K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

Learn more

Related pages

  • Museum of the Cherokee Indian: Official site of the museum of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.
  • North Carolina Cherokee Indians: The Trail of Tears: In this two week unit, students will study the Cherokee by participating in literature circles, learning about Native American story telling, writing a letter to Andrew Jackson to protest against the Creek War, and more.
  • Cherokee relocation: Students will use primary sources to investigate the boundaries of the Cherokee lands set for North Carolina after the Revolutionary War.

Related topics


Please read our disclaimer for lesson plans.


The text of this page is copyright ©2008. See terms of use. Images and other media may be licensed separately; see captions for more information and read the fine print.

Learning outcomes

Students will compare and contrast different methods of racially-motivated relocations of various ethnic groups during three periods in American history.

Students will:

  1. Define and discuss the difference between immigration, repatriation, deportation, resettlement, and internment.
  2. Research the Trail of Tears, the deportation of Mexican Americans during the Great Depression, and the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
  3. Compare and contrast the experiences of these three groups, the times in which they lived, and the government’s justification for their actions.
  4. Present their learning to the class in the form of an oral report with visual aids, a history web, Venn diagram, or a PowerPoint (or other computer-based presentation).

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

3 to 6 hours


  • grade-appropriate textbooks and reference materials on Native Americans, Japanese Americans, and Mexican Americans
  • paper and pencils for note-taking
  • poster board for history web or Venn diagram
  • dictionary (print or online)


Other resources

Technology resources

  • computer with internet access for research
  • word-processing software
  • PowerPoint or other presentation software


Introduce the topic by discussing with students what it feels like to move away from home. Ask questions about moving, including:

  • Have you ever moved?
  • Where did you move to?
  • Did you want to move?
  • Did you know anyone when you got there?
  • What was it like in the new place?

Students will write in their journals or on paper what the moving experience was like and how they felt about it. They should write one to two paragraphs. If students have never moved away from a home, have them write about the experience of someone they’ve known who has moved.


  1. Divide students into groups. Make sure the groups are not homogenous, as much as possible. Integrate groups by ability level, gender, ethnic background, etc. Groups should not be larger than four to six students. Four is an optimal number.
  2. All students will read whatever is in their text book about the Trail of Tears. Students will go on-line and look at the interactive map of The Trail of Tears from The Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Additional information about the Trail of Tears can be found by searching LEARN NC.
    • If this is an American history class, the introductory focus may be on the Depression and the Mexican American deportation. The Trail of Tears may have been mentioned or studied previously. In that case, examination of the bill passed in California, which became law on January 2, 2006, entitled “Apology Act for the 1930s Mexican Repatriation Program” is a good introduction. NPR radio has an oral program from the All Things Considered broadcast on 01/02/2006 which is available online. Another good resource is the Library of Congress site about Mexican immigration. This site deals with the Mexican deportation, mistakenly called repatriation.
    • If this is an American history class, an exploration of the Japanese internment may be useful. Most American history books mention the topic, and most mention that a formal apology was issued by the United States government, and reparations were paid. A good site is the “Suffering Under a Great Injustice” with photos taken by Ansel Adams at the Manazar detention camp in California.
  3. Have students define the words resettlement, deportation, internment, immigration and repatriation. Discuss the difference between the meanings of each word, and the implications of each word. Students should understand the difference between the voluntary nature of immigration and the forced nature of the other terms. Terms are defined in the Critical Vocabulary section of this lesson plan.
  4. Students can research first-person accounts of all three events. Good search terms are “Mexican deportation,” “Trail of Tears,” and “Japanese internment.”
  5. Give the students the following websites or download the articles for them to read and place in a binder.
  6. Students should ask questions such as:
    • When did this event happen?
    • Why did this event occur?
    • What was going on in the United States and the world at the time the event occurred?
    • Did anyone protest the event? What was the result of their protest?
    • Were there any _________ people who were not taken away? Why weren’t they taken?
    • How did this event change American society, culture, and law?
  7. Students of all age/ability groups can take the information they find and create a presentation. See the following suggestions:
    • Lower grade level students, English Language Learners, and students with reading difficulties can do history webs. History webs have an empty center with lines extending out. The center is for the title of the web, while the lines divide the surrounding space into sections. Each section should show a scene from the topic being researched. These can be done on construction paper, and the illustrations can be drawn, cut from magazines, print from the internet, etc.
    • All students can do PowerPoint presentations. The websites given, and those found through a search, will provide enough facts for a multi-slide presentation. Students can add appropriate cultural music. As an alternative, an oral report with traditional visual aids can be given.
    • Students in upper grade levels can take the information and write journal entries from the perspective of one of these displaced persons. The journals can be bound and attractively presented as books, diaries, or scrapbooks. They can be illustrated with drawings, mementoes, maps, and photos. The outside should be attractively covered. Composition books can be used for the basic book (before covered) or resources for making books are available at craft stores.
    • Gifted and motivated students may work on a number of projects. They can prepare position papers and debate their particular positions. Position papers can be written and then presented, or they can be bound together as a resource. They can also re-enact the Korematsu vs. United States or Hirabayashi vs. United States decisions. Information about the Korematsu case can be found at Landmark Supreme Court Cases. HistoryLink provides an essay about Hirabayashi. A good book useful in visualizing how to do one of these trials is Justice and Dissent: Ready-to-Use Materials for Recreating Great Trials in American History by Gary Parker Schoales 9ISBN 0-87628-752-60. Trials like this are wonderful when videotaped.


