ALEX Learning Activity


Problem Solving the Decision to End World War II with the Atomic Bomb

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Erin Meacham
System:Homewood City
School:Homewood Middle School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1915
Problem Solving the Decision to End World War II with the Atomic Bomb
Digital Tool/Resource:
Six Thinking Hat Tool
Web Address – URL:

In this activity, students will use De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, a problem-solving process, to discuss and evaluate the United States’ decision to use atomic weapons on Japan during World War II. This activity will allow students to think critically about this big decision while looking at it through a multitude of perspectives. By the end of this activity, the students will come to a decision as to what they would have done if they were to make this difficult decision.

This activity was created as a result of the DLCS COS Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 6
31 ) Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on Grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly. [SL.6.1]

a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion. [SL.6.1a]

b. Follow rules for collegial discussions, set specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed. [SL.6.1b]

c. Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion. [SL.6.1c]

d. Review the key ideas expressed and demonstrate understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection and paraphrasing. [SL.6.1d]

Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 6
United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
6 ) Identify causes and consequences of World War II and reasons for the United States' entry into the war.

•  Locating on a map Allied countries and Axis Powers
•  Locating on a map key engagements of World War II, including Pearl Harbor; the battles of Normandy, Stalingrad, and Midway; and the Battle of the Bulge
•  Identifying key figures of World War II, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sir Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Michinomiya Hirohito, and Hideki Tōjō
•  Describing the development of and the decision to use the atomic bomb
•  Describing human costs associated with World War II
Examples: the Holocaust, civilian and military casualties

•  Explaining the importance of the surrender of the Axis Powers ending World War II
Unpacked Content
Strand: Geography, History, Civics and Government
Course Title: United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Identify the causes and consequences of WWII.
  • Identify the factors that led to U.S. entry into WWII.
  • Locate on a map Allied and Axis Powers and key engagements of WWII.
  • Identify significant persons involved in WWII.
  • Describe the creation of the atomic bomb and decision to drop the atomic bomb.
  • Describe the human cost of WWII.
  • Explain the Axis Powers' surrender and the importance of this in ending WWII.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • consequences
  • Allies
  • Axis Powers
  • World War II
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Battle of Normandy
  • Battle of Stalingrad
  • Battle of Midway
  • Battle of the Bulge
  • Atomic Bomb
  • Holocaust
Students know:
  • How to identify the causes and consequences of WWII and what led to U.S. involvement in WWII.
Students are able to:
  • Recognize relationships among people and places by locating historical events on a map.
  • Cite evidence to support historical events using primary and secondary sources.
  • Describe how world events contribute to international conflict.
  • Examine the contributions of significant individuals and/or groups, and their role in WWII.
Students understand that:
  • There were many causes and consequences of WWII and the motivations for American involvement in this war.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.6.6- Identify the broad causes and participants of World War II; locate major World War II countries on a map and label Axis and Allied countries; identify at least one major individual involved in World War II including FDR, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin; identify at least one major event of World War II, including the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, and the bombing Hiroshima.

Digital Literacy and Computer Science
DLIT (2018)
Grade: 6
30) Discuss and apply the components of the problem-solving process.

Example: Students will devise a plan to alleviate traffic congestion around the school during drop-off and pick-up.

Unpacked Content
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
Students will:
  • discuss the components of the problem-solving process.
  • apply the components of the problem-solving process.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • problem-solving process
Students know:
  • when solving problems, one should identify the problem, identify possible solutions, evaluate to select a best solution, implement the solution, evaluate the solution and/or seek feedback.
Students are able to:
  • identify a problem.
  • identify possible solutions.
  • evaluate to select a best solution.
  • implement a solution.
  • evaluate a solution.
  • seek feedback.
  • revise an artifact based on feedback.
Students understand that:
  • problem-solving is a process that can take multiple iterations.
Learning Objectives:

Students will identify the reasons and consequences for the United States’ use of the atomic bomb.

Students will discuss the decision to drop the atomic bomb.

