Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

The United Nations; who they are and why they have your back; or do they?
Nancy Ohmart
American History
Time Frame:
: 4-6 hours or class periods (2 which will be used merely for teacher supervised research and group creativity AND 2 which will be used for student led oral presentations of their power points and discussion)
Primary Source Analysis
United Nations

Grade Levels:
6, 7, 8

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Homework and class work:  Students will do individual exploratory research, using the internet and primary documents provided, which they will utilize in the group creation of a power point presentation over at least three accomplishments/events/activities, which are relevant to the mission of the United Nations, during a specific decade from the creation of the United Nations until the present time period. They will include a paragraph explaining the cause/effect of each item. (Other options, other than power points, could include project boards or time lines which would not require the use of technology usage).  Students will, in 7 groups, be given 1 of each of the 7 decades, identifying, defining, and explaining main functions of the United Nations during their specific era,  and will share with the class their findings and inferences. Included in their research will be military, humanitarian (health), economic, and/or agricultural actions. They will also discuss any criticism over their event/issue and how critics thought they were justified in those criticisms. Their thesis statement, when giving their presentation, will be to give their own analysis and examination over the success of the UN during their specific decade, supporting their inference with examples/primary documents.

(Additional/enrichment activities: Students will prepare a paragraph over a NGO, using websites provided, to compare/contrast with others in a class discussion)


Students will gain an understanding of the need for the creation of the UN; they will be able to identify and clarify what/who it is; they will gain a deeper rational as to why people criticized/opposed it; they will see what nations/groups of people it has helped and its success; finally, they will develop their own inferences at to its importance today, citing primary sources in support of their thesis of whether it has truly reached its mission during their specific decade.  

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:


V. Individuals, Groups, & Institutions

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions, so that the learner can:

 c. identify examples of institutions and describe the interactions of people with institutions;

 f. give examples of the role of institutions in furthering both continuity and change;

IX. Global Connections

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of global connections and independence, so that the learner can:

b. give examples of conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and nations;

e.  examine the relationships and tensions between personal wants and needs and various global    concerns, such as use of imported f. investigate concerns, issues, standards, and conflicts related to universal human rights, such as the treatment of children, religious groups, and effects of war. oil, land use, and environmental protection



3. principles and processes of governance systems

6. relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

7. the use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)



Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12

Key Ideas and Details

Grade 8 students will:

  1. Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text

Craft and Structure

Grade 8 students will:

  1. Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.
  2. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.

Writing Standards 6-12

Grade 8 students will:

Text Types and Purposes

  1. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organizations, and analysis of relevant content.

b. Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.


Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12

Grade 8 students will:

Comprehension and Collaboration

  1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    1. Come to discussions prepared having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.



Concept 6.  Knowledge of relationships of the Individual and groups to Institutions and cultural traditions

  1. Knowledge of how needs of individuals are met

Analyze how the needs of individuals are met by families, friends, groups and organizations, such as governments, businesses, schools, religious institutions and charities in the United States and other nations (SS6 1.6, 1.9)


Concept 7.  Knowledge of the use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, maps, and documents) 

  1. Identify, select, use, analyze and create appropriate resources, primary and secondary, for social science inquiry

Select, investigate, and present a topic using primary and secondary resources, such as oral interview, artifacts, journals, documents, photos and letters (SS7 1.2, 1.4, 2.1)

