Social Sundays: Actionable Tips and Resources for World War II

The next unit in our U.S. history curriculum is World War II, which I have written about  many times. It is weirdly one of my favorite periods to teach.  So, as I sat down to write this post, I thought what could I tell you that is new.  I've written about books for World War II, student-centered projects, using maps, and more.  There are so many great parts for World War II that I often choose from a long list of activities, role plays and more.  

I think perhaps one of the most valuable lessons I do is a one day touch on the experience of foreign-born citizens in the United States during the war.  The study focuses primarily on the experience of Japanese-Americans but also  Italian-Americans.  

Part 1: Primary source analysis - Executive Order 9066
I launch this lesson with no background information.  Executive Order 9066, from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is distributed to the students.  Students work in groups of 2-3 to summarize each paragraph in 1-2 sentences.  The purpose is to create a quick summary of the document.  I have groups share with each other, analyze and debate until each larger group has formulated a 1 paragraph summary of the Executive Order.  These are posted on the wall as a reference.

Part 2: The National Identity Card and Loyalty Questionnaire
I explain that as of this moment every student will be subject to Executive Order 9066 for the remaining of class.  Half the class fills out their loyalty questionnaires while the others complete and are photographed for National Identity Cards.  I have one of those sticky polaroid cameras that make quick sticker photos of each student that can be attached to their national identity card.  Alternatively, students can just draw a head shot of someone (even if it is a stick figure).  It is important, I tell the students, that they do not lose their National Identity Card.  

This activity can be difficult for my students who may be here illegally or who are foreign-born.  I have spent many months previous to this making sure that students feel safe.  Furthermore, every student is permitted to create any identity they want.  They can be young or old, any religion, any nationality, etc.  I encourage to create a "persona" rather than just put themselves on their but it is up to them.  

Prepared with the national identity card and loyalty questionnaire, students are prepped for thinking about what it is like to be an American and enemy of the state at the same time.

Part 3: The experience of the foreign-born in World War II
Activities are divided into stations.  There are 3 different activities that I typically set up at 6 stations so that none of the stations are too crowded.  The stations include two focused on the Japanese-American experience and one on the Italian-American experience.  I like to give students choice, but if we have time I ask students to complete all 3 stations because this is an important part of our history.  

Part 4: Thoughtful discussion and modern connections
The reality is that the United States has a long history of hostility towards foreign-born despite touting ourselves as a melting pot.  This dichotomy in past and present actions tends to be a delicate but important point of discussion for students.  Our discussion focuses on what they learned about, what they were surprised about and examples of modern connections. 

My full World War II unit picks and choose from the following (depending on the time we have and the makeup of my classroom).

 - Codes and Cryptology
Maps and Military: changing of alliances, radar, and attacks on the U.S. 
Propaganda and Political Cartoons: The role of the media throughout the Allied and Axis powers (
Life on the home front 
World War II: Unit Project
World War II: Pacific Theater
World War II: Home Front Activities
World War II: Interactive Notebook Timeline Activity
World War II: Propaganda and Political Cartoons
World War II: Morse code, code talkers and cryptology
World War II: Illustrated Timeline
World War II: Related to Maps and Map Activities
World War II Interactive Notebook Pages

Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.



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