Student projects will be evaluated on how thoroughly and accurately they compare the experiences of the three groups, accuracy of conventions (grammar, spelling, punctuation), creativity, and oral reporting skills (if used). PowerPoints can be evaluated on their thoroughness and accuracy, the number of images or slides used, and the variety of images. Journals are evaluated for the accuracy of the details expressed in the letters, creativity, attractiveness of the presentation, and other factors.

Assessment rubrics are provided for the presentation and the journal.

Supplemental information

Critical vocabulary

According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

  • repatriate—to restore or return to the country of origin, allegiance, or citizenship
  • deportation—the removal from a country of an alien whose presence is unlawful or prejudicial
  • internment—to confine or impound especially during a war
  • immigration—to come into a country of which one is not a native for permanent residence
  • resettlement—the act of bestowing or giving possession again under legal sanction

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • History/Social Studies

        • Grades 11-12
          • 11-12.LH.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
          • 11-12.LH.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
        • Grades 6-8
          • 6-8.LH.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
        • Grades 9-10
          • 9-10.LH.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 8

        • 8.H.1 Apply historical thinking to understand the creation and development of North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.1.1 Construct charts, graphs, and historical narratives to explain particular events or issues. 8.H.1.2 Summarize the literal meaning of...
        • 8.H.3 Understand the factors that contribute to change and continuity in North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.3.1 Explain how migration and immigration contributed to the development of North Carolina and the United States from colonization to contemporary...
      • United States History I

        • USH.H.1 Apply the four interconnected dimensions of historical thinking to the United States History Essential Standards in order to understand the creation and development of the United States over time. USH.H.1.1 Use Chronological thinking to: Identify the...
        • USH.H.3 Understand the factors that led to exploration, settlement, movement, and expansion and their impact on United States development over time. USH.H.3.1 Analyze how economic, political, social, military and religious factors influenced European exploration...
      • United States History II

        • USH.H.1 Apply the four interconnected dimensions of historical thinking to the United States History Essential Standards in order to understand the creation and development of the United States over time. USH.H.1.1 Use Chronological thinking to: Identify the...
        • USH.H.3 Understand the factors that led to exploration, settlement, movement, and expansion and their impact on United States development over time. USH.H.3.1 Analyze how economic, political, social, military and religious factors influenced United States...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 11–12 — United States History

  • Goal 2: Expansion and Reform (1801-1850) - The learner will assess the competing forces of expansionism, nationalism, and sectionalism.
    • Objective 2.01: Analyze the effects of territorial expansion and the admission of new states to the Union.
  • Goal 9: Prosperity and Depression (1919-1939) - The learner will appraise the economic, social, and political changes of the decades of "The Twenties" and "The Thirties."
    • Objective 9.04: Describe challenges to traditional practices in religion, race, and gender.
  • Goal 10: World War II and the Beginning of the Cold War (1930s-1963) - The learner will analyze United States involvement in World War II and the war's influence on international affairs in following decades.
    • Objective 10.03: Describe and analyze the effects of the war on American economic, social, political, and cultural life.

Grade 8

  • Goal 3: The learner will identify key events and evaluate the impact of reform and expansion in North Carolina during the first half of the 19th century.
    • Objective 3.05: Compare and contrast different perspectives among North Carolinians on the national policy of Removal and Resettlement of American Indian populations.
  • Goal 6: The learner will analyze the immediate and long-term effects of the Great Depression and World War II on North Carolina.
    • Objective 6.01: Identify the causes and effects of the Great Depression and analyze the impact of New Deal policies on Depression Era life in North Carolina.