Students will discuss and apply the problem solving process.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

As a culminating activity to a lesson on how the Pacific side of World War II was concluded with the dropping of atomic weapons on Japan, students will now participate in an engaging problem-solving activity in which they will weigh the reasons and consequences for using such weaponry, determining their own decisions on the matter.

Before the problem-solving activity, set a timer for three minutes and have students, either individually or with a partner, list out as many reasons and consequences they can think of for using the atomic bomb. (A simple T-chart could be created for this informal process.) Once the time is up, the students can either share some of their reasons, or they can simply save their work and use the lists to help them throughout the problem-solving process.

Now that the students have begun thinking about potential consequences and reasons for using the atomic bomb, the teacher will introduce the Six Thinking Hats problem-solving technique. The teacher could print this reference image for each student or have it up on the board for a visual while explaining the technique:

Once the students understand what this technique is and how it helps solve problems, the teacher can then divide up the students into six groups and assign each group a particular “hat”, or perspective, in which to view the decision of dropping the atomic bomb. 

Allow students approximately five minutes to discuss their perspective with their group, then bring the students to a whole group. For example, the group with the "white hat" will spend five minutes making a list and discussing as many facts as they can that they know to be true about what was going on at this time during the war. 

A delegate from each “hat” will be given time to share his/her group’s perspective with the class. While each group is sharing, the class will be listening to their thoughts on the decision to drop the atomic bomb, shedding new light on their perspective on why this decision was made.

After each group has had a chance to share, the teacher can have the students write a quick reflection piece on the conversation answering the following:

  1.  If you were in charge of making the decision to drop the atomic bomb, would you? If you would not, then be sure to offer the alternative decision you would have made. Be sure to explain your thinking fully.
  2. How did the problem-solving process today help you as a learner?
  3. How did our problem-solving today help you to better understand the reasons the United States used the atomic bomb?
  4. How did our problem-solving today help you to better understand the consequences for using the atomic bomb?
Assessment Strategies:

Formative Assessments:

  • Teacher observations/notes during the class discussions.
  • Students' lists created with reasons and consequences for dropping the atomic bomb.
  • Student "exit ticket" reflection (list of questions provided above written on loose leaf paper).

Advanced Preparation:

  • Students must have an understanding of the ending of WWII, including Japanese-American relations, in order to have a meaningful problem-solving discussion.
  • Students do not necessarily have to be familiar with De Bono's Six Thinking Hats, but the teacher must understand each "hat" and its role in the problem-solving process.
Variation Tips (optional):

Differentiation can occur when assigning particular students particular “hats”. For example, the “blue hat” is the “Meta hat” in which the students in that group are actively looking for trends and analyzing the conversation. This hat requires a deeper understanding than, for example, the “White hat” which simply presents facts. While each "hat" in the problem-solving process is different, they all hold an important job in the process.

Students do not have to be split into six even groups. There are many variations on how to utilize De Bono's Six Thinking Hats to get students to think critically and problem solve including:

  • Each student is given a paper with every "hat" listed, having to fill it in for him/herself.
  • Assign groups to the Red, White, Blue, Black, and Yellow hat, reserving the Green hat for a whole group discussion on providing ideas and creative solutions as a whole.
  • Students could problem solve virtually, sharing their perspectives through a Google Doc, Google Keep, or even
Notes or Recommendations (optional):

De Bono's Six Thinking Hats is a way to scaffold the problem-solving process in a way that is easily broken down for students to understand and utilize. Each "hat" represents a different phase of the problem-solving process.

As found on, the problem-solving process is presented in six simple steps. In the following, I have illustrated which of the "Six Thinking Hats" aligns with its corresponding problem-solving step:

STEP 1- Identify the problem (White, Red hats)

STEP 2- Analyze the problem (Yellow, Black hats)

STEP 3- Create potential solutions (Green hat)

STEP 4- Plan solution (Green hat)

STEP 5- Implement solution

STEP 6- Evaluate solution (Blue hat)


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