Japanese Incarceration in Pierce County


Japanese Incarceration in Pierce County



Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State



Grade Levels


In this focused inquiry, students investigate the question How do we know if the media is telling the whole truth?

Students engage in deep reading of primary source documents about the impact of Japanese Incarceration in Pierce County Washington. In small groups students will discuss what the news stories say and what is missing from each of the stories. Students will then engage in a large group discussion. After they collect their evidence, students will write a well-formed argument with a claim, evidence, and reason.

Lesson Objectives

  • Students will be able to use analytical reading skills to identify the main ideas and supporting details of the primary sources.
  • Students will engage in small and large group discussions on the media’s portrayal of the impact of Japanese incarceration on Pierce County.
  • Students will develop a claim with evidence and reasoning to answer the compelling question.
  • Students will examine the media bias in current news stories.


Washington State Social Studies Standards:
  • SSS1.6-8.1.  Analyze positions and evidence supporting an issue or an event.
  • SSS2.6-8.2.  Evaluate the breadth, reliability, and credibility of primary and secondary sources to determine the need for new or additional information when researching an issue or event.
  • SSS3.6-8.1.  Engage in discussion, analyzing multiple viewpoints on public issues.
  • H4.6-8.2.  Analyze how a historical event in Washington state history helps us to understand contemporary issues and events.


Focused Inquiry

Staging the Question

Compelling Question: How do we know if the media is telling us the whole story?

Have students respond to the following questions:

  • What is media bias?
  • Can a news story be unbiased?

Teachers could also share current political cartoons or stories about the idea of media bias.

Have students share their ideas with the class.

Formative Performance Task

Supporting Question: How did the Tacoma News Tribune portray Japanese Incarceration in March of 1942?

Students will engage in a jig-saw activity where they will look at three different new articles from March 1942. Have students read and annotate one of the three articles. Students will use the focused note taker to capture their understanding of their article. In their groups, students will share information from their article. As students share, the other students in the group will take notes on their focused note taker.

When students are done with sharing, have the small groups or the whole class engage in a discussion around the supporting question and the compelling questions.

Taking Informed Action

Argument: Have students use the information they got from the newspaper articles and compare it to our current understanding of the impact of Japanese Incarceration to answer the compelling question, how do we know if the media is telling the whole story. Student responses should include a clear claim, specific evidence, and a well-thought-out reason.

Teachers may also want to direct students to the oral histories housed on the Densho website to give a more contemporary understanding of Japanese Incarceration.

Have students find a news story that connects to their community. Have them think of a "voice" that might be missing from the story. Have students research individuals and / or organizations that may give a fuller story. Students should share their ideas with the rest of the class.

Japanese Incarceration in Pierce County Lesson Plan with Activity Sheet (form fillable pdf)
Japanese Incarceration in Pierce County Text Set (pdf)
Japanese Statement (pdf)
Labor Problem (pdf)
Tacoma News Tribune Editorial (pdf)
Japanese Incarceration in Pierce County Activity Sheet (form fillable pdf)