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  1. Pictures from UN provided website numbered below for corresponding decades (although this is not a complete list and students may use others to help support their thesis):
    1. 1950’s - # 188661, 188659, and 188662
    2. 1960’s - # 114341
    3. 1970’s - # 817
    4. 1980’s - # 85967
    5. 1990’s - # 521191
    6. 2000’s - # 23221, 24885, and 25776
    7. 2010’s - # 46653
  2. Landmark Documents (although this is not an exhaustive list)
    1. “The Universal Declarations of Human Rights” – for all decades
    2. “1979 - Elimination of Discrimination against Women” – 1970’s
    3. “Charter of the UN” – for all decades
  3. Documents from the United Nations Security Council Resolutions
    1. 1948 – “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”
    2. 1950’s – resolutions # 82-85 and 88 (complaints against Korea)
    3. 1960’s – resolutions # 133, 136, 139-142, 147-155, and 158-160 (admission of new nations, tell where and why)
    4. 1970’s – resolution # - 282 (question over apartheid)
    5. 1980’s – resolutions # - 465, 467-71, 474,  476, 478, 481, and 484-85 (Israel)
    6. 1990’s – resolutions # - 651, 660-662, 664-67, 669-71, 674, and 676-78 (Iraq)
    7. 2000’s – resolutions # - 1289, 1291-92, 1294-99, 1301-04, 1308-09, 1312-1318, AND especially 1314 (Situations in Africa, Armed Children)
    8. 2012’s – resolutions # - S/RES/1931,1932, 1954,1955, and 1966 (situations over Rwanda and previous problems in Yugoslavia)
  4. Letters (not an exhaustive list, however, an example)
    1. Dated 22 November, 1997 – from the Executive Chairman of the Special Commission established by the Secretary-General.
    2. Dated 27, January 1999, from the Permanent Republic of the Netherlands and Slovakia to the UN.
  1. Truman Library letters/documents/memos to be looked at by all groups (although this is not an exhaustive list) :
    1. Letter, dated April 18, 1945, from John Ross Delafield to President Harry S. Truman, forwarding a copy of notes made by himself and Oxford professor Robert McElroy of what they thought essential in the United Nations organization, and noting a conversation between himself and Franklin D. Roosevelt concerning a post-war United Nations organization, and presidential secretary William Hassett's April 21, 1945 note thanking Delafield. From the Papers of Harry S. Truman, Official File. – use to help explain whose idea the UN was.
    2. Text of President Harry S. Truman's address to the delegates to the United Nations Conference on International Organization, dated April 25, 1945, in which he invokes the spirit of common humanity and describes the task of the delegates: to create the structure of the United Nations organization. From the Papers of Harry S. Truman Official File. – use to help explain the need for the creation of the UN
    3. Memorandum, by United Nations Secretary General Trygve Lie, noting points for consideration in the development of a 20-year program for achieving peace through the United Nations. From the President's Secretary's File. – use to explain early history of the UN, 1940’s-1950’s.

Full description of activity or assignment.

Day One

Activity One:  As students come into class, the teacher will give each student a note card with one of the following quotes on it with the directions to be ready to give their inference as to the meaning of the quote.  Also, the teacher will ask the students to be ready to share who said the quote and what they may already know about that person.  I would use half of these quotes on Day One and half of them for the opening activity on Day Two.

1.  A person who has sympathy for mankind in the lump, faith in its future progress, and desire to serve the great cause of this progress, should be called not a humanist, but a humanitarian, and his creed may be designated as humanitarianism.” Irving Babbitt (http://www.brainyquote.com)

2.  “Every dollar that we send in State Department aid or humanitarian aid that saves us from having to get involved with very expensive military actions is a good investment. And frankly, helping Israel fight terrorism in the Middle East is much cheaper than us fighting it here on our shores.”
Anthony Weiner (http://www.brainyquote.com)

3.  I was proud to witness American Jewish organizations found the Save Darfur Coalition in June 2004 to mobilize a coordinated interfaith response to the ongoing humanitarian disaster.
Jan Schakowsky (http://www.brainyquote.com)

4.  “Humanitarianism consists in never sacrificing a human being to a purpose.” Albert Schweitzer, (searchquotes.com)

5.  “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.’ Mother Teresa, Nobel Peach Prize recepient (womenhistory.com )

6.   “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” –Eleanor Roosevelt, United Nations Diplomat and former First Lady (www.beaneverydayhumanitarian.com )

7.  “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.” –Eleanor Roosevelt, United Nations Diplomat and former First Lady (www.beaneverydayhumanitarian.com)

8.  “So I never doubted that ultimately we were going to be free, because ultimately, I knew there was no way in which a lie could prevail over the truth, darkness over light, death over life.’ --Desmond Tutu, South African archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize Winner (www.beaneverydayhumanitarian.com)

9.  “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” --Helen Keller, activist and author (www.beaneverydayhumanitarina.com)

10.  “The oneness of human beings is the basic ethical thread that holds us together.” --Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Winner (www.beaneverydayhumanitarian.com)

The purpose of this 10 minute opening activity is to open the students’ eyes and attitudes about the mission of the United Nations.


