The Language of Confinement: Writing from Manzanar
Table of Contents
Museum Collections, Similar Items and Other Materials Used
National Educational Standards
Student Learning Objectives
Background and Historical Context
Teacher Tips
Lesson Implementation Procedures
Evaluation/Assessment for Measurable Results
Extension and Enrichment Activities
Site Visit
Charts, Figures and other Teacher Materials Chart/Handouts

A. Title:The Language of Confinement: Writing from Manzanar
  • Developer:

    Sandra Burns-Hinkel, 6th Grade School Teacher, Big Pine Unified School, Big Pine, CA

    Jerallyn Ennis, 8th Grade School Teacher, Owens Valley Unified School, Independence, CA

    Stephanie Kyriazis, Education Specialist, Death Valley National Park

    Gracie Warren, Adjunct Faculty Department of Secondary Education, Michael D. Eisner College of Education, California State University, Northridge

  • Grade Level: 6th – 8th
  • Number of Sessions in the Lesson Unit Plan: 6 Sessions; Activities 7 hours
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B. Overview of this Collection-Based Lesson Unit Plan
  • Park Name: Manzanar National Historic Site
  • Description: This series of lessons offers students the opportunity to explore a diversity of stories about Japanese Americans imprisoned at Manzanar, many from the perspectives of young people, while cultivating their language arts skills through a variety of written and oral media, including letters, newspaper articles, interviews, poetry, persuasive essays, debates, and presentations.

    Essential Question: How can Manzanar's diverse stories of confinement be conveyed through written words, art, and photographs?

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C. Museum Collections, Similar Items and other Materials Used in this Lesson Unit Plan
MUSEUM OBJECT [photos of objects in the Carl Sandburg Home NHS museum collections] SIMILAR OBJECTS [local items similar to museum objects] & OTHER MATERIALS Length of time

Lesson One: Communicating across time and space: Writing letters at Manzanar and today

Towru Nagano's letter to his brother Joe  

Towru Nagano's letter to his brother Joe

Other materials:
  • Cell phone
  • Computer
  • Copies of the letter

Forms and Charts:

90 minutes total over two sessions

Lesson Two: Preserving family history: Memory boxes, memorabilia, and meaning

Munemori Box Munemori Blue Star Flag
Munemori Box
Munemori Blue Star Flag
Munemori Blue Star Pin Sadao Munemori High School Graduation Portrait
Munemori Blue Star Pin
Sadao Munemori
Other materials:
  • Teacher's memory box and contained objects
  • Student memory boxes and objects

60-90 minutes total over two sessions(plus homework)

Lesson Three: School days at Manzanar: Producing a student newspaper

Campus Pepper Newspaper Manzanar Free Press at Work
Campus Pepper Newspaper Manzanar Free Press at Work

Similar Items:

  • Middle School Newspaper (on-line or hard copy)

Other materials:
Forms and Charts:

90 minutes total over two sessions

Lesson Four: Cultural Union: Integrating culture through language and poetry

Manzanar Free Press  
Manzanar Free Press Pictorial Edition Japanese  

Similar Items:

  • Current newspapers with poetry included.

Other materials:
Forms and Charts:

60 minutes

Lesson Five: Art, dissent, and defacement: public expressions at Manzanar and beyond

Steatite with Japanese symbols Manzanar Free Press
Steatite with
Japanese symbols
Manzanar Free Press Pictorial Edition Japanese

Other materials:
Forms and Charts:

  • Photos of the following: E.S. Muraoka's name carved in concrete, Kanji characters carved in reservoir wall, handprint and initials in concrete, name written on bathroom wall, name "tagged" on a wall with spray paint, historic arborglyph, modern arborglyph, political statement written on a wall, ancient petroglyph, elaborate but unrecognized wall graffiti, sanctioned wall mural, sample of graffiti artist Jean Michel Basquiat's work, graffiti defacement of a public building or monument.

