Social Studies

Teaching World History: Cold War Lesson Plan and Activities

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Teaching world history: cold war lesson plan and activities

This blog is part of a monthly series on Shaped providing teachers for Grades 6–12 with downloadable world history classroom resources and discussion topics.

After World War II, geopolitical tensions arose between the United States and the Soviet Union, with the United States adopting a policy of containment to prevent the spread of communism. At the same time, an "arms race" of sorts began between the two countries, with each developing and testing nuclear weapons in a long-term competition for global supremacy.

The Cold War soon extended to space, with each country vying to outpace the other in launching humans beyond our home planet—the Soviet Union launched the artificial satellite Sputnik in 1957, but the U.S. landed a man on the moon in 1969. Lasting decades, this overall period of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union ended in 1991, when the U.S.S.R. itself ceased to exist.

As a Cold War lesson plan, have students look atthis timeline(with a supplemental enrichment activityavailable for download as a PDF). Then, distribute the accompanying resources: a memo from President John F. Kennedy to Vice President Lyndon Johnson (primary source enrichment activity) and a writing enrichment activity honoring Cold War heroes.

Cold war lesson plan


Give your students the chance to act like historians and develop their analytical skills with HMH Into Social Studies. This dynamic program includes engaging digital magazines and hands-on activities that will captivate your class.

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