When I taught the book Hiroshima by John Hersey in my sophomore Honors English class, it was a successful unit. There are so many educationally sound aspects of the book to use. This is an excellent unit to follow Bloom's taxonomy from basic knowledge to synthesis.
My unit began with a film on the history and preparation for using the bomb. The film came from a portion of a program called "Ripley's Believe It or Not." It provided valuable background for those students who were uninformed on the historical reasons for dropping the bomb.
I ask one of our science teachers to come and explain E = MC [squared].
We read an article about all the warnings that were given to Japan about the potential new weapon. Japan appeared unmoved by these threats. We read about President Truman's dilemma in understanding and deciding what to do since he was unaware of the development of the bomb.
This part of the study takes about 2 days. Then, we learned some Japanese words used in the book. There are not many, but the students enjoy learning them. Later, they called me sensei meaning teacher.
Each student was assigned one of the six survivors to follow closely throughout the book. They would need to know about all of them. But they like being a part of Dr. Fujii's or Miss Sasaki's group. One group started wearing Japanese style head bands with the character's name on it. Then, of course, all of the others did as well.
A Research assignment was given to provide information about the droppng of the bomb, number of dead, radiation, sickness, etc. These facts were presented with each of the groups having a specific portion to give to the class.
The book is easy to read. We read much of it aloud in class. The students selected quotations to share with the class about their survivor. This is one of my favorite quotations which so aptly fits the discussion of the bombing:
Miss Sasaki lost consciousness first of all, the bookcases right behind her swooped forward and the contents threw her down, with her left leg horribly twisted and breaking underneath her. There, in the tin factory, in the first moment of the atomic age, a human being was crushed by books
A one hour trial was held to decide the justice in dropping the bomb. Each year the trial ended with the same outcome: the bomb should have been dropped.
After the unit test, we watched a portion of a television movie Hiroshima. I selected the scenes of the dropping of the bomb and its immediate after effects.
Our unit was completed with a trip to Osaki's Japanese Restaurant. The students loved using their few Japanese words and even learned a few new ones. It was unit that took about 7 actual school days, but well worth the learning experience.