Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

FDR and Pearl Harbor
Keith Rains
US History
Time Frame:
One week
World War II

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Motion picture
  • Lecture
  • Primary Resources
  • Small group discussions
  • Large group decision

  • I want students to challenge knee jerk reactions to bold statements and rely on evidence and reason to make decisions.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • Local Standard 2B adopted from common core standards:
  • Creating active and responsible citizens that identify and analyze public problems; deliberate with other people about how to define and address issues; take constructive, collaborative action; reflect on their actions; create and sustain groups; and influence institutions both large and small.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Pearl Harbor movie

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Full description of activity or assignment.
  • I do not like to admit it, but “Pearl Harbor”, the movie, is a great tool.  My favorite student finally talked me into watching it; I realized that the personal story pulls students emotionally into the bigger story of Pearl Harbor.
  • I will show the movie in class and stop it after the attack. (I have a movie report and review to go with).
  • I will hand them a Pearl Harbor fact page that includes all the damages.
  • I will then bring up the question: “Did FDR know?”
  • I will divide the class into teams of three and then hand them documents and allow them to draw their own conclusions.
  • They will bullet point their conclusion and then hand it to another team.
  • Each team will critique another team’s conclusion and return it to them.
  • After a short time for reflection, each team will announce to the class what they have concluded.
  • After all have announced, I will lead an examination of each document with the class.
  • This will end day one of the analysis.
  • On the second day, I will open with a review game over the documents.  The winning team will receive team points.
  • Teams will reconvene to reconsider their conclusion.  After about six minutes, each team will report to the rest of the class what they have finally decided.
  • A short class debriefing will be the conclusion of this lesson.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Some items from the documents will end up in my matching exercise on the next test. 
  • This 10-point essay will be on the test: Please answer the following question: Did FDR know about the attack at Pearl Harbor before Dec. 7th? Explain your answer by citing facts to complement your assertion.