Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Sources of the Cold War

Fred Willes


Students make a time line from their notes and outlines of the causes of the Cold War.


The student understands the political events that shaped the development of United States foreign policy since World War II and knows the characteristics of that policy.


-[The Americans] by Danzer, Klor de Alva, Woloch, and Wilson published by McDougal Littell 1998, or other textbook containing information about origins of the Cold War
-Handout for note taking, titled Causes of the Cold War Outline in the attached file
-Handout directions for making a time line, titled Time Line Directions in the attached file
-Assessment forms in the attached file
-8.5" x 11" paper for timelines


1. Review the outline of significant events leading to the Cold War. These events are found on the document titled, The Sequence of Causes of the Cold War Are, which is located in the attached file.
2. If you are not using the textbook [The Americans], select the relevant chapters in your textbook.
3. Make enough copies of the outline form so each student may have one.
4. Make copies of the Time Line Directions in the attached file.
5. Have paper available to make the time lines.
6. Have rulers available.


Day One:
1. Review with students by reminding them that the Cold War dominated U.S. foreign policy for forty-five years following World War II.

2. Since some of the content of this lesson has probably already been covered, review the Russian Revolutions of 1917, the Red Scare, and any other material that needs to be reviewed.

3. Pass out the outline form, Causes of the Cold War, in the attached file.

4. Have students complete the events for the dates given, using their review notes, textbooks, and handouts.

5. Students may work individually or in small groups.

6. Allow thirty minutes for students to complete the form.

7. Collect the forms. These are to be checked before the next class meeting.

8. Review the outlines, Causes of the Cold War, to check for accuracy.

9. Mark the errors or inaccuracies on each paper.

Day Two:
1. Return the marked papers.

2. Discuss with the students what should be on the outlines and allow them to correct any mistakes.

3. Hand out the directions for making time lines.

4. Hand out the papers where the time lines will be made.

5. Provide rulers.

6. Direct students to complete the time lines.

7. Collect completed time lines.

8. Assess the accuracy of the time lines using the assessment criteria given on the Time Line Directions.

9. Return papers with feedback when completed.


The formative assessment will be to determine whether or not the students completed an outline of the causes of the Cold War, labeling and explaining the events appropriately. Copies of this outline should be attached to the time line created by students. Further assessment will be the production of a satisfactory time line of those events.

The collection, summarizing, and correct chronological sequencing are directly Standard 4 of Goal 3.

An additional assessment is explained in extensions and can be used after all students successfully complete the outline and the time line.


The Weblinks listed may be used for teacher preparation or to extend the lesson.

Extending the lesson may be done in two ways. First, an analysis of NSC 68 would take another day. Second, a discussion may be encouraged on the topic: Who is more responsible for causing the Cold War, the United States or the Soviet Union? Allow students to use their outlines, time lines, and class notes. Encourage them to add valid notes, especially concerning opinions other than their own.

Another assessment is optional, depending on the level of the students.
1. Teachers may choose to assess this material for understanding of a summary of forty-four years of history leading to U.S. Cold War foreign policy in a multiple choice format. The assessment instrument is given in three forms in the attached file. The first is in the proper order [form 1]. The teacher may edit this to suit her/his needs. The second and third versions [form A and form B] are different forms of the same, an entire assessment instrument. The two versions are used with different rows to encourage honesty.

2. An essay question may be asked where the students must answer: Who is more responsible for causing the Cold War, the United States or the Soviet Union? This may be given after asking the question in class. Students should be allowed to use their notes and outlines to write the essay. With the essay, answers will vary, but must include relevant information to show understanding of the political events that shaped the development of the U.S. foreign policy and the events leading up to the Cold War.

Web Links

Web supplement for Sources of the Cold War
Cold War Hot Links

Web supplement for Sources of the Cold War
Cold War Documents

Web supplement for Sources of the Cold War
NSC 68

Attached Files

The seven documents described in the lesson plans.     File Extension: pdf

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