The No-No Boys of WWII


The No-No Boys of WWII



Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State



Grade Levels


In this focused inquiry, students investigate the question Can it be patriotic to refuse your country?

Students engage in active reading of primary sources about incarcerated Japanese-Americans refusal to answer loyalty questions during WWII, participate in small and large group discussion, and write an argumentative response to the compelling question.

Lesson Objectives

  • Students will be able to use analytical reading skills to identify the main ideas and supporting details of the primary and secondary sources.
  • Students will engage in discussion around the impact of Japanese Incarceration and the Loyalty Oath.
  • Students will develop a claim with evidence and reasoning to answer the compelling question.
  • Students will use their learning to develop a pamphlet of rights.



Washington State Social Studies Standards:
  • SSS1.6-8.1.  Analyze positions and evidence supporting an issue or an event.
  • SSS3.6-8.1.  Engage in discussion, analyzing multiple viewpoints on public issues.
  • H3.6-8.3.  Explain, analyze, and develop an argument about how Washington state has been impacted by:
    • Individuals and movements.
    • Cultures and cultural groups.
    • Technology and ideas.


Focused Inquiry

Staging the Question

Compelling Question: Can it be patriotic to refuse your country?

  • Have the students create a Venn diagram of the words loyalty and patriotism. Students should come up with ideas, examples, and/or definition that show the similarities and differences of each of the words.
  • Have students share their thinking in a class Venn diagram. Encourage students to be clear with their thinking. Teachers should also give students opportunities to question their own paradigms about ideas around loyalty and patriotism.

Background knowledge that students may need to support this lesson:

  • Students should be exposed to the following terms
    • Nisei
    • Japanese Incarceration
    • Executive Order 9066
    • Manzanar
    • Tule Lake Detention Center
  • Sources that may be helpful:
    • Densho Project
    • National Park Service (Tule Lake and Manzanar)

Supporting Question: Why did incarcerated Nisei not sign the loyalty oath?

Formative Performance Task

Have students read the excerpts from “Personal justice denied.” Have students annotate four main ideas and supporting details. When they are done with each of the readings, have them complete the focused note taker for each. This document will have students capture their noticings and wonderings about the each other’s readings.

After students complete the focused note taker, teachers could have them share any questions that they have about Japanese Incarceration and/or the loyalty oath. The teacher may want to ask students where they would put this on their Venn diagram that they did at the beginning of the lesson.

When that is completed, have students read the interview between the War Relocation Authority and a Nisei prisoner. The teacher may choose to do this reading from a “reader’s theater” approach. Students should complete the focused note taker for the excerpt when they are done. This graphic organizer also includes an area for students to capture their noticings and wonderings. Teachers may want to have students share their questions again and add to their Venn diagram.

Taking Informed Action

Argument: When students have completed the focused note takers, have students individually answer the compelling question, can it be patriotic to refuse your country, using evidence from their focused note takers. Student responses should include a clear claim, specific evidence, and a well-thought-out reason.

After students learn about what the “Loyalty Oath” was and its impact on incarcerated people under Executive order 9066, have them develop a pamphlet that lists the rights that the Nisei had.
Teachers may want to refer to the ACLU's Know Your Rights website as a template.
The No-No Boys of WWII Lesson Plan with Activity Sheet (form fillable pdf)
The No-No Boys of WWII Excerpt Text Set (pdf)
The No-No Boys of WWII Activity Sheet (form fillable pdf)