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Unit 2: Journey to Topaz An Argument With the Supreme Court

Featured Text for This Unit

Journey to Topaz

By Yoshiko Uchida

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This unit begins following the reading of a historical fiction, Journey to Topaz (independent, and/or read aloud, 6-8th grade interest level and 6.8 reading level). The book by author Yoshiko Uchida introduces readers to a Japanese-American family forced to go to an enemy alien’s camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The study includes an investigation of Constitutional Amendments as they relate to decisions made at a time of war. They “continue” the story through their own dramatic enactment and analysis of the facts of the internment and Constitutional law, which includes a mock trial.

Grade Levels

Materials & Resources Needed

Stage 1: Desired Results

Enduring Understandings / Big Idea

Democracy Calls for Equal Justice Under the Law

Essential Questions:

A note regarding standards: Depending upon how a teacher wishes to approach this unit, multiple standards can be met, introduced, or reviewed/reinforced in different content areas. In addition, there are more standards at other grade levels that teachers will find are a “match” for this unit. The most important thing is that you know your desired results, follow your plan and make sure that your objectives match with your standards!

California History Social Science Content Standards

4.5.3: Describe the similarities (e.g., written documents, rule of law, consent of the governed, three separate branches) and differences … among federal state, and local governments.

5.7.5: Discuss the meaning of the American creed that calls on citizens to safeguard the liberty of individual Americans within a unified nation, to respect the rule of law, and to preserve the Constitution.

8.2.2: Students analyze the political principles underling the U.S. Constitution and compare the enumerated and implied powers of the federal government. Analyze the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution and the success of each in implementing the ideal of the Declaration of Independence.

8.2.6: Students analyze the political principles underling the U.S. Constitution and compare the enumerated and implied powers of the federal government. Enumerate the powers of government set forth in the Constitution and the fundamental liberties ensured by the Bill of Rights.

10.8.6: Students analyze the causes and consequences of World War II.  Discuss the human costs of the war, with particular attention to the civilian and military losses in Russia, Germany, Britain, the United States, China, and Japan.

11.7.5: Students analyze American’s participation in World War II.  Discuss the constitutional issues and impact of events on the U.S. home front, including the internment of Japanese Americans (e.g., Fred Korematsu v. United States of America) and the restrictions on German and Italian resident aliens; the response of the administration to Hitler’s atrocities against Jews and other groups; the role of women in military production; and the roles and growing political demands of African Americans.

12.2.1: Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the scope and limits of rights and obligations as democratic citizens, the relationships among them, and how they are secured. Discuss the meaning and importance of each of the Rights and how each is secured (e.g., freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition, privacy).

Suggested K-12 Pathway for College, Career, and Civic Readiness

Dimension 2, Participation and Deliberation

By the end of Grade 5:
By the end of Grade 8:
By the end of Grade 12:

Dimension 2, Processes, Rules, and Laws

By the end of Grade 5:
By the end of Grade 8:
By the end of Grade 12:

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts

*Note: Depending on instruction with Reading Standards for Literature ELA, many standards not listed below should be addressed by the teacher during the reading of the book. The intent of this unit is to extend the reading, and provide critical thinking and analysis of the historical event related to the understanding of the Constitution.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing K-12

(Specific grade level standards within these subtitles are written to provide developmentally appropriate details)

Text Types and Purposes
  1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening K-12

(Specific grade level standards within these subtitles are written to provide developmentally appropriate details)

Comprehension and Collaboration
  1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
  1. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  1. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading K-12

Key Ideas and Details
  1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Craft and Structure
  1. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  2. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
  3. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
  1. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.*
  2. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Theatre, Creative Expression

Development of Theatrical Skills
Creation/Invention in Theatre
Communication and Expression Through Original Works of Art

Stage 2: End of Unit Authentic Assessment


Goal To use facts in the Korematsu case and apply them to the law to determine the implications of justice and democratic principles.
Role Attorneys of the defense team (United States), and/or attorneys representing the plaintiff, (Fred Korematsu)
Audience The public, press, interested family members
Situation Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which forced the Japanese American population of the western United States into incarceration camps.  As students in 1944, this class will perform their own research and moot trial of the internment as it relates to the 5th Amendment of the Constitution.
Performance Attorneys will write arguments presenting their side of the case.  They will acknowledge counterclaims and convince the Supreme Court Justices that these opposing claims are incorrect.  Three scenes may be enacted as a performance piece following the study.
Standards for Success Arguments on both sides will be presented with details and facts that support claims and use the vocabulary of the case.  Counterclaims will be argued against with details and strong and persuasive reasoning.  Supreme Court Justices will ask questions, and/or comment on claims that address both the defense and the prosecution directly relating to Constitutional law.


Quality Criteria Absolutely Almost Not Yet

  • Written opinion supports point of view with reasons and information
  • Clear intro, statement of opinion
  • Logically ordered reasons supported by facts and details
  • Use of words, phrases and clauses
  • Provides conclusion related to opinion presented
Speaking and Listening:

  • Collaborative discussions with clear expression of ideas
  • Builds on other’s ideas, responds to others’ questions

  • Active participation in improvisation, exploring emotions, physical characteristics, developing character
  • Collaboration with “teams” of attorneys, and “in role” as court Justices.

Stage 3: Planned Lessons