We offer free Korean War lesson plans for teachers of elementary, middle grades, and high school students. Our free resources include inquiries, map activities, and other teaching modules to help students better understand the Korean War and its legacy.
Maps and Korea
This inquiry leads students through an investigation of maps, the common characteristics of maps, and the stories maps can tell about a place. By investigating the compelling question, “What is the most important information a map can tell us?,” students evaluate a set of maps with a focus on the Korean Peninsula as a case study. The formative performance tasks build on knowledge and skills through the course of the inquiry, help students deepen their understanding of maps and their value as a tool for understanding the world, and build content knowledge about the Korean Peninsula. Using the map set provided, students create an evidence-based argument about the most important piece of information they learned.
Points of View on the Korean War
This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the Korean War by investigating the compelling question “Whose voices are heard in history?” through the evaluation of oral histories, newspaper articles, photographs, and monuments. The formative performance tasks build on knowledge and skills through the course of the inquiry and help students identify points of view that are either present or missing in historical narratives. Students create an evidence-based argument about why some voices are left out of history.
Remembering Korean War History
This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the ways we remember history, including a variety of memorials and consideration of the omissions in our collective memory. By investigating the compelling question, “What is the best way to remember history?,” students evaluate and explore a variety of types of memorialization, omissions in our collective memory, and the possible ways that historical memory can help people make better contemporary choices. The formative performance tasks build on knowledge and skills through the course of the inquiry and help students identify and compare some of the ways history is memorialized and remembered. Students create an evidence-based argument about the best ways to engage in the process of preserving the past.
You Are The Historian
In this unique inquiry, students explore the Korean War Legacy Project Memory Bank and watch veteran interview video clips on a common topic or event. Students then explore the archives in order to find documents that corroborate or contradict ideas and events shared in the oral history clip.
Middle Grades Inquiries
Children and War
This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the consequences faced by children of war, including hunger, displacement, trauma, and the loss of family and stability. By investigating the compelling question “How does war affect children?” students attempt to contextualize the consequences of war on children. The formative performance tasks help students build knowledge and skills through the course of the inquiry as they examine the experiences of Korean children during the war, the role members of the armed forces played in helping these children, and the human costs of displacement and war. Students create an evidence-based argument about Korean children’s war-time experiences and members of the armed forces’ role in helping the children and then write historical questions about the human costs of displacement and war to prepare for a guided Socratic Seminar.
Korean War and Sacrifice
This inquiry leads students through an investigation of individual and group sacrifices made during times of conflict and war. By investigating the compelling question, “What does it mean to sacrifice?,” students evaluate the historical significance of individuals and groups during the Korean War. The formative performance tasks build on knowledge and skills through the course of the inquiry and help students to understand the sacrifices made by soldiers and civilians on both sides during the Korean War. Students create an evidence-based argument about the sacrifice of all in times of conflict and war.
Media and The Korean War
This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the uses and misuses of media such as leaflets and radio broadcasts during the Korean War, and the uses and misuses of media in contemporary society, politics, and war. By investigating the compelling question of how media can be used to influence others, students attempt to explore the uses and misuses of media through historical and contemporary lenses. The formative performance tasks build on knowledge and skills developed through the inquiry and help students demonstrate the specific ways media was used and misused during the Korean War and in contemporary society, politics, and war.
Words and War in Korea
This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the importance words have in easing or escalating diplomatic tensions. By investigating the compelling question “Can words lead to war?”, students evaluate the historical context of American tensions with North Korea. The formative performance tasks build on knowledge and skills through the course of the inquiry and help students trace the evolution of the contemporary Korean Conflict through an analysis of how contemporary American presidents have communicated in general and specifically with North Korea. Students create an evidence-based argument about whether words can lead to war, and about the implications of social media for international diplomacy.