150-180 minutes in the classroom over three sessions


Lesson Six: Manzanar Open Mic

Towru Nagano's letter to his brother Joe Munemori Box
Towru Nagano's letter to his brother Joe Munemori Box
Munemori Blue Star Flag Munemori Blue Star Pin
Munemori Blue Star Flag Munemori Blue Star Pin
Sadao Munemori High School Graduation Portrait Manzanar Free Press
Sadao Munemori Manzanar Free Press Pictorial Edition Japanese
Steatite with Japanese symbols  
Steatite with
Japanese symbols

Similar Items:

  • Middle School Newspaper (on-line or hard copy)

Other materials:
  • (Optional) Public address system, microphone, mic stand,
    a venue for performance

60 minutes or one class session

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D. National Educational Standards

Lesson 1 Standards:
Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.9 Multicultural Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

Lesson 2 Standards:
Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.9 Multicultural Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.10 Applying Non-English Perspectives
NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

Lesson 3 Standards:
Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

Lesson 4 Standards:
Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating Data 
NL-ENG.K-12.9 Multicultural Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.10 Applying Non-English Perspectives

Visual Arts
NA-VA.5-8.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.5-8.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
NA-VA.5-8.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

Lesson 5 Standards:
Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating Data
NL-ENG.K-12.9 Multicultural Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society

Visual Arts
NA-VA.5-8.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.5-8.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
NA-VA.5-8.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

Lesson 6 Standards:
Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies

California State Educational Standards

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E. Student Learning Objectives

Student Learning Objectives:
Students will learn to read and evaluate primary sources.
Students will work cooperatively in pairs or small groups.
Students will compose written materials meeting educational standards.

Lesson 1:
Students will recognize changes in language over time, specifically in slang words and phrases.
Students will paraphrase a paragraph using text messaging language.
Students will compose a personal letter.

Lesson 2:
Students will engage in multi-generational dialog.
Students will conduct an interview.
Students will present orally in front of the class.
Students will make a decorative box.

Lesson 3:
Students will analyze a photograph.
Students will consider how language has changed over time.
Student will compare and contrast the content and technology behind school newspaper production at Manzanar and today.
Students will gain interviewing and reporting skills.
Students will write and publish an article, or contribute to paper layout.

Lesson 4:
Student will gain a conceptual knowledge of the Japanese American writing system as it was used in the United States.
Student will compose a haiku, using English words and a Japanese character.
Students will create a work of art inspired by their poem.

Lesson 5:
Students will consider the social, moral, artistic, and political dimension of written expression in a public forum.
Students will create a work of public expression.
Students will write a persuasive essay.
Students will exercise debate skills on a controversial topic.

Lesson 6:
Students will practice oral communication skills.

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F. Background and Historical Context

Students will examine Japanese American internment stories through written records, poetry, letters, oral communication and art created at Manzanar Relocation Center. Internees produced artwork from recycled materials, items ordered through the Sears and Roebuck catalogue, and purchased in the camp’s Coop. 

The surroundings and circumstances inspired much of the artwork and writing created at Manzanar Internment Camp. Former internees and their families, former War Relocation Authority employees and their families, as well as Owens Valley residents donated many of the reports and records, newspapers, art, (sculpture, paintings, poetry, and illustrations) and photographs used in this lesson plan. These materials weave a tapestry of stories, and reveal clues about those who occupied this camp between 1942 -1945, a short, but significant piece of American history.


Communication is commonly defined as "the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs".

Visual communication conveys ideas and information in forms that can be read or seen. It includes language arts transmitted though typography, drawing, graphic design, illustration, color and electronic resources. This type of communication can have great visual effect. Visual message that contain text has power to inform, educate or persuade. It is communication by presenting information through visual form.
Prior to, and during WWII, communication took the form of writing, artwork, including illustration, drawing, graphic design, as well as photography. Information and “news” was communicated by radio and newspapers. Families and friends communicated through letters. Although these were not as “timely” as fast as television, the Web, email or texting, they were effective, personal and proactive.
Manzanar War Relocation Center was no exception. People relied on friends outside the barbed wire to communicate information, especially in letters. The camp newspaper, The Manzanar Free Press, started in 1942, conveyed news of the war and happenings within camp.  However, not everyone spoke and/or read English in camp. Information was transmitted in Japanese and English, and some solely in Japanese.

Many of these visual forms of communication maybe considered art forms. Poetry, paintings, illustrations and cartoons created for the newspaper, and what may be labeled graffiti today, were popular modes of communication by Manzanar internees. Today, these visual communications provide a means to understand life in the internment camp.

Writing at Manzanar
Newspapers, diaries, poetry, short stories, letters, flyers, advertisements, etc. are among the written artifacts saved by Manzanar’s internees.  The volume of these artifacts indicates that writing was an ever present part of the internees’ lives.  Why was writing so important?  Writing was used in three crucial ways.  At first, it was basic communication. With so many people suddenly uprooted and forced to start new lives with limited resources, it was essential that important information be communicated quickly through newspapers, advertisements, flyers and posters. Publications at Manzanar mirrored the publications that internees were familiar with in their home communities.  The Manzanar Free Press became the camp newspaper.  Secondary students developed The Campus Pepper, and elementary school students wrote The Manzanar Whirlwind.

