appreciate the material I put forth? Will they find it engaging? It’s hard to say; especially since this was the first DBQ project I created. Teachers must always reflect and adapt. The project I created feels like a solid first step, but I want it to be used so I know how to make it better.

Once I decided upon a topic, the process was straightforward. However, I did run into one hurdle: curating the media. Selecting relevant pieces was challenging and time consuming. There is so much iconic media from the Vietnam era, but not all it was applicable to my objective. Using the wrong piece could lead to confusion and undermine what students are supposed to take away from the lesson.

A link to the final product on Learnist: Media & War

Image Credit: Louisiana State University Library 

LSU student Luana Henderson participated in a peaceful protest against the Vietnam War held in 1970 on the LSU campus. The poster behind her refers to the killing of four students by National Guardsmen during a protest that turned violent at Kent State University in Ohio. University Archives, LSU Public Relations.

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