High School Inquiries
This inquiry leads students through an investigation of how the Korean War came to be known as the “forgotten war.” By investigating the compelling question, “Why was the Korean War ‘forgotten’?,” students investigate how a major global event could seem to have been forgotten by the American public and, subsequently, in history. The inquiry has students consider the progression of the “conflict” to a “war,” actions of those in power during Harry S. Truman’s US presidency, the views of veterans and those on the home front, and the portrayal of Korea in US history textbooks. This leads students to questions of how the Korean War differed from previous and subsequent military engagements in terms of the remote threat it posed to the American people and an underlying Cold War sentiment that evolved from anti-communism to containment. Teachers should also help students understand how the process of “forgetting” the Korean War reflects geopolitical events as well as domestic concerns.
Korea and The United States
This inquiry leads students through an investigation into the relationship between the United States and the Republic of Korea. By investigating the compelling question about the what Korea means to the United States, students will have to consider the ways in which government documents and oral histories provide a unique way to understand this strategic relationship and make a claim on the significance of the Korean peninsula to the United States military.
Talk with North Korea
The compelling questions for this inquiry call on students is to research the history of diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea. How to talk with North Korea has been an important diplomatic question for US presidents from Truman to Trump. At times that question has been answered with the use of direct diplomacy with North Korea, and at other times with the use of indirect diplomacy—compelling other countries to impose sanctions and other punitive measures on North Korea. At the present time, Kim Jong-un, the current leader of North Korea, has pushed forward on nuclear armament at a much faster pace than his predecessors, fueled by worsening political relations with the international community. Additionally, despite assertions that North Korea would have to choose between its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its economic development, the North Korean economy has continued to grow amid worsening sanctions and waning international trade. These developments have brought the relationship between the United States and North Korea to the forefront of international relations. Students will attempt to understand how we have talked—and are talking—with North Korea, weighing the benefits and drawbacks of each approach to answer the question, “How should the United States talk with North Korea, and why is it important in the resolution of North Korean issues?”
The compelling question for this inquiry calls on students to consider whether conglomerates are good for the economy. Specifically, this focused inquiry is a case study of South Korean conglomerations, known as chaebols. After the Korean War, large sums of money were given to a handful of corporations (Samsung, Lotte, Hyundai, Daewoo, etc.) in order to spur economic growth in the South. The chaebols, including Samsung, Hyundai, and Daewoo, would play an important role in spurring economic growth by focusing on the export of cheap electroinc goods. At the same time, these chaebols were protected by the government because of the belief that they were “too big to fail.” Currently, corrupt business practices by chaebol leaders have led some Koreans to question whether or not chaebols should be dismantled. In this focused inquiry, students will work with a variety of sources in order to answer whether or not such conglomerates or chaebols are good for the economy. Although the focus of this inquiry is on Korean conglomerates, this examination has students wrestle with the idea of how countries should develop economically.
Teacher-Created Lessons and Resources
Elementary School Level (K-5)
Why do veterans of the Korean War deserve recognition for their service?
The main focus of this lesson is for students to understand the importance of remembering and honoring veterans of the Korean War. Students will acquire an intellectual and emotional understanding of the issues surrounding the Korean War. These understandings will come from students’ exposure to a variety of sources including: photographs, maps, teacher presentations, and most importantly, interviews with veterans.
Middle School Level (6-8)
Do the experiences and reflections of servicemembers that fought for the south in the Korean War align with President Eisenhower’s principles of conduct in world affairs?
Under teacher direction and modeling, the whole class will read and annotate the opening of President Eisenhower’s The Chance for Peace speech from April 1953. The class will elaborate on the meaning of Eisenhower’s five precepts which govern America’s conduct in world affairs by brainstorming related synonyms, examples, or situations. Using the speech and supplemental brainstorming terminology, students will conduct advanced searches in the KWLF Interview Archive, locate interview segments which demonstrate whether or not the experiences and reflections of servicemembers fighting for the south align with the precepts Eisenhower later spoke of, and complete an accompanying chart. This relates to Korea because students will have a more in- depth understanding of the six decade-long military alliance between the U.S. forces and the South Korean army.
High School Level (9-12)
How did the experiences of veterans shape the opinion of the Cold War, in particular the Korean War?
After studying the origins, causes, and outcomes of the Korean War, students will use the Korean War Legacy Project database of veteran interviews to craft a letter that interprets a specific veteran’s experience in context with the historical facts.