Writing allowed internees to bring some type of normalcy into the abnormal life in camp. Writing connecting them to the homes they had left. Many of the writings show how closely the values of American society were reflected in the internees’ minds. This made for a tragic irony, as US Government had branded Japanese Americans as outsiders and potential saboteurs.  As the internment days wore on, there was a great deal of unstructured time to fill.  This allowed time for reflection. Writing allowed internees to try to make sense of their situation. They were able to detail their new lives, and make connections to nature and events that would have been ignored or taken for granted in a busy daily routine. Poetry, creative writing booklets, journals and diaries reveal personal perspectives of the internment experience.

A third, crucial purpose for writing was to document and preserve the internment experience in their own voices.  They may not have realized it at the time, but this recording of American history would serve to remind future generations of Americans that this denial of the basic civil rights of an entire group of people did happen. 

Black Dragon Society
The Black Dragon Society was a secret, paramilitary group formed in Japan before World War II.  Some internees with sympathies to this group and a pro-Japan perspective organized at Manzanar.  They spread Anti-American, anti-administration propaganda and harassed camouflage net workers in camp.  Members of this organization may have participated in the Manzanar Riot on December 6, 1942, which claimed the lives of two Japanese Americans.  A death list of pro-American Nisei was drawn up.  Before the death threats could be carried out many of these Nisei and their families were removed from Manzanar and sent to Death Valley National Monument for their safety.  They never returned to Manzanar but instead, relocated to Chicago. A permanent example of the group’s activity still remains on-site today in the form of the graffiti at the reservoir. "Beat Great Britain and the USA," and "Banzai, the Great Japanese Empire, Manzanar Black Dragon Group headquarters."

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G. Vocabulary

Lesson 1:
Furlough –leave of absence; a leave granted military enlisted personnel for a specified period
Leprosy –progressive, infectious disease caused by a bacterium that attacks the skin, flesh, nerves, etc. apparently spread only after long, close contact.
Newsreel  - short motion picture of recent news events; formerly shown as part of the program in motion picture theaters
Small pox –acute, highly contagious virus disease characterized by prolonged fever, vomiting, and pustular eruptions that often leave pitted scars or pockmarks when healed.

Lesson 2:
Commemorate –to honor the memory of, as by ceremony or to keep alive the memory of; serve as a memorial
Memorabilia – things worth remembering or recording, esp. about a subject, event, etc.

Lesson 3:
Kanji - Japanese system of writing based on Chinese characters.  Each symbol represents an idea rather than an individual letter.
Masthead –box or section header printed in each issue of a newspaper or magazine, giving the publishers, owners, and editors, the location of the offices, subscription rates, etc.
Printing press –machine for printing from inked type, plates or roll
Mimeograph machine –machine for making copies of written, drawn, or typewritten matter by means of stencil placed around a drum containing ink.
Typewriter –writing machine with a keyboard for reproducing letters or figures that represent printed ones.

Lesson 4:
Culture – ideas, customs, skills, arts, language, foods, etc. of a people or group of people that are transferred, communicated, or passed along, as in or to succeeding generations; or ideas, customs, etc., of a people or group in a particular period or civilization.
Haiku. Japanese verse form that is composed of 17 moras [similar to syllables] in 5, 7, 5 groupings.
Issei- Born in Japan and immigrated to the United States (before 1924).  The older people in camp, many of whom spoke only Japanese.
Kanji - Japanese system of writing based on Chinese characters.  Each symbol represents an idea rather than an individual letter.
Kibei - Americans of Japanese ancestry, with some education in Japan, who have come back to live in the United States.  Speak Japanese, may or may not speak English.
Nisei – second generation, children of the Issei, born in (and citizens of) the United States, spoke English.  May or may not speak Japanese.
Phonetic – 1.  Representing the sounds of speech with a set of distinct symbols, each designating a single sound: phonetic spelling. 2. Of, relating to, or being features of pronunciation that are not phonemically distinctive in a language, as aspiration of consonants or vowel length in English
Sansei -.third generation, grandchildren of Japanese-born immigrants.
Tanka.- short non-rhymed poem composed of five lines, with 5 syllables, 7, 5, 7, and finally 7 syllables in the last line.

