If you are teaching social studies alongside a language arts curriculum, or if you team-teach with a social studies teacher, here is a brief outline of how to teach World War II concurrent with reading the Diary. Depending on circumstances, you may choose to start these lessons slightly before beginning the Diary. You may of course need to tweak this sequence, delete certain lessons, or add others based on your textbook, state standards, or students' interests and needs. 1.) U.S. Neutrality Between the Wars (this may require two separate lessons)
Introduce concepts such as neutrality
Make sure your students understand that the heavy losses the nation sustained in World War I and the precarious economy of the Great Depression combined to make most Americans very leery of becoming involved in other country's affairs, even though most historians agree that American politicians had at least some idea of what Germany and Japan were doing.
If your students have access to computers, they will love this simulation:http://teachingamericanhistory.org/neh/interactives/neutrality/
It works like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" game in which students assume the role of a President or General trying to deal with the encroachments of Germany and Japan. Students will appreciate the sophisticated graphics and harrowing music. Favorably compared to Call of Duty. 2.) From Isolationism to Interventionism: Our Ally, Great Britain
Introduce the Lend-Lease Act, Cash and Carry, and the Destroyers-for-Bases Program. Emphasize the historical relationship between the United States and Great Britain. President Roosevelt needed to support Great Britain (at war with Germany by 1939) without making it appear to the American public that the U.S. was becoming directly involved with the war. 3.) Pearl Harbor
Students may be familiar with Pearl Harbor from movies, television, video games, or books. Explain the circumstances: a surprise attack by the Japanese on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the Sunday morning of December 7, 1941. Students old enough to remember September 11, 2001 may benefit from a comparison. At this point, the U.S. declares war on Japan. Germany declares war on the U.S. because Germany is allied with Japan. The U.S. then declares war on Germany. 4.) Who Were the Soldiers of World War II? (This may require two separate lessons--very popular with students)
Approximately 16 million men and women fought for the United States during the Second World War. Many were young volunteers. Of these, nearly half a million died.
Women, African-American, and Asian-American soldiers had special roles to play and unique challenges as soldiers in the Second World War.
Your students may enjoy a student-created website focusing on the contributions of African-American, Chinese-American, and Filipino-American soldiers during World War II:http://library.thinkquest.org/trio/TTQ05085/
Your students may wish to learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen (the all-black corps of fighter pilots who were the first black pilots and flew some of the most dangerous missions of World War II, becoming one of the most decorated units during the War as well):http://www.tuskegeeairmen.org/
Women played a major role in the military for the first time in World War II:http://www.stg.brown.edu/projects/WWII_Women/WomenInWWII.html
The National Archives maintains a massive database of images of World War II soldiers:http://www.archives.gov/research/ww2/photos/5.) The Home Front
The U.S. government encouraged civilians to become involved in the war effort in a massive way. Recycling was very important during World War II. People at home recycled rubber, metal, paper, cloth, and many other materials to help the war effort. People bought war bonds to fund the war. People planted Victory Gardens to grow their own food.
Propaganda images produced by the government encouraged civilians to join the war effort:http://history1900s.about.com/library/photos/blywwiip42.htm
If your students can handle it and you have time, you may wish to compare and contrast American war propaganda with Nazi propaganda and discuss how propaganda can be both helpful and harmful. 6.) Japanese-Americans in Internment Camps
Much of the discussion of the "home front" is fairly feel-good, but the imprisonment of innocent Japanese-Americans (including children) during World War II is a dark moment in U.S. history. Explain why Japanese-Americans found themselves in internment camps and what the camps were like. This might be a good time to share Dear Miss Breed
or Farewell to Manzanar
with your students if you are so inclined. 7.) The War in the Pacific
Japan had conquered much of Southeast Asia by 1942 and was at war with China. How did the U.S. and its Pacific allies (Australia etc.) manage to stop this powerful navy in the Pacific by late 1943? Key battles include Midway and Guadalcanal.8.) The War in Europe
The Soviet Union managed to hold off the German army in the winter of 1943. The Allies (U.S., Great Britain, France) invaded Sicily in July of 1943 and mainland Italy a few months later in September, leading to Mussolini's arrest. Rome was captured by Allies by June of 1944.9.) The War in Africa
African colonies played a role in World War II as countries fought the war through their colonies. From Operation Crusader in November 1941, the Allies invaded Africa in order to fight back German and Italian advances on the continent and prevent Japan from getting a foothold in Nazi-controlled Madagascar. The Axis powers were largely defeated in Africa by the summer of 1943. 10.) The Manhattan Project: The Development of the Nuclear Bomb
The Manhattan Project was so secret that, when Truman assumed the Presidency upon Roosevelt's death in 1945, Truman knew nothing about it. Students may be interested to learn that some of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project were European Jews who had fled to the United States to escape the Nazis.
The Manhattan Project invites discussions of ethics and decision-making that students find very engaging. You may wish to share the song "Would You Drop It?" from Flocabulary's Hip Hop U.S. History
(a clip is available at http://www.jewcy.com/daily_shvitz/world_war_ii_in_hip_hop
)11.) D-Day: "The Day"
The Allied invasion of France along the Normandy coast (June 1944) is a moment that features in books, photos, and films. It is often called "the beginning of the end" of World War II. Explain how a land invasion began in and over the sea and why D-Day was so important in the course of the war. 12.) The Battle of Iwo Jima
The Battle of Iwo Jima (February-March 1945) was the Pacific equivalent of D-Day. Students may be familiar with Rosenthal's photograph of the Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. Despite a grueling battle and heavy defeat at Iwo Jima, however, the Japanese did not surrender. The bushido
(code of honor) employed by the Japanese soldiers is often of interest to students. 13.) Germany Surrenders
Following German troops being surrounded by the Soviet Union and the Allies and Hitler's suicide, Germany surrendered in Italy in April 1945 and in Western Europe in May 1945. The Yalta conference established guidelines for the Allied occupation of Europe and the Soviet Union's entrance into the war against Japan. 14.) Nuclear Bombing of Japan; Japan Surrenders
The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945. Japan surrendered shortly thereafter. Again, this may ignite a debate over whether or not bombing was unavoidable or justified. 15.) Liberation of Europe and Aftermath of the War
Allied troops liberated the concentration camps and ghettos across Nazi-occupied Europe. Over six million Jews and other "undesirables," a figure that included over a million children, were murdered by the Nazis. You could connect this with the Diary by mentioning that only Otto Frank survived to be liberated; the rest of the residents of the Secret Annexe all died.
This is a very
incomplete and brief sketch of possible lessons. You may have the time and resources to go into deeper detail.