Title:  Executive Order 9066—Letters to Friends

Time Allotted: 80 min

Grade Level: 5th

Number of Learners: 30


Unit Theme:  “Why were Japanese-Americans interned, and what affects did internment have on their lives?”

Standard(s) Met:  (see below)

Goal:  The learners will be able to explain different interpretations from diverse cultural perspectives and frames of reference (NCSS 1b); locate, analyze, organize, and apply information about a public issue recognizing multiple points of view (NCSS 10c).

Objectives:  The learners will examine the role of the United States leaders during WWII and will determine who was making decisions by reading historical documents and writing letters in which they will develop, identify, and interpret examples of stereotyping, conformity, and altruism. (stand. 7 obj. 2; NCSS 4g)

Materials Needed:  copy of Executive Order 9066 http://www.pbs.org/childofcamp/history/eo9066.html , 60 sheets of lined paper, 30 pencils, 30 erasers, 30 envelopes. 


Motivation:  Call upon the previous lessons about Pearl Harbor.  Ask students to recall facts and feelings they had while learning about Pearl Harbor.  Were they scared, confused, angry? (5 min) 


  1. Read and discuss the Executive Order 9066.  Who was to be evacuated?  Where were they going?  What reasons were given for evacuation?  Was the US justified in making the Executive Order 9066—explain.  (15 min)
  2. Ask the student to visualize themselves in the setting of three days after Pearl Harbor.  They have a best friend who lives next door that is Japanese-American.  Direct the students to write a letter to this friend.  They may write about being scarred, saying good-bye, confusion, or even being angry.  (15 min)
  3. When they are finished, instruct the students to fold their letter and put it in the provided envelope.  Have them print their names on the front (return address position). Then, they must find a partner to switch with.  (3 min)
  4. After everyone has switched, instruct the students to open the letter and respond in another letter to the writer.  In this letter, they are no longer the “average American”, they are the Japanese-American best friends.  (15 min)
  5. Ask the students to fold their letter and put it in the same envelope.  Instruct them to return it to the “return address”. (2 min)
  6. Instruct the students to read the letters they received.
  7. Ask the students to share with the class.  What did you write and why?  What was the response?  Was the response what you expected? (5 min)
  8. Continue the discussion guiding it towards stereotyping and whether or not the Executive Order 9066 was justified.  Should all the Japanese-Americans be interned?  How would you choose which ones were if any?  How could the Executive Order 9066 been changed? (10 min)

Closure:  Have the students reflect upon their letters and the ones they received.  Ask them to discriminate between multiple points of view through direct question such as what view did you take?  Why did you decide to write that way?  How did you feel when you read the response?  Did your opinion change?  Instruct them to write a short summary of the activity on the back of their first letter.  Put the envelope, with letters and summary, into their portfolios. (12 min)


Accommodations:  ESL learners may work with a partner for the writing or may draw pictures with short captions.  For help reading, they may ask the letter writer or teacher for extra help. 


Assessment/Evaluation:  When having the closure discussion, listen for answers of explanations on stereotyping.  Can the student discriminate between opinions and come to a conclusion?  Review portfolio summaries of students who did not participate in the discussion.


Extension:  If student finish writing early, they may include a picture in their letter.