Lesson 5:
Arborglyph – a carving or line drawing on a tree, especially one made by using a knife, 10-penny nail, or sharp piece of obsidian.
Deface –to spoil the appearance of, disfigure or to make illegible by injuring the surface.
Petroglyph - carving or line drawing on rock, especially one made by prehistoric people.  They are rock engravings, made by using a fist-sized stone cobble to hammer or peck a design into a rock surface.
Pictograph  -  picture representing a word or idea, a hieroglyph.  They are rock paintings, made from mineral earths like red ocher mixed with oil and applied to rock surfaces with the fingers or an animal tail brush.
Vandal –person who out of malice or ignorance, destroys or spoils any public or private property.
Vandalism –actions of a vandal; malicious or ignorant destruction of public or private property, often directed at that which is artistic or beautiful.

Lesson 6:
Open mic - musical or comedy stage platform with open invitation where anyone can perform.

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H. Teacher Tips
  • All activities can be adapted for class length.
  • Lessons do not have to be done in order.
  • Have a document reader (ELMO) or LCD projector and laptop available to project artifacts, charts, etc. for each lesson.
  • For Lesson One, Activity 1, download and photocopy pg. 1 of Towru Nagano's letter and "How to Read an Object Chart" for each student.
  • For Lesson One, Activity 2, create the six groups in advance of the activity.
  • For Lesson One, Activity 3, present models for each type of electronic communication:  e-mail, Twitter (140 characters), Facebook (My Space) entry, text (including abbreviations), blogging.  These models should all deal with the same topic.
  • For Lesson Two, Activity 2, type up and photocopy the three interview questions for the memorabilia project so students can refer to them for the homework assignment.
  • For Lesson Three, Activity 1, (alternate introductory activity) briefly show the class a copy of a local daily newspaper and review the types of material featured:  news, features, human interest, sports, photographs, advertising.  If possible, show students a copy of a newspaper published in Spanish or another language. 
  • Lesson Three, Activity 2, excerpt the articles from Campus Pepper ahead of time and distribute them to each student pair.
  • Lesson Four, Activity 4, enlarge several copies of the Kanji sample chart.  Allow some students to trace their selected Kanji if they balk at drawing the Kanji free hand.  This may get reluctant students into the poetry composition part of the assignment more quickly.
  • Lesson Five, Activities 1 and 2, be prepared to discuss examples of bullying behavior if they should arise as the students discuss motivations and consequences of public behavior.

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I. Lesson Implementation Procedures

Lesson One: Communicating across Time and Space: Writing letters at Manzanar and today

Activity 1: (20 minutes)

  • Teacher projects the first page of Towru Nagano's letter to his brother Joe onto a screen, preferably in color.  The students will receive a photocopy of the first page of the letter for personal use.
  • In pairs, students fill out the "How to Read an Object" chart for the first page of the letter.  This will familiarize them with a method of communication they may not commonly use in their daily lives.

Activity 2: (40 minutes)

  • Keep the letter projected on the screen.
  • Teacher reads the entire hand-written letter aloud to the class.  The Nagano letter is divided into parts.
  • After reading each part, teacher asks the class: “What is the subject matter in this part of the letter? “ (School, sports, rumors, movies, family, dramatic events?)  Ask the students to infer: ‘What is the tone of this part of the letter? “ (chatty, upbeat, optimistic, disappointed, intrigued?) “What language or words lead you to that inference?”
  • At this point teacher can clarify any period-specific information that may not be apparent to modern children e.g., "We probably won't have a very good football team next year because the seventeen year olds are signing up fast," meaning, the 17-year-olds were enlisting in the army.  Note that the grammatical and spelling errors are part of the original hand-written letter.
  • After the entire letter is read aloud, teacher divides the class into six groups. Teacher specifies which part of the letter they will analyze in more depth.  Each group identifies the slang from the era (e.g. "baloney" "gee" "doggone") and re-writes the paragraph on a separate sheet of paper, with contemporary appropriate slang language instead.  Teacher has the option of having the students read aloud their "translation". (Typed version of Nagano letter.)
  • Students edit their computer-processed portion of the letter for spelling and grammar.

