Japanese-American Relations during World War II | EL Education Curriculum

You are here

ELA 2012 G8:M3A

Japanese-American Relations during World War II

You are here:

Recommendation for 2020-21 School Year and Text Repagination

For 2020-21 School year:

We recommend omitting Grade 8: Module 3A For the 2020-21 school year, to ensure students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, EL Education recommends implementing three of the four modules. For more information, please view our rationale here.

Text Repagination

The version of Unbroken that EL Education referenced when writing the original module lessons (in 2012) has been replaced by the less expensive paperback edition. This chart provides a lesson-by-lesson cross walk between the pagination in the original module lessons (based on the hardcover version of the text) and the pagination based on the paperback edition of the text (ISB N # 9780812974492).

If you would like to update the pagination on the "Reading Calendar" in the Module Overview, please refer to the repagination chart  found here.

In this module, students will study Japanese-American relations during World War II. They will consider the question "How does war affect individuals and societies?" as they read case studies about the plight of Japanese-Americans interned on American soil and American prisoners of war held captive in Japan during World War II. The central texts are Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and a short biography of Mine Okubo, a Japanese-American interned during the war. As students read both of these pieces of literary nonfiction, they will consider how the narrative structure can communicate real events in a compelling manner. In Unit 1, students will build background knowledge as they consider the causes of Japanese and American involvement in World War II focusing on the war in the Pacific. They will begin by studying the attack on Pearl Harbor, considering conflicting accounts of this pivotal event.

In Unit 2, students will analyze case studies of Louie Zamperini (in Unbroken) and Mine Okubo to explore the thematic concept of resisting "invisibility" while being held captive. Students also will read primary source documents related to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Finally, in Unit 3, students will finish reading Unbroken and study a second thematic concept: the journey of the imprisoned or interned to becoming "visible" after release. Students will research Mine Okubo's life after internment; and for their final performance task, the will write a narrative in which they tell the story of how she went from being made "invisible" during internment to becoming "visible" post-internment. This module is content-rich; consider previewing the full module with a social studies colleague and finding ways to collaborate to provide an even richer experience.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • How does war and conflict affect individuals and societies?
  • How do historians/readers reconcile multiple accounts of the same event?
  • How can narrative be used to communicate real events?
  • How does captivity make the captive invisible?
  • How can individuals become visible again?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using different media?
    • The war affected both ordinary Japanese-Americans and American prisoners of war in life-changing ways.
    • War and conflict bring important yet divergent experiences to individuals and societies.
    • There are important yet divergent experiences in war and conflict.

Content Connections

3. Time, Continuity, and Change

  • Reading, reconstructing, and interpreting events
  • Analyzing causes and consequences of events and developments
  • Considering competing interpretations of events

6. Power, Authority and Governance

  • Origins, uses, and abuses of power
  • Conflict, diplomacy, and war

10. Global Connections and Exchange

  • Past, current, and likely future global connections and interactions
  • Cultural diffusion, the spread of ideas, beliefs, technology, and goods
  • Benefits/consequences of global interdependence (social, political, economic)
  • Tension between national interests and global priorities


Each unit file includes teacher materials and student-facing materials.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand
One per student
ISBN: ​9780812974492


Each module is approximately 8 weeks of instruction broken into 3 units. The "week at a glance" chart in the curriculum map gives the big picture, breaking down the module into a detailed week-by-week view. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.

Get updates about our new K-5 curriculum as new materials and tools debut.

Sign Up