Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Did We Know?

Chet Geering


Students process a variety of information on the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Then they are asked to form an opinion and support it in an essay.


The student knows the origins and effects of the involvement of the United States in World War II.


-[World History The Human Experience]. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2001. (Or any World History textbook)
-List of coincidences that make the attack of Pearl Harbor a mystery (See Associated File)


1. Read text Chapter 20 (or appropriate chapter).
2. Prepare information on the coincidences surrounding the Pearl Harbor attack. (See Associated File and Weblinks)
3. Review the format of a 5-paragraph essay.


PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Students should be familiar with writing an essay in the 5-paragraph format.

1. Ask students, “Who bombed Pearl Harbor and when?”

2. Ask students, “Why was Pearl Harbor bombed?”

3. Put students' responses on board.

4. Have a class discussion on these responses.

5. Ask students if they think that the United States knew about this raid before it happened.

6. Divide the class into two groups: one that says we knew and the other that says we did not.

7. Have students now debate and support their opinion(s). The teacher may have to begin this debate and even play the devil’s advocate to get the debate going.

8. Students may feel free to change sides of the room if they are persuaded by another student’s argument.

9. Once the debate is over, give students a short lecture on the facts as presented in the text. This lecture should include, but not be limited to, the basic facts of the event that are not in dispute.

10. As the lecture progresses, ask the students if they agree with the facts. Have them give reasons why or why not and have them present evidence to support their opinions.

11. Review the format of a 5-paragraph essay: introduction, body stating three reasons, and conclusion. Have students create an essay on why Pearl Harbor was bombed, stating whether or not the United States had prior knowledge of the attack. Before they begin writing, review with them the criteria of the essay rubric. (See Associated File)

12. The students' essays are assessed by the teacher using the attached rubric.


1. Students create an essay based on the 5-paragraph model in which they justify their opinion with facts revealed in the class discussion, lecture, group discussion, and student feedback from the discussions.
2. A rubric for scoring the essay is contained in the attached file.

Web Links

Web supplement for Did We Know?

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