Activity 3: (30 minutes)

  • Because students are unlikely to hand-write personal letters to friends or family today, teacher conducts a discussion on how they do communicate with friends and family (e.g. email, texting, Twitter, cell phone, Facebook, blogs).  Teacher may want to reference a cell phone or a computer as the modern tools of communication.
  • Teacher divides class into small groups of 4-5 students.
  • Teacher gives each group a copy of the “Purpose: Traditional vs. Electronic Communication chart to evaluate the purpose of each type of electronic communication. (I.e., Twitter is for quick updates, etc.)
  • Each group completes the chart, listing advantages and disadvantages and suggests traditional “forms” of communication that might be used.
  • Teacher leads a discussion with the entire class to review the answers.
  • In the small work groups, students discuss and select the type of electronic communication that would be best to convey the type of information found in Towru Nagano’s letter to his brother. The group then writes a paragraph stating their selection and justifying their choice.
  • For homework, each student writes a letter to a friend or family member talking about similar subjects as in Towru Nagano's letter.

Hints: Teacher must become thoroughly familiar with contents of the letter before reading it aloud to the students.  When reading it aloud, teacher might want to skip certain parts of the letter that are dense with news of individuals, which might be confusing to students unfamiliar with the names.  Teacher might wish to have the small groups also analyze their parts for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Lesson Two: Preserving Family History: Memory Boxes, Memorabilia, and Meaning

Activity 1: (15 minutes)

  • Teacher projects image of the Munemori box onto a screen, and then tells the class the story of this memory box from Manzanar and each of the objects contained within it.
  • Munemori Story
  • Teacher reveals the stories of the Blue Star Flag and Blue Star Pin while changing the projected images to show each object. 
  • Teacher instructs the students to think quietly about the difficulty of being a mother confined in Manzanar, and to have your son die for the country that has imprisoned you.
  • Talk about the importance of objects for preserving family stories and family memories. Objects have meaning and value beyond their physical structures.

Activity 2: (15 minutes)

  • To counterpoint the heavy tone of the Munemori story, the teacher brings in an object (piece of jewelry, tool, small antique, but not a photo) that represents an important, but potentially lighter story from his or her family history.  The object should be encapsulated in a box (preferably something ornate or meaningful).  Teacher shares the story of the object with the class.
  • Teacher instructs students that they will create their own boxes with special memory objects (or photos of the object) based upon the information they learn from their families.
  • As a homework assignment, students interview a family member, while videotaping/tape recording, or photographing the process. Students write down their responses using the following questions:
    • Do we have a small object that tells an important story about our family history? 
    • Can you tell me the story about this object?  (Make sure you discuss who, what, where, when, why, and how!)
    • How might this object be important to our family in the future (me, my children, etc.)?
  • Teacher instructs students that they will turn in these written responses for a grade.
  • In class, students create their own ornate box. Students are instructed to bring in a shoebox, wooden box, etc. to decorate. Decorations need to represent their family, or what is inside, or something they learned about their “object.” Students will be graded on their imagination and creativity.

Teacher drafts a letter to parents explaining that the class is doing a project about family memorabilia, and their student will be responsible for a presentation about an important object in their family's history.  The first step in this process is to conduct an interview of a family member.  The student will then be responsible for bringing either the object itself or a representation (photo or drawing) to school in a box. The box can be as simple as a shoebox, but does need to be something the student can decorate.

Activity 3: (30 – 60 minutes)

  • In the classroom, teachers have several options to share the results of these interviews:
    • Each student can present the object and its story in front of the class (good for small class sizes).
    • Students can present the object and its story in small groups, with students taking turns until everyone in the group has shared (good for larger classes).
    • Teacher can ask a few students to volunteer to present the object and its story.
  • Teacher concludes by discussing the students’ own memory boxes, and the objects’ stories as remembered and recorded by the students. Teacher emphasizes the importance talking to family members; listening to stories, and passing down objects to the next generation in order to commemorate family history. Everyone’s history and stories are important.

Hints: Depending on the nature of the students and the tone the teacher wishes to set with this lesson, the teacher may want to reverse the order of the activities; that is, end with the Munemori story, rather than beginning with it.

Lesson Three: School Days at Manzanar: Producing a Student Newspaper

Activity 1: (30 minutes)

  • Project before the class the photograph of young people sitting in front of typewriters.  Teacher asks, "What do you think these students are doing?  Let's analyze this photograph to figure out the story…" 
  • Use the “How to Read a Photograph chart” and fill it out as a class.  This can be done in multiple ways:
    • Project the chart onto a writeable surface (e.g. a whiteboard).
    • Each student has an individual copy, and everyone writes in the collectively shared answers.
    • Teacher uses chart for ideas and leads a discussion, documenting responses with notes on the writable surface.
  • Teacher summarizes with the class that the image represents students working on a school newspaper.
  • Teacher discusses the differences between school newspaper production at Manzanar and today – typewriters vs. computers, mimeograph machines vs. printers, hand-drawn graphics vs. computer graphics.

