The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bombs

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
2 class periods
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will write a 20-point persuasive essay explaining their decision on how to end WWII.
  • Decision to drop the bomb
  • Role Play
Rationale (why are you doing this?)
  • Students need to read documents and learn to think for themselves.  This topic is never boring to anyone. 
  • Role-playing is active learning.  They will have fun.
Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Read documents
  • Learn a role
  • Interact with students in role playing
  • Decide if the decision to drop the bomb was the BEST way to end the war
  • Write a persuasive essay to explain their findings
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
  • American Experience: Victory in the Pacific
Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
Technology Required


Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

Day One:

  • Students will be given a role from the Decision Center book that was provided by the Truman Library
  • Students will be given documents to help them prepare to meet the expectations of their roles
  • Students will meet and discuss President Truman’s options.
  • The President will come to a conclusion.
  • Other students will serve as Senate Intelligence Committee members and debrief the President
  • I will facilitate.

Day Two:

  • Students will form groups of three and discuss the decision and write a bullet point critique of the President’s decision.
  • Each group will write their bullet points on the white board.
  • Groups will be assigned to oppose another group’s critique.
  • Mini-debates will take place in the classroom
  • A class discussion will take place.
  • I will roam the room and answer questions

Day Three

  • Students will view the last 30-35 minutes of “Victory in the Pacific”
  • On the white board the following options will be listed and students will begin to decide what is their choice for the best way to end WWII:
  • Drop the Atomic Bomb(s)
  • Warn the Japanese
  • Showcase the power on an uninhibited island
  • Hold firm with Unconditional Surrender
  • Allow the Imperial system to stay
  • Blockade and bomb (conventional)
  • Invade
  • I will get out of the way and allow students to come to their own conclusion.
Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide

Students will write a 20-point persuasive essay explaining their decision on how to end WWII.  This essay will be due two days after our last class meeting.  It will be typed and double-spaced.