Course Content
Lesson 1: The Korean Diaspora and Korean Americans
Students are introduced to Korean Diaspora and Korean American immigration patterns and experiences. They compare experiences of Korean Americans in the first and second waves of immigrants and consider how these experiences have evolved over the the 20th century. They analyze oral histories and complete a web-based short research project on locations of Koreans and Korean Americans.
Lesson 2: The First Koreatown and the Legacy of Dosan Ahn Chang Ho
Students explore the life of Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, his immigration to the United States, and his life as an activist and community builder. They examine how the first Koreatown was established in Riverside, California, and compare the experiences of Korean, Mexican, and women citrus pickers and packers. Finally, they identify Dosan's contributions to the United States and Korea.
Lesson 3: ​Immigrant Experiences ​of Korean Americans: The Sammy Lee Story
Students are introduced to the experiences of Korean American immigrants through Sammy Lee’s life story. They reflect upon and critically analyze the responses of Sammy Lee and his family to the racism and discrimination they faced as immigrants, consider ways the immigration laws have changed over the 20th century, and identify ways to advocate for Korean American immigrants.
Lesson 4: The Korean Independence Movement and Korean American Identity in the U.S.
Students situate President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points Peace Program and 1919 speech to congress in the development of the Korean Independence Movement. They engage in a jigsaw activity and examine original documents and news reports from the time period to identify how the Korean Independence Movement shaped and was shaped by the formation of the Korean American identify in the United States. Students compose a letter to President Wilson to encourage the United States to support the Korean Independence Movement.
Lesson 5: Colonel Young Oak Kim: Hero and Humanitarian
Students explore the life of Young Oak Kim, and identify contributions he has made to the United States. They complete a Think/Write/Pair Share/Group Share as they reflect on what it is like to be a Korean American/minority struggling through racial barriers like Young Oak Kim. They explore what kinds of microaggressions Kim encountered and consider how he responded to those actions. Students deepen their understanding of the life of Young Oak Kim as a U.S. citizen, war hero and community activist, and they annotate and discuss an excerpt from the biography, Unsung Hero: The Colonel Young O. Kim Story, by Woo Sung Han. They construct a biopoem and/or an argument essay on his life and contributions to American society.
Lesson 6: Aftermath of the Korean War and Korean Transnational Adoptions
Students explore the ending and aftermath of the Korean War. They learn about the history of the Korean War and what war was like from the perspective of Koreans. Students learn about one of the many groups of displaced civilians whose lives were forever changed by the war, Korean children. They learn how Korean children became central to international aid efforts that led to the advent of transnational adoptions. ​ They analyze an article from 1953 about a Korean transnational adoptee and consider the broader impacts of Korean transnational adoptions on Koreans and Korean-Americans. Finally, students learn about transnational adoptions from the perspective of Deann Borshay Liem, a Korean adoptee.
Lesson 7: Saigu and Social Justice
Students are introduced to 1992 LA Civil Unrest and how it impacted Korean Americans. They reflect upon and critically analyze the responses of various individuals and groups to the unrest, examine issues of justice, and consider the legacy of Saigu for Korean Americans today.
Lesson 8: Korean Americans in the 21st Century
Students explore Korean popular culture in the United States, including K-Pop, Korean and Korean American films, food, and more. They compare and contrast K-POP and American Popular music, conduct short research on an example of Hallyu, analyze films, conduct research for a biographical presentation of a notable Korean American, and compose a memoir essay of their own experiences
Korean American Ethnic Studies
About Lesson

Activity 3.1: Who is Sammy Lee? What was the Immigrant Experience of his Family?

  Students explore the life of Sammy Lee and his experiences as an immigrant to the United States.  They identify similarities and differences in immigrant experiences and consider ways that Sammy Lee and other immigrants have contributed to the United States.         


Activity Questions

  • What does it mean to be an immigrant to the United States? How does immigrant status affect experience?
  • Who is Sammy Lee? What was the immigrant experience of his family?
  • What issues did Sammy Lee face as an immigrant? How did he overcome them?
  • What are similarities and differences in the experiences of immigrants and their families?
  • How have Sammy Lee and other immigrants contributed to the United States?

  Instructional Strategies

  • To support these activities, use the Lesson 3 Presentation.


  • Provide students with the following prompt and allow them five minutes to Quick-write their response. Call on student volunteers to share their reflections, including any examples of Korean Americans. NOTE: Students will use these Quick-writes as their rough drafts for the Summative Assessment.
    • Write for 5 minutes about someone who is or was an immigrant to the United States.  This may be someone famous, someone you know, or even a character from a book, movie, or TV show. Use these questions to guide your response: • Who are they? • Where did they come from and when? • Why did they immigrate? • Were they alone or with their families? • What difficulties did they have becoming part of American society? 

  Introduction to Immigrant Experiences

  • Introduce the differences between citizens and immigrants. Ask students to share whether immigrants in your story become permanent residents or citizens.
  • Introduce issues faced by immigrants and ask students which issues were faced by the immigrants in their stories.
  • Have students add a few sentences to their Quick-Writes response regarding immigrant status and issues faced.

    Introduction to Dr. Sammy Lee

  • Briefly introduce Dr. Sammy Lee and engage students in the story of his early years through one of the following options:
    • Direct students to the website, A Life Well Lived: The Story of Sammy Lee, and have students take notes on important life events and issues encountered by Sammy and his family members because of their immigration status. 
    • Have Students view the narration of the children’s book, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds​, and take notes on important life events and issues encountered by Sammy and his family members because of their immigration status. 
  • Distribute the handouts: A Biographical Overview of Dr. Sammy Lee.  Have students mark the text to note important life events and issues encountered by Sammy and his family members because of their immigration status. They may use the information on the slide, Top Issues Faced by Immigrants, to identify and make a note of which issues were encountered.
  • Have students share their findings with a partner or small group.

  Identification of Similarities and Differences

  • Have students return to their Quick-Writes Response and identify at least two similarities and two differences between Sammy Lee and the immigrant they wrote about.
  • Have them organize their ideas in a Venn Diagram.

  NOTE:  These activities are important prewriting activities for the Summative Assessment Comparison/Contrast Essay (see Lesson 3 Assessments).   Closing the Activity

  • End class with review and discussion of the activity questions.
  • NOTE:  Have students save their Quick-Writes responses, annotation of Sammy Lee’s biography, and Venn Diagrams for their Summative Assessment Comparison/Contrast Essay.


  • Lesson 3 Teacher’s Guide and Lesson 3 Presentation are found under Lesson 3.
  • Handout: A Biographical Overview of Dr. Sammy Lee 
  • Website: A Life Well Lived: The Story of Sammy Lee 

Video: Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds   

A Biographical Overview of Dr. Sammy Lee (PDF)
Video: Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds (YouTube)

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