Activity 2: (30 minutes)

  • Teacher divides the class into pairs.  Student pairs are given a copy of the Campus Pepper, and are assigned a single article to read and analyze for content.
  • Each student pair will orally present the topic of their article and some of the article’s more interesting details.
  • Teacher asks the class – “How is the content of Campus Pepper similar to or different from the types of articles and style of writing that you would use if you were putting together a school newspaper today?” Provide students with current examples student newspapers and on-line materials. Teacher coordinates a discussion of these similarities and differences with the class; compare and contrast the newspapers.
  • The class brainstorms the topics for articles and layout/artistic elements they would like to see in a school newspaper, either today or historically.
  • Each pair completes the Compare and Contrast :Student Newspaper Then and Now chart  noting the differences and similarities between a school newspaper of present and past (Campus Pepper). 

Activity 3: (30 minutes for peer editing; layout time will vary)

  • Allow pairs to select their preferred topic.  If some students are artistically inclined, the teacher may assign them the role of cartoonist or masthead artist.
  • In pairs, the students take a few days (up to a week) to generate content for a class-produced student newspaper.  This may mean interviewing a teacher, watching a sports or drama event, talking to other students to gather opinions, gathering information about club or school events, entertainment, etc.  Be sure to communicate minimum and maximum word counts to the students.
  • Once they complete this assignment, each pair brings in their finished product. Have each pair trade with another pair for editing.
  • If some students are technologically savvy, the teacher may assign them to be in charge of laying out the edited products with a computer.  Otherwise, the teacher needs to be responsible for the final (digital) layout.
  • Each member of the class receives a printed copy of the complete class-produced newspaper.

Hints: Depending on the skills and interests of the students and the technological availability of class computers, the teacher will need to adapt certain aspects of this lesson to produce their newspaper successfully.

Lesson Four: Cultural Union: Integrating Cultures Through Poetry and Language

Activity 1: (30 mintues)
Reference: What is culture?

  • Teacher explains the meaning of culture (language, music, food, language, and art) and briefly relates to the cultures of the students. Teacher explains the different generational/cultural groups at Manzanar. (see vocabulary)
  • Teacher conducts a discussion around the potential cultural differences between these groups.

Discussion Question suggestions: Teacher asks questions, guides the discussion and assists students with examples.

    • How many of you know someone who speaks a different language? Do they also speak English?
    • How many of you have family members who speak a different language? Using the Japanese terms Issei, Nisei, and Kibei, as they are defined (1st generation, 2nd generation American citizens, and educated in country of origin for education and returned to the United States), how many of you have family members who fit these definitions?
    • Do they also eat different things than you? (name a few things) Do they listen to and/or create music different from what YOU listen to? (examples?) Do they dress a little differently than you do? (examples of clothing from differing cultures). Do they like the same artwork you do?
    • Do you think the Issei, Nisei, and Kibei differed in what they liked to eat, music they enjoyed, and/or clothes they wore?

Teacher states that in the early days of Manzanar, publishing Japanese writing was prohibited by the administration, but later, the rule was lifted and Japanese writing was permitted.  The main newspaper in camp, the Manzanar Free Press, eventually had a supplementary section in Japanese.  Ask the students, "Who do you think read the Japanese section?"

Activity 2: (30 minutes)
Teacher introduces the idea of people who possess different degrees of two cultures  (bi-cultutal) Japanese and American. (Related to discussion in Activity 1)

Teacher explains that the students are going to explore a Japanese writing system and write a poem based upon a Japanese word. This activity will offer the students a sense of the cross-cultural nature of life at Manzanar.

Kanji: Each character represents a discrete word or idea, as opposed to other types of characters, which only represent sounds until assembled into multi-character words. Kanji may stand-alone or be combined into compound word.
MANZ Acc 126 – Pictorial Edition of the Manzanar Free Press , plus steatite with Japanese symbol MANZ 4055).
Kanji / Haiku activity:
Students are presented with a selection of Kanji. Kanji Sample chart

  • Teacher introduces the Kanji characters and reviews the Kanji Sample chart
  • Each student selects one character that inspires him/her to write a Haiku about it and practices drawing his/her character accurately.
  • Each student draws his/her chosen character on a piece of drawing paper.
  • Each student composes a Haiku about his/her Kanji and includes the character in the poem (see Haiku samples). Students may be creative with their layout.

Each student paints around the words a watercolor illustration of the poem's meaning, creating a cross-cultural, Japanese-influenced work of art.

