Write a Literary Argument: Significant Ideas in Farewell to Manzanar | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2019 G8:M4:U2

Write a Literary Argument: Significant Ideas in Farewell to Manzanar

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In this unit, students continue to explore the topic of Japanese American internment and analyze how significant ideas from Farewell to Manzanar are conveyed in the film adaptation of the text. In the first half of the unit, students read Part 2 of Farewell to Manzanar and continue to track connections and distinctions between individuals, ideas, and events in the text and answer selected and constructed response questions about connection and distinctions, point of view, vocabulary, and language to consider meaning in the text. For example, students consider how the authors use figurative language to make a connection between the narrator Jeanne Wakatsuki's baton and her father to convey Jeanne's anger toward her father. This work prepares students for the Mid-Unit 2 Assessment. Students also watch the third segment of the film adaptation of Farewell to Manzanar in Lesson 3 and continue to track the extent to which the film Farewell to Manzanar stays faithful to or departs from the text.

In the second half of Unit 2, students read the final chapters of Farewell to Manzanar while tracking connections and distinctions in the text and finish watching the film adaptation of Farewell to Manzanar. For the End of Unit 2 Assessment, students choose a significant idea from Farewell to Manzanar and write a literary argument essay to evaluate how effectively the film conveys this significant idea. In preparation for this assessment, students analyze a model essay that centers on how the film conveys the significant idea that Jeanne Wakatsuki's youth impacts her understanding of events in the text. They will then plan and draft a practice essay with partners to evaluate how the film conveys the significant idea that Jeanne's father feels deeply conflicted loyalties, both to Japan and to America. Finally, they will plan and draft their assessment over a series of scaffolded lessons.

Please note: For the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum, there are Teaching Notes for each unit that contain helpful information for supporting English language learners. These overview notes complement the more specific English language learner supports and differentiated materials within each lesson. You will find the Teaching Notes in the Unit download below.

CCS Standards

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Lessons from Japanese American Internment
  • Task: 
    • Answer selected response and short constructed response questions about point of view, vocabulary, and how connections and distinctions are made among individuals, ideas, and events in Farewell to Manzanar.
    • Write a literary argument essay to evaluate the effectiveness of the choices made in the film Farewell to Manzanar in conveying the text using points, evidence, and reasoning to support a claim and to address a counterclaim.
  • Targets: RL.8.1, RL.8.7, RI.8.1, RI.8.3, RI.8.4, RI.8.6, RI.8.10, W.8.1, W.8.4, W.8.5, W.8.6, W.8.9b, W.8.10, L.8.2c, L.8.5a, L.8.6 (L.8.1 and L.8.3 optional)
  • Texts: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, Farewell to Manzanar (DVD) directed by John Korty


Each unit in the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize students' understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to the EL Education curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this unit, students focus on working to become ethical people habits of character as they practice respect, empathy, and compassion when reading about the experiences of Japanese American internment and with peers who may have personal connections to the experiences described. Students also focus on working to become effective learners as they collaborate with peers to write a practice literary argument essay and as they persevere to write an essay independently for the End of Unit 2 Assessment.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 10-18 lessons. The Unit-at-a-Glance charts, available on the grade-level landing pages, break down each unit's lessons, showing CCS standards, agenda breakdown, daily learning targets, and ongoing assessments. The charts also indicate which lessons include mid- and end of unit assessments and the performance task.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts and resources that need to be procured. Please download the Required Trade Books and Resources Procurement List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Farewell to Manzanar (DVD)
by John Korty, director
one per classroom
ISBN: 0000000230021
Farewell to Manzanar
by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston
one per student
ISBN: 9781328742117

Preparation and Materials

Prepare vocabulary logs and independent reading journals.

Ensure that families are aware of the sensitive content of Farewell to Manzanar, such as prejudice and unjust treatment toward Japanese Americans, alcoholism, challenging family dynamics, and the deaths of individuals in the text, and prepare students who may be affected by this content in advance.

The following materials from Module 4, Unit 1 are referenced throughout this unit:

  • Authors' Methods anchor chart
  • Connections and Distinctions: Farewell to Manzanar note-catcher
  • Significant Ideas anchor chart
  • Compare Text to Film: Farewell to Manzanar note-catcher

In Unit 3, students will conduct research to learn more about activist organizations whose work embodies lessons from internment in their communities. Begin to carefully consider the span of the "community" within which students should operate. In urban areas with large populations, it may be sufficient to consider the community to be the neighborhood or city within which students live. In smaller towns, it may be necessary to expand the definition of community to include neighboring cities, counties, or regions in the country.

Successful participation in Unit 3, Lessons 6-12, requires that students are able to reach a local organization by phone and interview a representative of that organization. Ensure that students are able to make contact with organizations by beginning now to develop a short list of prevetted organizations. Begin to reach out to these organizations now to gauge their willingness to be interviewed and let them know of the date when they may expect a call. In Unit 3, students will be assigned one of the organizations from the list as one of the three organizations they research and prepare to interview.

Also at this time, consider inviting community members such as other students, teachers, family members, and people associated with the prevetted organizations to join in the Activist Assembly. Students may want to create formal, written invitations to send to these community members.


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