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Tools of Foreign Policy: Introduction | Lesson Plan



Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to explain the basic tools of foreign policy.

  • Students will be able to understand the factors behind how countries select their foreign policy tools.



  • Length: Two, 45 minute periods

  • Grade level: High school

  • Courses: Civics, Global Issues

Homework Due: 

Class One Plan:

  1. (5 Minutes) Think-Pair-Share: Students will brainstorm with their neighbor what they think foreign policy means. What are some examples of U.S. Foreign Policy that students have seen in the news recently? Tell students that over the next couple of days students will look at the variety of options foreign policy makers have at their disposal.


  1. (30 Minutes) Notes:  Takes notes for Part 3+4 of  Tools of Foreign Policy: Introduction | Guided Reading Handout

    1. Read: World101 - What is Armed Force? (1,400 words/ 3 ½ pages + 4:02 video)

    2. Watch: Military Options Available to U.S. Policy Makers | Model Diplomacy (4:02)

    3. Watch: How U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Japan Changed Over the Past 100 Years| World101 (7:29)

  2. (5 Minutes) Debrief: Ask students to share key takeaways about foreign policy. What did they learn? What surprised them? What had they not thought of before?

  3. (5 Minutes) Assign Homework: Students will use homework time to prep for a jigsaw activity by looking at NINE different types of foreign policy tools. 


Homework One Plan:


Each student should read over and take notes on ONE tool listed below. They will then be combined in groups during the next class based on their overarching type. Students may take their own notes or you can choose to have then use the corresponding section of the Tools of Foreign Policy: Introduction | Guided Reading Handout


Economic Tools Group

  1. World101 - What are Economic Sanctions? (1,700 words/ 4 pages)

  2. World101 - What is Economic Statecraft? (2,400 words/ 6 pages)

  3. World101 - What is Trade Policy? (1,200 words/ 3 pages + 6:42 video)

Military Tools Group

  1. World101 - What is Deterrence? (1,500 words/ 4 pages + 4:16 video)

  2. World101 - What is Arms Control? (1,800 words/ 4 ½ pages)

  3. World101 - What is Nation-Building? (4:33 video)

Other Tools Groups

  1. World101 - What is Peacekeeping? (1,800 words/ 4 ½  pages + 3:55 video)

  2. World101 - What is Intelligence? (1,800 words/ 4 ½ pages + 4:39 video)

  3. World101 - What is Soft Power? (2,000 words/ 5 pages)


Class Two Plan:


  1. (5 Minutes) Check-In/ Form Tools Groups based on what students read for homework.

Economic Tools Group

Military Tools Group

Other Tools Groups

  1. (20 Minutes) Share Out/ Create Defense: 

    • Each group will prepare a 3-5 minute presentation arguing that their tool group is the best for foreign policy ( i.e. Economic tools are the best).

  2. (20 Minutes) Present/ Debrief: Groups give their presentations about their foreign policy tool. After groups have shared, do a whiparound with the class with each student stating which tool they think is best and why.


Homework Two Plan:


  1. Use a Model Diplomacy mini-simulation to put students’ foreign policy knowledge to the test. For this homework, we recommend using the A Threat To Taiwan mini-simulation.

  2. Students should read the Overview, the Situation, and Policy Options.

  3. Policy Options for A Threat to Taiwan include:

    1. Do nothing, signaling to China that the United States will not intervene. Given the strength of the Chinese military, this option would likely result in China taking control of Taiwan. The United States could lose an important partner in the region, its allies could come to question America’s reliability and become strategically autonomous, China’s military reach and economic might could expand significantly, and a democracy could be crushed with 24 million people forced to live under the CCP’s rule. By opting not to intervene, however, the United States would avoid involvement in what could be a deadly and expensive military conflict.

    2. Impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on China. This option would isolate China on the world stage and stifle its economy, though it would have economic repercussions for the United States and China’s other trading partners as well. Such pressure could dissuade China from invading Taiwan and so avoid entangling U.S. forces in a conflict. China, however, could determine that any economic and diplomatic pain is worth it and invade Taiwan anyway.

    3. Position the U.S. military to defend Taiwan. This option would make it clear that the United States will defend Taiwan if China invades. The guarantee of U.S. involvement could dissuade China from attacking Taiwan. However, if China still goes forward with an invasion, the United States would find itself in a war with China.

    4. Students MAY also consider another option-based on the tools discussed in class.

  4. Students should write a one-page memo that states their recommended policy option/ tool with a defense of why it is the best course of action.


Extension: If you have additional time, check out the Tools of Foreign Policy: Introduction | Discussion Guide for connections and more in-depth extension.


Need More Ideas for Lessons? Check out our Full List of Lesson Plans




Educating for American Democracy Roadmap:

  • HSGQ6.4.A How has war shaped the formation and growth of the United States?

  • HSGQ6.4.D. What political, economic, and cultural ideas have informed our foreign policies and debates?

  • HSGQ6.4.E. How do economic policy and foreign policy interact with each other?


C3 Framework:

  • D2.Civ.1.9-12. Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of local, state, tribal, national, and international civic and political institutions.

  • D2.Civ.13.9-12. Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.

  • D2.His.1.9-12. Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

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