Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Oh, California

The Internment of Japanese-Americans During World War II

Objective: Students research the daily life of Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II and write radio documentaries using what they learn.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
4-5 hours over 3 days

Building Background:
Talk with students about the impact of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor on Americans' war fears. Review the 1942 government order to gather Japanese-Americans into groups and move them away from the coast. Discuss how many Japanese-Americans were moved into internment camps, how long they had to stay in the camps, and where the camps were located. Point out to students that the internees had to give up their homes, jobs, and personal possessions when they were moved into the camps. Tell students they will learn more about how the Japanese-Americans spent their time during those years. Remind students that during the 1940s people mostly relied on newspapers and radio for news. After students learn about the internment of Japanese-Americans they will write scripts for radio documentaries on the subject.

What To Do:

1. Distribute the Daily Life in an Internment Camp worksheet and tell students to fill it out as they do their research. Remind students that they should focus on the daily activities of Japanese-Americans, and that they will use this information to write a script for a radio documentary.

2. Send students to the library to find materials about life in the Japanese-American internment camps. One possible source is Voices From the Camps: Internment of Japanese-Americans During World War II, by Larry Dane Brimner. Also:

Dear Miss Breed: Letters From Camp

This site contains letters from young Japanese Americans in internment camps to Miss Breed, a librarian at the San Diego Public Library. Before internment, she had made friends with several Japanese-American students, and when they were moved to a camp, she asked them to write. Their letters describe their daily activities, concerns, and hopes.

Camp Harmony Exhibit

This on-line exhibit created by students in Washington State explores Seattle's Japanese-American community and their experiences at the Puyallup Assembly Center in Washington State, called "Camp Harmony."

3. When students have completed their research and filled out their worksheets, work with them to write their radio documentary scripts. Remind them to use their worksheets for facts and details. Encourage students to use different formats in their documentaries, such as first person or third person point of view or an interview format. When they are finished, have them create a title for their radio documentary.

4. Have students perform their documentaries aloud. Encourage the students to ask questions after each documentary is completed.

Discuss with students the hardships faced by Japanese-Americans in the camps. Encourage students to use information from their research to explain the hardships.


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