Pearl Harbor Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Looking to freshen up your instruction on Pearl Harbor? It can be done with an engaging video lesson and a task-based group activity. For continuing instruction, take advantage of the supplementary activities and related lessons.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the attack on Pearl Harbor and the events that led up to it
  • analyze America's involvement in WWII
  • identify the key players, events, and fall out that ensued after the attack on Pearl Harbor


1 hour


  • Globe or world map

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.


  • Begin by asking students to use the internet to research newspaper headlines from December 7, 1941. Have them share the headlines they find with the class.
  • Now play the video lesson The Attack on Pearl Harbor: The Beginning of American Involvement in World War II, pausing at 00:34.
  • Now have students research the casualties suffered by America in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Write the figures on the board.
  • Play the video lesson again, pausing at 4:02.
  • Now have students trace the path of the Japanese ships from Japan to Pearl Harbor on the globe or the world map. Also have them identify the other locations Japan targeted (the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, Malaya, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Midway).
  • Play the remainder of the video lesson for the class.
  • Next, divide the class into three groups. The first group will be responsible for researching the countries that America allied with following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The second group will create a timeline of the America's involvement in WWII following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The third group will research the impact to Pearl Harbor and Hawaii at large as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • When each group has finished gathering their facts, have them present them to the class.

Discussion Questions

  • How different might our world be today if America had not engaged in WWII following the attack on Pearl Harbor?
  • How would the outcome have changed if the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor had been thwarted?


  • Take a virtual field trip to the National Park Service's Pearl Harbor memorial of World War II Valor in the Pacific.
  • Have students research the Japanese viewpoint on the attack at Pearl Harbor.

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