Investigate, Discover, and Apply Lessons from Japanese American Internment | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2019 G8:M4:U3

Investigate, Discover, and Apply Lessons from Japanese American Internment

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In this unit, students focus on understanding key lessons from Japanese American internment. In the first half of the unit, students read a series of informational texts to understand the redress movement and the long-term impact and effects of Japanese American internment. From their reading of these texts, students generate enduring lessons from internment and then find evidence from the anchor text, Farewell to Manzanar, and other supplemental texts read in Unit 2 to deepen their understanding of these lessons. For example, students will use text-based evidence to identify the lesson that in times of terrible struggle, people can draw strength from their identities and communities. They also engage in collaborative discussions. This work prepares students for the Mid-Unit 3 Assessment, a text-based discussion on lessons from Japanese American internment and the redress movement.

In the second half of Unit 3, students explore modern activism and how lessons from Japanese American internment are being applied today. Students research and interview local community organizations to understand how their work connects to lessons from Japanese American internment. For example, students might explore how an organization that helps refugees embodies lessons from Japanese American internment. For the End of Unit 3 Assessment, students deliver presentations in triads on the community organizations they have selected. Students then prepare for the final performance task of the module: the Activist Assembly. During the Activist Assembly, students participate in focus groups with other triads of students and guests (family, friends, and community members) to uplift the work of the organizations they researched and to further consider how lessons from Japanese American internment can be applied today.

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: 
    • Participate in a collaborative discussion to discuss what overarching lessons can be learned from Japanese American internment and how these lessons have been embodied in the redress movement.
    • Deliver a presentation as triads to share findings from research into how a community organization embodies lessons from Japanese American internment today.
  • Targets: SL.8.1c, SL.8.1d, SL.8.5, SL.8.6, L.8.6
  • Texts: "Seeking Redress" by Kate Ellie and Stephen Smith, "Japanese Internment Camp Survivors Protest Ft. Sill Migrant Detention Center" by Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, "Psychological Effects of Camp" by Donna K. Nagata, "The Simplest Lesson of Internment" by The Times Editorial Board


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 contributing to a better world as they apply their learning to help their school and the community. They help others to understand what the enduring lessons from Japanese American internment are and how they are being applied and embodied today through thoughtful activism. Students also focus on working to become effective learners as they collaborate with groups of peers to research and present information about a community organization for the End of Unit 3 Assessment and in focus groups for the performance task.


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
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 the supplemental informational texts in this unit, which address topics such as the negative psychological effects of Japanese American internment, politics, and migrant camps, and prepare students who may be affected by this content in advance.

In Lessons 6-8 of this unit, students conduct research to learn more about activist organizations whose work embodies lessons from internment in their communities. 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 Lessons 6-12 of this unit 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 continuing to develop a short list of prevetted organizations. 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 Lesson 6, 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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