World War II Scrapbook

Lesson Plan

Grade and Level: United States History, Grades 9-11
Instructional Time: Flexible; Approximately 1 hour, but can be modified.
Essential Learning: Students will analyze a scrapbook from World War II in order to more fully understand the period and its effects. This will include interpreting experiences from many different perspectives, including soldiers, military leaders, and other noncombatants. They will also practice using photography as a primary source in historical research.
Questions to Ask: How was World War II experienced by a soldier abroad? What does a scrapbook reveal about these experiences?
Materials and Resources: Computer lab with internet, Primary Source Analysis Sheet, and Activity Sheet
Documents: Primary Source Analysis Sheet, Activity Sheet

Websites for assignment


Photo album of a U.S. American soldier documenting his WWII tour of duty in Japan, circa 1945-1946. Includes photos of Okinawa, Nagasaki, Naha, Ominato, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Sasebo, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Matsuyama, Kure, Hiroshima, and Kyoto. While some photos are more of a sightseeing nature, many depict American service men and army camps, Japanese prisoners of war, and destroyed cities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombing.

Standards, Benchmarks, and Indicators Objectives

Virginia SOL

1. The student will demonstrate skills for historical and geographical analysis and responsible citizenship, including the ability to:

a) analyze and interpret primary and secondary source documents to increase understanding of events and life in United States history from 1865 to the present;

i) identify the costs and benefits of specific choices made, including the consequences, both
intended and unintended, of the decisions and how people and nations responded to
positive and negative incentives.


1. Start by explaining what a primary source is and asking the students for a list of primary source examples. Talk about how primary sources differ from secondary sources. Explain the difference between published sources versus non-published accounts. Explain how photographs are primary sources and how they can be used in historical scholarship.
2. Then ask the students to spend a few minutes thinking about the problems with using primary sources and photographs to understand historical events. How can a person interpret a primary source? How could personal motivations, fears, or prejudices alter what is presented? What is a more effective primary source – writing or photography? Why?
3. Have a group discussion regarding primary sources. Explain some limitations, and some methods to overcome these problems. Discuss why and how a historian can use primary sources. Ask the students how they could use photographs in their research. What do photographs reveal that writings might not?
4. Split the class into groups of 2-3. Have each group access the digitized scrapbook .
5. While the students look at the scrapbook, pass out the Primary Source Analysis Sheet. Give the students 15 minutes to look at the online scrapbook and fill this sheet out.
6. When the students have finished, have a class discussion about the scrapbook and the primary source analysis sheet. What did they find interesting about the pictures? What questions do they have about the source?
7. Next, have the students pick the three most interesting or surprising pictures. Ask them to write a paragraph for each picture, explaining what is in the photograph and what makes it different or more interesting from the others (this can be done on the back of the activity sheet).
8. Go around and have the students to explain one of their chosen pictures.
9. Pass out Activity Sheet. Give the students 10 minutes to think about and answer the questions in Part I. Use this exercise to discuss life during World War II. Why would this soldier focus on these specifics of life during World War II? How is this different from our current study of World War II?
10. As the final exercise (or a potential homework assignment), have the students complete Section II. Encourage them to be creative in this section.

Assessment Criteria

Students can be graded on their work on the activity sheets (both the primary source analysis and the Activity Sheet), the caption exercise, and their participation during discussion.