Haiku - a short non-rhymed poem composed of three lines, with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 again in the last line.

Hint:  Another option popular in Japan is to have each student create a painting where the shape of the Kanji has metamorphosed into something that conveys its meaning. For example: draw or paint the Kanji for 'tree' in such a way that it's still recognizable, but has actually become a tree. This activity generates an amazing array of student interpretations.

Lesson Five: Art, Dissent, and Defacement: Public Expressions at Manzanar and Beyond

Activity 1: (30 minutes)

  • Teacher projects the image of E.S. Muraoka's name in cement onto a screen, and ask students "How many of you have done something like this?"  Teacher also shows an image of a person's Handprint in Cement to illustrate the idea that many people have expressed themselves this way in a public venue (like a sidewalk) before. “Why do ‘we’ write our names in the sidewalk or in a register or on a bathroom wall?”
  • Teacher explains that the Muraoka name is found in the cement at the reservoir at Manzanar.
  • Teacher asks the students, "Why do you think he wrote his name there?"
  • Teacher explains to the students that people confined in the camp produced many objects, similar to this name. Project the image of the steatite rock with Japanese characters on the screen.  Teacher defines the two Kanji characters as "loyalty" and "fidelity."
  • Teacher asks the students, "Why do you think the person who made this rock chose those two characters? To whom or what do you think this ‘loyalty’ and ‘fidelity’ is directed?
  • Teacher shows another image of cement-writing from the reservoir wall in Japanese characters, but without translating its meaning.
  • Teacher states-  "Here is another example of public expression at Manzanar. We will discuss it in a few minutes.”
  • Teacher breaks class into small groups of 4 or 5 and passes out copies of the pictures (listed below) to each group.

Groups discuss the following questions as they relate to each picture:

      • Would you consider this artistic?
      • Would you consider this appropriate?
      • What do you think motivated the person who made this?
      • Pictures:
      • Historical arborglyph
      • A sanctioned wall mural
      • Tagged name on wall
      • "Beautiful" and elaborate but unrecognized graffiti
      • Cultural Mural
      • Mural of Japanese Internment
      • A controversial political message painted on a wall
      • An example of Basquiat's graffiti, widely recognized as art

  • Teacher brings class back together and class discusses the questions as a larger group.
  • Teacher makes a statement about how some of these images represent acts that are considered legally criminal or aesthetically unsavory, while some of them represent acts that are considered artistic, expressive, or of historical value.  For others, it depends on a person’s point of view.
  • Teacher again projects the Japanese character message from the reservoir wall, and this time translates it: "Banzai the great Japanese Empire Manzanar Black Dragon Group headquarters"
  • Teacher provides background information on the "Black Dragon Society.”
  • Teacher guides a class discussion of the artistry, appropriateness, and motivation behind this message. Consider political dissent, "gang" style claiming of turf, or simply indication they were there. 
  • Emphasize that without understanding the motivation behind a message, it is difficult to make a value judgment on it.

Activity 2: (45 minutes)

  • Teacher asks the students to think about how they would like to express themselves in a public place.
  • Students are provided with a variety of media (sharpie, markers, colored pencils, chalk, crayons, water colors, etc.) and told that each needs to create some sort of mark, illustration, poem or other creative form of expression on a long panel of butcher paper.  Everyone participates.
  • The panel hangs in the classroom for the duration of the lesson.
  • On the following day, before students arrive, teacher defaces the mural created by the students with the teacher’s form of graffiti.
  • When the students arrive, teacher gauges their reaction to the graffiti, and mediates a conversation about how certain forms of public expression are hurtful and destructive.  In some cases, they can never be un-done.  Project an image of a defaced petroglyph on a screen to demonstrate.
  • Teacher emphasizes how this demonstration has added another dimension to expressing yourself in a public venue.  People need to consider their motivations and the consequences of their actions.

Hints: The content of this lesson is very intense.  It might generate significant debate in a classroom.  Because of the sensitive nature of this lesson, the teacher might establish ground rules before the discussion begins, e.g., no ratting-out fellow classmates, no boasting of personal criminal activity; keep the conversation civil and intellectual. 
Students age 12-14 are in a unique developmental stage.  They are just attaining abstract reasoning ability. They are starting the process of consciously forming their identities, and they are eager to form and express their opinions.  However, they are also still easily influenced, so the more awareness and understanding you can rise of a difficult issue, the better choices they are likely to make.
If the class is particularly upset about their panel being defaced, the teacher may want to allow the class to create a second panel for display and this one will NOT be defaced.

