North Korea

Teachers' Edition: Grades 3-6 (Lesson Plans)

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Key concepts: Succession of Kim Jong-Un, North Korea and the world, North Korea and its relationship with South Korea including the Korean War

Duration: Multiple activities are provided depending on which activities you choose the lesson may be one 45-minute session to three 45-minute sessions. (The group activity will take one session.)

Goal: Students will understand the political situation in North Korea and how it affects the world.

Objectives: Students will be able to locate North Korea on a map, discuss the political situation in North Korea, understand the Korean War, compare and contrast North Korea and the United States, and identify examples of isolationism. In the group activity students will analyze North Korean facts and hypothesize different scenarios based on textual evidence.

Essential Question: How does North Korea’s actions affect the world?

Common Core Standards

Key Ideas and Details

  • RH.6-8.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • RH.6-8.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions
  • Craft and Structure

  • RH.6-8.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies
  • Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

  • RH.6-8.10. By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently
  • 21st Century Skills


    The Kim Jong-un and North Korea PowerPoint contains multiple resources and activities so you can pick and choose according to your class, which items would be most appropriate. Depending on your choices, you can complete the lesson in one session to three sessions.

    Pre-work for Session One:

  • Check to make sure you are able to access the Kim Jong-un and North Korea PowerPoint’s links from your school’s computer system. Several YouTube videos are used.
  • Session One: (Where is North Korea? Basic facts, Cult of Personality)

  • After introducing topic and essential question, explain to students that they will need to take notes because during the group activity they will be members of Congress and will need to make important decisions based on the information they have learned.
  • If students have access to a computer lab, they can use Google Earth to pull up North Korea to draw a map of it and to see the Google images embedded in Google’s map. If students do not have access to a computer lab you can use the image provided in the PowerPoint presentation for the students to use as a reference.
  • The Kim Jong-un and North Korea PowerPoint provides basic facts such as an understanding of North Korea’s official name (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), its leaders, its capital city of Pyongyang (pronunciation links are provided for Korean words), and how North Korea isolates its citizens from outside news. Reflection questions are provided.
  • The “cult of personality” is discussed. Students listen to a North Korean song with English subtitles that praise their leader. Students are informed that no other music is allowed. Reflection questions are provided.
  • Pre-work for Session Two:

  • Check to make sure you are able to access the Kim Jong-un and North Korea PowerPoint links from your school’s computer system. Several YouTube videos are used.
  • Session Two: (North Korea’s Aggressive Acts, Korean War)

  • A short paragraph from the U.S. Department of State describes North Korea’s aggressive acts against other nations. Students can read this primary source individually or as a group activity. You may have different groups of students look up the more difficult words and report on what they mean. Have the students reread the passage after they learn the meaning of the words. I used this passage even though it is dated from last year because it has a great recap of all of North Korea’s recent aggressive activities.
  • Background for the Korean War is presented and a short three minute video describes the Korean War. Another 3 minute video describes how the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) was created.
  • Information is presented about North Korea as of today and reflection questions are provided.
  • Pre-work for Session Three:

  • Print out Group Activity Congressional Report handout (to save paper you only need pages, 1, 2, 3, 9 and 12)
  • Preview and scaffold vocabulary or choose groups so that each group has a strong reader.
  • Session Three: (Reading primary sources about whether should Japan have nuclear weapons and then hypothesizing what North Korea’s reaction would be.)

  • Group Activity—Students will read individually or in groups the Congressional Report: “Japan’s Nuclear Future: Policy Debate, Prospects and U.S. Interests”  (page 1 “Introduction”, page 2 to 3 “An Evolving Security Environment in Asia”, page 9 “International Diplomatic Consequences, and p 12 “Future of the Korean Peninsula). The students will answer the following questions:
  • Do you think it is a good idea or a bad idea for Japan to develop nuclear weapons?
  • Why did you make your decision?
  • What do you think North Korea’s reaction may be if Japan chooses to create nuclear weapons? Why?
  • If there is time, students will create a PowerPoint justifying their analysis.
  • Materials Needed:

    Non-tech: paper, poster board, colored pens and/or pencils for map assignment.


    Teacher needs to have computer access to Internet.
    Links are provided on the PowerPoint if students have access.
    If students do not have access, teacher will need to make paper copies of the map slide.


    Armistice—when both sides agree to stop fighting, however, North Korea and South Korea are still officially at war.

    Cult of Personality— “A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_of_personality

    DMZ—Demilitarized Zone- a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea filled with over a million landmines.

    Human Rights Violation—some examples of human right violations are torture, being enslaved, not given a fair trial.

    Isolationism—removing one’s country from international affairs.

    Juche—stresses national self-reliance, extreme isolation, and racial purity.

    Nuclear Non-Proliferation—stopping the spread of nuclear weapons

    Additional Reference Links:

    Links: Columbia University’s Asia for Educators site for more information and lesson plans about Korea’s past and present and other Asian countries. Free classes are offered to teachers in certain states.


  • Kim Il Sung and Kim Jon Il by Rachel A. Koestler-Grack
  • North Korea- Enchantment of the World by Patricia J. Kummer
  • The Reference Shelf- The Two Koreas edited by Jennifer Peloso
  • NOT” suitable for middle school students but an EXCELLENT novel is The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.

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