Monday, April 25, 2011

Using Double Victory in the Classroom

Using Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II by Ronald Takaki

After teaching World War II for the past thirteen years, I feel as if I am constantly struggling to find new ways to gain the interest of our students. Teaching US History and World History both present their own challenges. By the time our students have reached World History in the eleventh grade, they have already been exposed to World War II in either US History II and/or a World War elective that our school offers. Having said this, I have continued to struggle over creating new ways in which I can present World War II to our students in a new and interesting manner. I hope to be able to teach our US History II course in the years to come and incorporate this new strategy. After reading Double Victory and participating in the follow-up book group, it became apparent to me that this book would make an excellent source to use in my classroom.

Changes in my teaching from TAH:
Reading Double Victory provided me with a great deal of new information that I previously either didn’t know about or did not have sufficient research on. As I began to read this book, I couldn’t help but think of how much this book would enrich the teaching of World War II in my classes. Ronald Takaki provides us with a multicultural view of Americans during World War II. What he does differently, is that he tells his story through the eyes of a variety of ethnically diverse Americans. He writes about the lives of a Japanese American, African American, Native American, and a Mexican American. Although each story is very different, they share a common thread, which is their struggle to defeat the enemy abroad, while trying to defeat the enemy at home, racism. This year, my teaching of World War II had changed because I was able to incorporate these heroic stories into my classroom. After introducing these stories to the class, the majority of my students reflected on the lesson and commented on how they never realized or connected the two front wars that these diverse groups were confronted with.

This Year’s Lesson:
After reading and participating in a discussion on Double Victory, I immediately made changes to my lesson plans for World War II. The initial adjustment that I made was to share this information through class lecture and discussion with my students. The following class, I divided my class into four small groups and assigned them to one of the four stories which Takaki wrote about in Double Victory. Their task was to read and analyze the struggle of their assigned character and then prepare to share it with the class. Their class discussion went very well a few days later and their interest level was very rewarding. The last portion of this lesson involved these same groups to prepare for a trial to prosecute the United States for their mistreatment of these individual groups during World War II. Using a trial rubric that I have incorporated in years past for my American Law course, I was able to show the students the criteria that we would be following/grading on. The students conducted outside research to strengthen their arguments and carried out a successful trial procedure.

Using Double Victory in my classroom proved to be worthwhile. My students were provided with a viewpoint that the majority of them had never been exposed to previously. Like any first time lesson, I have some changes that I will be making before using this lesson in my classroom next year. I may try to incorporate other primary sources to the various groups to help them with the trial preparation and provide them with more background information to build their cases on. I also believe that I need to make some adjustments to this lesson in order to successfully incorporate it in with my college level course. I tried this lesson this year with my honors course and will have to adjust it for my lower level students.

Connection to National Historical Thinking Standards:
Standard 1: Chronological Thinking
A. Distinguish between past, present, and future time.
B. Identify the temporal structure of a historical narrative or story.
C. Establish temporal order in constructing historical narratives.
D. Measure and calculate calendar time.
E. Interpret data presented in time lines and create time lines.
F. Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration; explain historical continuity and change.
G. Compare alternative models for per iodization.

Standard 5 : Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making
A. Identify issues and problems in the past.


  1. Mark, It's great to see that you were able to use resources from Takaki's Double Victory right away in your classes! If you are looking for variety in the types of sources you use in teaching a multicultural history of the U.S. in World War II you might see the website for Ken Burns' "The War." The page "Fighting for Democracy" contains overview historical essays and video clips where African Americans, Japanese Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans talk about their experiences on the home front and battle front during World War II. Here's the link.

  2. Mark - I was able to use Double Victory with my juniors this year as well. I had similar success. This book and the coordinating book group really made me think about my lack of attention to this important piece of WWII content. I have always covered A. Philip Randolph and the segregated troops, but using this work added an incredible amount of depth to this unit.