The attack on Pearl Harbor is one of the most important moments not just in American history, but in world history, due to the fact that it caused the United States to enter World War 2. To introduce students to this seminal moment in history, we have two Pearl Harbor lesson plans, one for grades 3-5 and another for grades 6-8.
Both of these lesson plans include an embedded YouTube video of the famous speech that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave in the wake of the attack. Both lessons also include multiple activities to help students understand what it might have been like to live through this time.
Grade 3-5 Lesson Plan
The grade 3-5 Pearl Harbor lesson plan is more of a general introduction to the event itself. The lesson starts by identifying Hawaii on a map to give students a sense of geography. Pearl Harbor not only contained parts of the US navy, it was home to “Battleship Row” and home to many powerful ships.
This lesson gives a very brief explanation of Japan’s role in World War 2 but does not discuss the war in great length nor does it touch on Hitler and Nazi Germany. Instead the focus is on the actual attack, which began at around 8 in the morning and involved 353 Japanese planes, leading to 12 ships sinking, more than 300 planes being destroyed, and more than 2,000 casualties, with many more wounded.
Students are shown a bit of FDR’s famous speech and asked what they think the phrase “live in infamy” might mean. To end the lesson, there are two activities: first, students fill out the 5 W’s and How regarding Pearl Harbor. Then, they interview a classmate to ask how they might have felt if they were alive during the attack, and what they may have done if they were president at the time.
Grade 6-8 Lesson Plan
The grade 6-8 Pearl Harbor lesson plan takes a broader view of the Pearl Harbor attack and opens with an explanation of World War 2. This includes an overview of the two sides as well as an explanation of why tensions between Japan and the United States had been rising before the attack occurred.
This lesson also links to FDR’s famous speech, but looks at it in further depth and has students analyze portions of it. It also discusses the shameful issue of Japanese internment that occurred after Pearl Harbor, which is not a subject the earlier lesson discusses.
This lesson closes with a similar activity about what it might have been like to live through this tumultuous time in world history. It also asks questions about how Pearl Harbor influenced World War 2 in general, and what impact the attacks had on America’s view of the war.
Remembering Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is notable for many reasons, in large part because it represents one of the most damaging attacks to be launched on American soil. But the attacks also had a major impact on world history, and Americans’ understanding of their place in the world. We hope that our lessons help you and your class honor the sacrifices our military have made, both at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere!