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Activity Overview

Starting a unit or lesson with the key terms aids in overall comprehension and retention. In this activity, students will create a storyboard that defines and illustrates key terms related to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. It is helpful for students to preview vocabulary and important terms when studying historical events to help give them context. This storyboard also focuses on the euphemisms employed by the U.S. government and the media to describe the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII encouraging students to analyze the importance of words to accurately describe historical events.

Examples of Terms related to the Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII

Bombing of Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked U.S. military targets in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, killing and wounding 3,000 soldiers.

Racism: Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.

Executive Order 9066: On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, initiating a controversial World War II policy with lasting negative consequences for Japanese Americans. The document ordered the removal of "resident enemy aliens" from parts of the West vaguely identified as military areas. In effect it forced 120,000 Japanese Americans to concentration camps from 1942-1945.

Alien: A foreigner, especially one who is not a naturalized citizen of the country where they are living. Considered derogatory today.

Citizen: A legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.

Immigrant: One that immigrates, such as a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence or a plant or animal that becomes established in an area where it was previously unknown.

Exclusion: The process or state of excluding or being excluded. In the case of Japanese Americans during WWII, they were excluded from living freely in the west and forced from their homes onto concentration camps by Executive Order 9066.

Fifth Column: Fifth Column is a general term that refers to any smaller group within a larger group that works to overthrow the larger group from within. During WWII, the U.S. government postulated that Japanese Americans were a Fifth Column working with the Empire of Japan as spies within the United States.

Issei: Issei is the Japanese term for first-generation immigrants—those who came to the U.S. from Japan.

Nisei: Nisei is the Japanese word for second-generation immigrants, or those children born in the United States to Issei (first-generation immigrants).

Sansei: Sansei is the Japanese term for third-generation Japanese immigrants, or those born to Japanese American parents who were themselves born in the U.S.

No-No: “No-no” is the term for prisoners in Japanese internment camps who answered no to two particular questions on a government questionnaire judging their loyalty to the U.S. The questionnaire was nicknamed the Loyalty questionnaire and arbitrarily tried to determine whether the prisoners were loyal to the United States.

Yes-Yes: Prisoners in Japanese incarceration camps who answered yes to two particular questions on a government questionnaire were called yes-yeses. The questionnaire was nicknamed the Loyalty questionnaire and arbitrarily tried to determine whether the prisoners were loyal to the United States.

Euphemism: A mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.

Forced Removal vs. "Evacuation": In 1942, Executive Order 9066 permitted the government to forcibly remove Japanese Americans from their homes and into concentration camps. They were allowed one suitcase and had to leave everything else behind, not knowing where they were going or when they'd be released. The orders were carried out by soldiers. The government called this an "evacuation" implying that it was a precaution for safety.

Incarceration vs. "Internment": "Internment" is the commonly used phrase to describe what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II however, a more accurate term is "incarceration". Thousands of men, women, and children who had committed no crimes, were denied due process, forced out of their homes and into prisons where they were confined for nearly four years.

Concentration Camps vs. "Relocation Centers": The U.S. government called the camps that held Japanese Americans "assembly or relocation centers". The facilities were surrounded by a fence and guarded by military police. "Assembly" or "Relocation" implies gathering by choice. Japanese Americans were political prisoners. They had committed no crime but were forced to remain in the camps for the duration of the war.

Japanese American vs. "Japanese": Most people imprisoned under Exec. Order 9066 had been living in the U.S. for decades or had been born in the U.S. The media and government often referred to them as "Japanese", erasing their American identity and conflating Japanese Americans with Japanese citizens in Japan as a strategy to prey on fears after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to justify this unjust and immoral order.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Due Date:

Objective: Create a storyboard that defines and illustrates key terms relating to Japanese American incarceration during WWII.

Student Instructions:

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. In the title boxes, identify the terms you have chosen.
  3. In the description boxes, write the definition or description of the term.
  4. Create an illustration for each term using appropriate scenes, characters, and items.

Requirements: Must have 3 terms, correct definitions or descriptions, and appropriate illustrations for each that demonstrate your understanding of the words.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/3] Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/4] Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/6] Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Define and illustrate each of the key terms.
7 Points
4 Points
1 Points
The vocabulary words are correctly defined.
The meaning of the vocabulary words can be understood but it is somewhat unclear.
The vocabulary word is not clearly defined
The storyboard illustrations clearly depict the meaning of the vocabulary words.
The illustrations relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words but it they are difficult to understand.
The illustrations do not clearly relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words.
Evidence of Effort
Work is well written and carefully thought out.
Work shows some evidence of effort.
Work shows little evidence of any effort.

Image Attributions
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