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Unit 2, Lesson 1: Journey to Topaz: Reading for Understanding

Featured Text for This Unit

Journey to Topaz

By Yoshiko Uchida

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This first long term lesson involves the reading of the book, Journey to Topaz, by Yoshiko Uchida. Multiple reading, speaking and listening standards can be met through the use of a Concept Analysis resource, discussion circles, and journal writing. Specific standards can be used as a focus from the anchor standards and for Grades 6-12, and Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12. Some ideas and resources are suggested in order for students to meet these standards.

Materials & Resources Needed

Standards Addressed

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.

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:

Essential Questions / Issues



These objectives will be assessed formatively through teacher observation of small and large group discussion, and analysis of journal entries. Summative assessment takes place through argument writing and reflections throughout the unit.


Quality Criteria Absolutely Almost Not Yet
Active and productive engagement in discussion with ability to analyze specific evidence and support conclusions
Determines central theme with support and analysis of events
Interprets language and analyzes structure of text and how it shapes content
Evaluation of content verbally and through journals, providing arguments for action taken in the text including how they relate to presented primary sources

Learning Activities 


Ask the students to close their eyes and imagine someone coming into the classroom right now and telling us we had to leave the school. Room ________ is not a class at our school that is to be trusted. We will have to go to the cafeteria until the principal decides what to do with us. We are considered a threat to the rest of the school because we are all members of room ________. We can only leave with a few items; there is no room for our books or our class (lizard, or whatever). We may not take any of our projects.

Ask students how this would make them feel? After some discussion, ask the students if they have ever heard of a Japanese Internment Camp? Tell them that if they do not know now, they will be discovering much more about internment camps and an event worse than what we just imagined truly happened in California, very close to home, through the reading of this book.

Reading, Discussion & Journal Writing

As you provide time for reading, discussion and journal writing (PDF), the Reading Guide (PDF) provided may be helpful for Journey to Topaz to help guide questioning, and lead students to an understanding of the learning objectives.

Primary Sources

Use primary sources such as those below to enhance reading discussion — they are actual photos of the internment camp, portrayed in the story and can add considerably to understanding. provides facts, history, interactive map, museum of camp.

Examples of some of the primary sources available:

Old backyard garden

Gardens were a means of maintaining some semblance of normalcy.

Cars arriving at Topaz

Internees arrive at Topaz with what they could carry.


Each day of reading review, themes from reading should be reinforced.

The following Ted Talk video is an interesting way to wrap up and summarize the experience of the Japanese internment, and hear the feelings of one who was interned. George Takei Ted Talk, “Why I love a country that once betrayed me”

Special Needs of Students Are Considered

Differentiation can be addressed by varying the process for reading, i.e.: partner-reading, small group teacher-led, book clubs. Gifted and high achievers may read ahead, and/or read Return to Manzanar or another accompanying book on the same topic.