Lesson Six: Manzanar Open Mic

Activity 1: (60 minutes)

  • To cap the students' experience exploring the story of Manzanar through language arts exercises, hold an open mic event, in which each student selects one writing sample to share with an audience:
      • The letter to a friend or family member from Lesson One
      • The transcript of their interview of a family member from Lesson Two
      • The school newspaper article from Lesson Three
      • The English-Japanese Haiku from Lesson Four
      • The persuasive essay from Lesson Five
  • The teacher can organize the event in many different ways:
      • The students can perform for each other in the classroom, one class can perform for another class, the class can perform in front of the whole school or the students can perform in the evening in front of their parents.
      • During the event, everyone can share or perform their writing sample, or the teacher can select certain exemplary pieces for performance, while everyone else displays their writing for others to examine at their leisure.
J. Evaluation/Assessment for Measurable Results

Evaluation/Assessment for Lesson 1:  Teacher will score the students writing products: paragraph re-write using contemporary slang, text message summaries of paragraph, and letter written to friend or family member as homework.

Evaluation/Assessment for Lesson 2: Students must submit the text of their family interviews for the teacher to review.

Evaluation/Assessment for Lesson 3: Students will be evaluated based on participation throughout the lesson, as well as on their finished product for the newspaper.

Evaluation/Assessment for Lesson 4: The Haiku written by each student will be assessed, to make sure it a) uses one contextually appropriate Kanji character; b) follows the syllabic rules of Haiku; c) includes creative and/or artistic merit.

Evaluation/Assessment for Lesson 5: Students will be evaluated on the quality of their persuasive essays and their skill and etiquette during the debate.

Evaluation/Assessment for Lesson 6: Students will be evaluated based on the strength of their oral communication during the open mic event.

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K. Extension and Enrichment Activities

Extension for Lesson 2, Activity 2: Students write a reader's theater version of their family story and object, and perform in groups for the rest of the class.

Extension for Lesson 2, Activity 3: Students create an exhibit in the classroom of all the boxes and objects. Students write captions for their individual exhibits (memory boxes) that explains their importance. Students write a press release to invite other classes to tour their exhibit. Teacher distributes the press release. Students act as “docents” for visiting classes and conduct tours of the exhibit.

Extension for Lesson 3, Activity 3: Students submit their historic newspaper/articles as History Day Projects.

Extension for Lesson 4, Activity 4: Poetry in the Japanese Tradition. Teacher presents a second form of poetry, Tanka, that is as if not more prevalent than the haiku in Japan. Tanka – a short, non-rhymed poem composed of five lines, with 5 syllables, 7, 5, 7, and finally 7 syllables in the last line.  (Tanka samples)

Extension for Lesson 4, Activity 4:

  • Teacher reviews selection of Kanji on the Sample Kanji chart
  • Each student selects a second character that inspires him/her to write a Haiku about it, and practices drawing his/her character accurately.
  • Each student draws his/her chosen character in the middle of a piece of drawing paper.
  • Each student writes a Haiku about his/her chosen character; the words surrounding their character.
  • Each student paints a watercolor illustration of the poem's meaning around the words, thus creating a cross-cultural, Japanese-influenced work of art.

Extension for Lesson 5:
Either for homework or in their work groups, students write a persuasive essay (1-2 typed, double-spaced pages or hand-written equivalent) selecting one of the two Manzanar images, and two of the other images. Students need to express their opinion about the artistic merit and appropriateness of each form of public expression.

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L. Resources

Stanley Hayami, Nisei Son, Joanne Oppenheim
Remembering Manzanar, Michael L. Cooper
Famous All Over Town, Danny Santiago
“Intrigue of the Past” (BLM teacher manual about petroglyphs – for Lesson 5)
Haiku, Asian Arts & Crafts for Creative Kids, Patricia Donegan

Websites: (for oral history interviews and curriculum)

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M. Site Visit

Contact Manzanar NHS by calling 760.878.2194 x2727 or visit the website at:
For a site visit at Eastern California Museum, call: 760.878.0258
For a site visit of Minidoka NHS visit the website at:
For a site visit to Tule Lake, part of War in the Pacific National Historical Park, visit
For a related virtual tour, visit:

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N. Charts, Figures and Other Teacher Materials
I am the Mountain of Manzanar
Comparison/Contrast Chart:  Student Newspapers Then and Now
Purpose:  Traditional VS Electronic Communication
Kanji example
Transcript of Towru Nagano’s letter