Second activity for Day One:  The teacher will give the pre-test, reminding students this is merely for the teacher to determine students’ prior knowledge (no need to re-teach what students already know). 


Third Activity for Day One: the teacher will give the students the following vocabulary list and let the students know that by the end of this unit, they will be able to distinguish between the difference of, define each, and show a level of comprehension through the usage of the words BY incorporating these words into their finished product.

(You could even do an extension activity by giving them the vocabulary words on a tri-fold paper.  The first section would be for the students to define NOW with what they think it means, the second would be for them to write the proper meaning (which they will learn throughout the lesson), and the third would be to properly use it in a full, complete sentence, revealing their comprehension of it.

Vocabulary words:  common good, philanthropy, welfare, Human Rights, NGO’s, mission, League of Nations, apartheid, humanitarianism, and genocide.  These are words, relevant to this lesson unit, which I will ask my students to utilize within their power point presentations and ask each other about specific definitions as the class asks questions of the presenters.


Fourth Activity for Day One:  The teacher will divide the students into seven groups (you can divide them OR allow them to divide themselves).  Then the teacher will give directions to the creation of a power point over the “Life of the United Nations through a Decade.”  Have groups pick a number at random as to which decade they will research, do a power point presentation over, and lead a discussion over. Give copies of the overview of the United Nations (from one or both of the websites provided OR create your own) AND ask students to do research on their own.  I would give students a copy of the provided websites and let them know they could also look at other sites.  Remind them they MUST cite ALL sources on a bibliography page at the end of their power point.

DAY ONE HOMEWORK:  Begin group research


Activity One: Do the same activity as Day One, utilizing the last half of the quotes.  This should be an easier activity for students to delve into now they have accomplished some research.

Activity Two for Day Two:  Remind students of their finished product and how they will be graded (I would go over the rubric which is attached to remind them they will be assessed on group cooperation along with how well they lead their discussion after their power point presentation).

DAY TWO HOMEWORK:  The students will WORK ON POWER POINT PRESENTATION – The teacher will remind them they may want to write an accurate and creative dialogue before selecting photos.


Activity One:   The teacher will give each group pictures from their decade to analysis, synthesis, and be ready to share their findings (visuals are found on a provided website).  Because so many of our students today are visual learners, this activity of photo analysis is a rewarding additional learning tool for students as they conduct their inquiry into communities/nations and their relationships.

Activity Two for Day Three: Continue research, individually and in groups.  If you do not have computers for students in your classroom, this would be a perfect time to allow them to bring their own OR to have your school’s technology lab reserved for the week.

HOMEWORK FOR DAY THREE:  Group and individual research/power point presentation collaboration.


Activity One: The teacher will have the vocabulary words on the whiteboard in front of the class and ask different students to volunteer their inferences as to the meanings.  The teacher will ask students to relate/compare/contrast words to what they are researching.

Activity Two for Day Four:  Last day of in-class group collaboration.  The teach will remind the students, groups presentations will be conducted over the next two days in chronological order, each presentation will be followed with a 5 minute student-led discussion including their own inferences as to the success, or not, of the UN during their decade.

HOMEWORK FOR DAY FOUR:  Finish power point for presentations over the next two days.  


 Presentations and discussions (for your advanced classes, the teacher could ask students to evaluate each other’s groups clarity, preparedness, and leadership in discussions and incorporate these into the final project assessment).


Final Activity would be for the teacher to give the students the Post-Test. 

