Lesson Plan: Major Events of the Cold War

The End of World War II and the Beginnings of the Cold War in Europe

This 1958 U.S. Army “Big Picture” film documents the events in Europe after the end of World War II that led to the Cold War and the formation of NATO.

Description

The Cold War was a period of heightened tension and conflict between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies throughout the world that took place from the end of World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Although the Cold War never erupted into a full scale war between the two world powers, several significant events and conflicts occurred that impacted the world at the time and in the future. In this lesson, students will learn about the major events during the Cold War, the causes of these events, and their impact on the U.S., Soviet Union, and the world.

Procedures

  • INTRODUCTION

    As a class, view the following video clip and then discuss the questions below.

    Video Clip: The End of World War II and the Beginnings of the Cold War (5:00)

    This 1958 U.S. Army “Big Picture” film documents the events in Europe after the end of World War II that led to the Cold War and the formation of NATO.

    • What was agreed upon between the Soviet Union and the western powers at Yalta and Potsdam?

    • How did the communists manipulate elections in eastern Europe?

    • Explain the differences between Russia and the western countries in terms of military preparedness.

    • What was the impact of this difference on the spread of communism in Europe?

    • What tactics did the Soviet Union use in spreading their influence in Europe?
  • ASSIGNMENT

    Break students into groups and have each group view the following video clips. Students should take notes using the handout provided, and then share their findings with the rest of the class.

    HANDOUT: Major Events of the Cold War Handout (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip: The Marshall Plan (3:09)

    Greg Behrman describes the condition of European countries after World War II and the details of the Marshall Plan.

    Video Clip: The History and Role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (2:39)

    Mark Jacobson describes the history and role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including its current role in international politics.

    Video Clip: The Berlin Airlift (9:52)

    The Berlin Airlift of 1948-49 involved more than 250,000 flights carrying food and supplies into West Berlin, after the Soviet Union cut off road and rail corridors on June 24, 1948. The Airlift officially ended on September 30, 1949, after the Soviets re-established surface traffic.

    Video Clip: The Korean War (10:58)

    MacArthur Memorial Director Christopher Kolakowski describes events that occurred in the Korean War and its significance today.

    Video Clip: Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidency and the Cold War (5:21)

    Professor Jeremy Black discussed Dwight Eisenhower's rise to the presidency as a former general and the circumstances in the Cold War 1950s that led to his election.

    Video Clip: The Rosenberg Spy Ring (6:28)

    Steven Usdin talks about the actions of the Rosenberg spy ring in the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

    Video Clip: Sputnik and the Space Race (6:41)

    A panelist of space specialists speak about the launch of Sputnik and the effects of it on the world, and specifically within the U.S.

    Video Clip: Cuba, Fidel Castro, and The Bay of Pigs Invasion (7:03)

    Professor and author Timothy Naftali talks about the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

    Video Clip: The Cuban Missile Crisis (10:20)

    Dr. Graham Allison discusses the key events, decisions, and effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis on its 50th anniversary.

    Video Clip: The Vietnam War (7:14)

    Professor Margaret O'Mara talked about the events that led to the escalation of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War and the causes anti-war movement within the U.S.

    Video Clip: President Reagan and the Berlin Wall (8:44)

    Author Romesh Ratnesar discusses President Reagan's beliefs and actions concerning the Berlin Wall, as well as his relationship with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in the lead up to his “Tear down this wall” speech in June of 1987.

  • CONCLUSIION

    After watching the videos and reporting out to the class, have the entire class watch the following video clips and answer the questions below:

    Video Clip: The End of the Cold War (1:39)

    Author Lee Edwards discussed President Reagan's ideas and actions that led to the end of the Cold War

    Video Clip: The Legacy of the Cold War (0:56)

    Author Lee Edwards discussed the legacy of the Cold War as it relates to the relationship between the United States and Russia today.

    • Explain President Reagan's ideas and plan to end the Cold War.

    • Describe the actions from the U.S. and Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.

    • Explain how the Cold War has impacted the current relationship between the United States and Russia.
  • ASSESSMENT

    Have students write an essay (or similar culminating activity) that includes the following information. Students should cite specific examples from the videos and class discussion.

    • The causes of the Cold War

    • The events of the Cold War and how they impacted the political world at the time

    • The significance of each event and how it influenced the Cold War

    • The legacy of the Cold War and how it has impacted the relationship of the United States and Russia today

Additional Resources

Vocabulary

  • Bay Of Pigs
  • Berlin Airlift
  • Cold War
  • Containment
  • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Détente
  • Korean War
  • Marshall Plan
  • Mikhail Gorbachev
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Sputnik
  • Strategic Defense Initiative
  • Vietnam War
  • Warsaw Pact
  • World War Two

Topics

GeographyU.S. HistoryWorld History

Grades

Middle SchoolHigh School