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How To Teach World War II - The Attack On Pearl Harbor

May 07, 2019 4 min read

How To Teach World War II - The Attack On Pearl Harbor

History and social studies begins in elementary school for most of us. We learn about a world much larger than the bubble we know. Through maps and historical facts, children learn the motives of government, countries, politics and people.

But how do you effectively teach war? Namely, how do you teach the Attack On Pearl Harbor? Do you as the teacher understand why Pearl Harbor happened? Can you interpret the facts and keep the students engaged?

It's a very difficult task - but it's something our Pearl Harbor education team does every day. Through the use of props, modern technology and knowledge, you can also effectively teach World War II and the Attack On Pearl Harbor.

Shop: Teaching Pearl Harbor Resources

Here are a few tips and strategies:


1. Learn About Pearl Harbor Yourself

We can't stress this enough. If you want your students to learn, you'll have to know the topic front and back. Luckily, there are plenty of resources that will help you become an expert without wasting time. Books and DVDs are by far the most popular. They're stocked with plenty of information and many are easy to understand.

Surprisingly, most are emotionally riveting because of how personal Pearl Harbor is for many people around the world.

Best Books For Teachers

By far, the Teacher's Resource Guide: Pearl Harbor Warriors is our most popular book for teachers. Rather than the historical facts leading up to the Attack On Pearl Harbor, this teacher's guide does an excellent peace and reconciliation follow-up.

The guide is best for elementary students, but can be adapted to the age or level of your students.

It's highly recommended that you pair this teacher's guide with Pearl Harbor Warriors: The Bugler, The Pilot, The Friendship. This fantastic book is for ages 9 - 12 and explains the very close relationship between American Marine bugler Richard Fiske and a Japanese dive-bomber pilot Zenji Abe, former enemies and lifelong friends.

If you really want to bring your World War II and Pearl Harbor lessons full circle, these books are the way to go.

For those who need to know all the facts, big and small, the Pearl Harbor Facts & Reference Book will be the most helpful. You can get all your questions answered with this book and learn about all the tidbits of the "day of infamy". The book also includes a few black and white photographs, too.


2. Let Your Students Touch Fantastic Pearl Harbor Props

Just like in our tours, interpretive sessions and student visits here at Pearl Harbor, props can be used effectively in the classroom to add another dimension to your lesson. Students who need the physical engagement to learn will enjoy putting their hands on props and they're a great learning tool to make any lesson enjoyable.

Best Props For Learning Students

Newspaper reprints aren't just another "boring" book.

This Honolulu Star-Bulletin Newspaper was issued on December 7th, 1941 and you can imagine the terror it struck to the people on the islands and across the U.S. The vintage feel pulls the students to this timeline and a little roleplay will allow students to experience a fraction of what those in Oahu felt right after the attack.

It's also extremely affordable and believe it or not, this newspaper makes for a neat souvenir or take-home gift for any student.

At the end of war, we all hope for peace and reconciliation. There was a worldwide sigh of relief when peace was declared and the surrender document signed. The Philadelphia Inquirer Newspaper came out and the words PEACE could not be anymore clearer or desired.

Using this newspaper is another great way to bring the lesson of World War II and Pearl Harbor full circle. By using newspapers and a good timeline, you can give students a clear picture of the events that began and ended World War II.

The Surrender Document used as a prop will really hit home of how important this moment was to world history. As soon as the signatures were signed, the war was over and countries could get started on rebuilding and honoring sacrifices.

It's such a simple piece of paper, but seeing the proof in the form of foreign signatures will help students to realize that this war involved people different from them.


 3. Watch A Documentary On Pearl Harbor

The best Pearl Harbor documentaries are always the official ones. Here are two DVDs that will make a great addition to any classroom.

Best DVDs To Teach Pearl Harbor

Documentaries on the Attack On Pearl Harbor are a great way to learn since the videos are already very engaging with footage, extra photos and narration. Most Pearl Harbor DVDs are very well done, with an excellent storyboard and flow. But a popular favorite has got to be the Official Pearl Harbor Visitor Center DVD.

Another great choice is the 75th Anniversary Remember Pearl Harbor DVD. This one is particularly special because it marks an era. 75 years since the Attack On Pearl Harbor is a long time to keep Pearl Harbor in our hearts and there are still a few witnesses and survivors still alive to tell their tales today.


4. Create A Required Reading List For Your Students

Books That Students Should Read About World War II Or Pearl Harbor

Sometimes required reading is the best way to get students involved in their own education. If their books are interesting and easy to read, your job as an instructor becomes so much more simpler. Engaged readers will respond to in-class activities and games around your topic - especially if you're studying World War II or the Attack On Pearl Harbor.

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is a book that is required reading for many public school students in Hawaii. This true story talks about Sadako Sasaki who was diagnosed with leukemia (A-bomb disease) in Hiroshima, Japan.

For a look into the political scene behind the Attack On Pearl Harbor, Pearl Harbor by Stephen Krensky is a good start for kids. The book covers the before and after Pearl Harbor since this is a huge moment in human history.


One of the most popular ships at Pearl Harbor is the USS Arizona. Divers regularly dive into Pearl Harbor's depths to document the Arizona's condition and the things they find are really fascinating. Beneath Pearl Harbor is a fantastic book that even has a young reader edition.


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