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A Korea Divided – A Comparative Text Unit for Grade 9

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Andrew Frank
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A Korea Divided – A Comparative Text Unit for Grade 9

A Korea Divided – A Comparative Text Unit for Grade 9

RATIONALE: My high school in LAUSD utilizes the StudySync program for our English Language Arts department, with set unit “guiding questions” & themes. For this reason, the following comparative text unit would fit directly into my Unit #2 for my Grade 9 students, of which the theme is “Leadership.” This unit, which approaches the time period pre- and post- the Korean War, would complement the entirely Western canon of texts with an Asia-centric analysis of the history of leadership & international affairs in Korea.

REQUIRED PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Students must understand the basics of how to identify the main idea & point of view of an informational text, distinguish the use of figurative language, use context clues to define unknown words, use textual evidence to write claims for argumentative writing, and have the ability to construct & write an argumentative essay.

STANDARDS ADDRESSED: RI.9-10.1, RI.9-10.2, RI.9-10.4, RI.9-10.6, W.9-10.1, W.9-10.4, WI.9-10.6


Objective: Identify the main idea of informational texts during a research-based Jigsaw Activity and create argumentative claims using the textual evidence.

DO NOW (5 mins) – KWL CHART:  Utilizing a think-pair-share, students spend 1 minute brainstorming on a sheet of paper all of their prior knowledge about the Korean War and the two distinct leadership styles in North vs. South Korea. Students then spend 2 minutes sharing their ideas with a partner in a small group, adding any facts that they have missed. For the next two minutes, call on student pairs and collect a list of student ideas on the board.

DIRECT INSTRUCTION/MODELING (15) – INTRODUCE THE “HISTORICAL ENCOUNTER” ACTIVITY: Explain to students that they are going to step into an imaginary meeting between two post-war Korean leaders, in which each half of the class will be divided into either a Korean aligned with the United States or a Korean aligned with China/Russia. The class will then take part in an imaginary discussion about the state of the country within the imagined post-war Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence. Students will receive the next 15 minutes to work within their small groups, using the internet on their Chromebooks, to research the ideology of different parties post-Korean War.

After explaining the instructions, I will model for students how to use the internet to find legitimate primary or secondary sources about the historical reality of post-war Korea. I will model typing in key words into JSTOR/the LAUSD Academic Journal online library on the projector, then demonstrate how to find a suitable source. Once I find a source, I will model, in a “think-aloud,” how to identify the main idea of the source and fill it out on a Google Doc on the board.

SMALL GROUP WORK (15) – JIGSAW / INTERNET RESEARCH: Jigsaw-style, each corner of the classroom will be designated to researching a different topic (i.e. the possible coalition government in 1948, the proxy war of U.S. vs. the USSR, etc.). Each small group will send one of their members to a different corner of the classroom to complete their research. These students in corners can then work together through cooperative learning on finding the strongest informational sources and identifying main ideas.

Students will be asked to consider questions as they research, such as: What is the name of the historical text you found and what is its main idea? Based on this text, are you a fan of capitalism or communism; what are the benefits of your chosen ideology and why? Students must utilize at least two legitimate sources (one must be primary) and find at least 8 facts to bring back to their small groups.

INDEPENDENT WORK (15) – CRAFT AN ARGUMENTATIVE PARAGRAPH: Students will then utilize the high school “Python Paragraph” format (Counterclaim, Claim, Evidence, 3 Sentences of Reasoning) to translate their research into a well-crafted piece of argumentative writing, based in the  se of appropriate textual evidence. Students will use this paragraph as a foundation for the class “historical encounter” discussion the following class day.



Objective: Use textual evidence to make claims in a class discussion based on argumentative writing and identify author’s point of view in a narrative text.

DO NOW (20 mins) – HISTORICAL ENCOUNTER: Students receive the first 5 minutes to discuss with their half of the class about the strongest pieces of textual evidence they acquired for their argumentative writing paragraph, to use in the “historical encounter” discussion. For the next 15 minutes, lead students in a class discussion, using appropriate academic language (i.e. What is your main claim? What is your counterclaim?) and questions that spark deeper levels of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK-3: How would you place blame on as the main instigator of the decision not form a coalition government in 1948? or DOK-4: The Americans slaughtered tons of both North & South Koreans because they couldn’t tell the difference – what influence might have this had on how America was viewed?)

GUIDED PRACTICE (5 mins) – MODEL ANNOTATION STRATEGIES: Taking information from the Historical Encounter, students will then receive copies of a selection from When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park, where they will annotate in order to identify the author’s point of view. Model for students first how to annotate for point of view, by underlining/highlighting important pronouns and the thoughts/feelings of characters. Remind students of the types of point of view through asking them to refer to their notes (1st person – I/me, 3rd – he/she/him/her). Complete the first paragraph for students, then have them read in small groups.

SMALL GROUP WORK (15) – READ & ANNOTATE: Students will spend the next 15 minutes reading out loud in small groups, starting with students with the “yellow stickers” on their desk and moving clockwise. Each student will be responsible for reading one paragraph. Students will discuss at the end of each paragraph what is the most important/line to highlight or underline.

INDEPENDENT WORK (10) – ASSESS UNDERSTANDING OF CLAIMS & POINT OF VIEW: Have students open their Chromebooks and navigate to Socrative ( to complete their exit ticket: 1. Write one argumentative claim identifying the main cause for the split between North & South Korea, rooted in appropriate textual evidence. 2. What is the point of view of the text When My Name was Koeko (first, second, third – omniscient, limited omniscient, or objective)?



Objective: Practice listening skills to comprehend an informational video, create an appropriate thesis statement based on textual evidence, and craft an argumentative essay outline.

DO NOW (15 mins) – IS KOREA TO BLAME?: Students receive the first 15 minutes of class to watch a video independently (“How the Kim Dynasty Took Over North Korea” by the History Channel -  with headphones on their Chromebooks, and complete the EdPuzzle ( questions as they watch. The questions will include: 1) How did Korea move away from being the “Hermit Kingdom” due to outside, international forces? 2) How did the Trans-Siberian Railroad contribute to the Russo-Japanese War in 1904? 3) How was the division of Korea similar to that of Germany post-WWII? 4) Why did the Soviets resist allowing all of Korea to become a democracy? 5) How did the Russians manipulate & shape the image of Kim Il Sung? 6)

INDEPENDENT PRACTICE (15 mins) – CULTURAL CAPITAL & KOREA TODAY: Students will read a selection (“Frame II”) of a research paper from an academic journal, titled “The Korean Wave: The Seoul of Asia” by Sue Jin Lee, and fill out an argumentative essay graphic organizer, where they can begin to consider what thesis statement they would like to address regarding the difference between North & South Korean ideologies OR the relationship between Korea and America/its neighboring countries. (Students may crate whatever thesis statement they like, as long as it follows the appropriate thesis statement format of subject, opinion, and blueprint of reasons.) By the time students are done reading, they should have selected at least 3 quotes (from this research paper or any text read this unit) to use for their essay and have completed drafting their debatable thesis statement.

ASSESSMENT (20) – ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY OUTLINE: Using their understanding of main idea, point of view, and claims for argumentative writing, students must finish filling out their graphic organizer with supporting details, as well as brainstorm thoughtful choices for their introduction and conclusion paragraphs. Once students are done, they may begin working on the first draft of the 5-paragraph essay itself, which they must complete for homework over the weekend as their final assessment of the unit.