lesson plans
L I V I N G   U N D E R   C O M M U N I S M

written by Betsy Sandstrom, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, Alexandria, VA

Grade level: Middle school; High school


To understand a communist regime and what it means to live within a communist society.


  1. Divide the class into three groups: Information, Advantages, Disadvantages (see descriptions below).
  2. Each group will do research on one aspect of a “true communist society” to be followed by an oral presentation accompanied with visuals.
  3. Each student will prepare an individual written report dealing with his/her topic.
    NOTE: On the days of the presentations, students should listen, take notes and ask questions of the presenters.
  4. Time allocation:
    • 1 day in library for research
    • 2-3 class periods for additional research using library materials, websites, and all three episodes of The Face of Russia.
    • 2 weeks later—turn in paper to teacher for evaluation
    • 1-2 weeks later—group presentations (one per day)
  5. Grading: total value is 100 points—
    50 points for individual written paper
    30 points for personal presentation
    20 points for group coordination/collaboration

Information Group
Students will explain what a Communist government is and look at the role of the former Soviet Union as a leader of world Communism. They will examine what life was like in pre-communist times in Russia and compare it to life in post-communist Russia. Students should be reminded to stick to facts, be objective and use unemotional vocabulary.

Advantages Group
This group will talk about the advantages of living in a communist society. In order to do this, the group should be divided into “mini-groups” to present the information. Students are not limited to the former Soviet Union, and are encouraged to include some other (former) communist countries. Suggested sub-topics to consider are:

  • equality for all
  • health care
  • no unemployment

Disadvantages Group
This group will talk about the problems and disadvantages of living in a communist society. The group should follow the same procedures as the Advantages group above. Suggested sub-topics are:

  • abusive power
  • restrictions
  • censorship

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