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

1.    Students will be given daily grades on group cooperation and their research.  Teachers should create their own rubric according to the specific needs of their own, unique classroom.
2.     Within their final product the students will be assessed on their presentation, product and method (using the rubric attached, although the individual teacher may create their own rubric which is sensitive to their own unique class and their specific needs).  
3.    Finally, the students will be assessed through the usage of a post test overview of the UN. (pre-test is the same)


1.    Describe what is represented in the emblem of the UN and explain the significance.
2.    What was the name of the Peace Organization after WWI, what happened to it, and why?
3.    Give the date for when the UN was put into action, the location, and why.
4.    Identify the mission of the UN.
5.    List at least two of the Five Branches  
6.    Describe the meaning of the word apartheid? (Post test- give an example)
7.    Explain the meaning of the word genocide?  (Post test- give an example)
8.    Elaborate on the meaning of the word humanitarian? (Post test - give an example)
9.    What is a NGO and why are they important?
10.      How many countries originally were in the UN and how many are in it today?


1.    The emblem is a World globe being held in two olive branches which represent a desire for world peace
2.    League of Nations (our own US Pres Wilson’s idea of attempting to establish peace and world national cooperation, although our own Congress would not agree to it); it failed because German, Italy, and Japan refused to follow which would eventually lead to WWII.

3.    The UN is an organized, international group officially started in October 24, 1945 after their charter was ratified in San Francisco, CA.

4.    The mission of the UN is to save people from war, to protect human rights, dignity, and worth, to promote social reforms and promote better standards of life, and to help establish maintenance of international law (paraphrased).

5.    the Five branches:  
a.    UN General Assembly – decision-making body
b.    Un Security Council – most powerful; involves military involvement and penalties
c.    UN International Court of Justice (in The Hague, Netherlands) - judicial matters
d.    UN Economic and Social Council – promotes both in cooperation between nations
e.    UN Secretariat, headed by the Secretary General- provides studied information and data for the other branches.

6.    Apartheid – (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) – “racial segregation; specifically: a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa.”

7.    Genocide – (from Dictionary.com) “The deliberate destruction of an entire race or nation.  The Holocaust conducted by the Nazis in Germany or the Rwanda genocide are examples.”

8.    Humanitarian – (from thefreedictionary.com) “One who is devoted to the promotion of human welfare and the advancement of social reforms; a philanthropist.”  

9.    Non-governmental Organizations; examples include: World Conference Against Racism, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, 1000 Children, Relief International, Institute of World Affairs, and International Association for Science and Technology Development (not an exhaustive list).

10.      Originally there were 50 active countries, today there are 193


UN Group Powerpoint presentation and discussion

Student Name: ________________________________________








Group delegates tasks and shares responsibility effectively all of the time.

Group delegates tasks and shares responsibility effectively most of the time.

Group delegates tasks and shares responsibility effectively some of the time.

Group often is not effective in delegating tasks and/or sharing responsibility.

Content - Accuracy

All content throughout the presentation is accurate. There are no factual errors.

Most of the content is accurate but there is one piece of information that might be inaccurate.

The content is generally accurate, but one piece of information is clearly flawed or inaccurate.

Content is typically confusing or contains more than one factual error.

Spelling and Grammar

Presentation has no misspellings or grammatical errors.

Presentation has 1-2 misspellings, but no grammatical errors.

Presentation has 1-2 grammatical errors but no misspellings.

Presentation has more than 2 grammatical and/or spelling errors.


Presentation shows considerable originality and inventiveness. The content and ideas are presented in a unique and interesting way.

Presentation shows some originality and inventiveness. The content and ideas are presented in an interesting way.

Presentation shows an attempt at originality and inventiveness on 1-2 cards.

Presentation is a rehash of other people's ideas and/or graphics and shows very little attempt at original thought.

Use of Graphics

All graphics are attractive (size and colors) and support the theme/content of the presentation.

A few graphics are not attractive but all support the theme/content of the presentation.

All graphics are attractive but a few do not seem to support the theme/content of the presentation.

Several graphics are unattractive AND detract from the content of the presentation.


Project includes all material needed to gain a comfortable understanding of the topic. It is a highly effective study guide.

Project includes most material needed to gain a comfortable understanding of the material but is lacking one or two key elements. It is an adequate study guide.

Project is missing more than two key elements. It would make an incomplete study guide.

Project is lacking several key elements and has inaccuracies that make it a poor study guide.


Students cooperated within their group to smoothly lead effectively their own decade's discussion

Students lead discussion effectively

Students lead a discussion with some teacher aid

Students were not well prepared for a discussion