Lesson Plan 8
Lesson Title: The Cold War in Images
Lesson Author: Christine Malady
Key Curriculum Words:
Grade Level: 10th
Time Allotted: 45 minutes
Purpose: In teaching this lesson, it is hoped that the students gain an understanding of the methods use to
influence public opinion, both domestically and abroad, for both the United States and the Soviet
Union during the post-war period. Different propaganda techniques will be outlined and the
students will be encouraged to think critically about how information is presented, what can be
trusted and how these issues affect our nation today.
1) propaganda – the communication of misleading, false or manipulative information in order to
influence a certain group or public opinion
2) ideology – the body of doctrine, myth, belief or philosophy that guides individual, group or social
3) communism – an economic system in which property is owned collectively; historically, the term has
been misused to describe totalitarian states
4) capitalism – an economic system in which property is owned by private individual able to engage in
voluntary exchange; historically, the term has been misused to describe mixed, corporatist, and
Background: This lesson belongs in a larger unit addressing the Virginia Standard of Learning WHII.12—post-
war America. It should be prefaced by a lesson or reading introducing the general chronology and
key terms of the Cold War Period. This lesson focuses in on the propaganda techniques used by
both the United States and the Soviet Union with an emphasis on critical evaluation of visual and
auditory media. In that way, the lesson has a large skill-building component, with respect to
critical interpretation of primary sources.
Virginia Standards of Learning (unpacked):
- WH II.12 (a) The student will demonstrate knowledge of major events and outcomes of the Cold War
by explaining key events of the Cold War, including the competition between the American and Soviet
economic and political systems and the causes of the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and
- WHII.1 (b) The student will improve skills in historical research and geographical analysis by using
maps and pictures to analyze the cultural landscapes of the world and to interpret the past.
- VI – The study of power, authority and governance
- IX – The study of global connections
- III – The study of people, places and environments
Enduring Understanding: In the most general and abstract sense, this lesson should (as should all lessons)
contribute to the students’ practical ability to achieve desired goals. A goal of
every person should be the ability to sift through information presented in order
to find meaning and truth. This lesson is entirely devoted to that endeavor, with
a focus on the propaganda used by both the United States and the Soviet Union
during the Cold War period. At the conclusion of the lesson, the students will be
asked to consider whether or not the issues discussed in the lesson are still
relevant or at all evident in today’s world. In that way, hopefully the students will
apply their knowledge to today’s political landscape.
Skills for this Lesson: In this lesson, students will interpret primary sources in the form of posters,
videos and songs from the post-war period in the United States and in Russia.
The students will think critically about the underlying meanings of the pieces and
apply that reasoning to current issues and trends.
Values for this Lesson: It is the firm opinion of the author of this lesson that it is not the job of, nor is it at
all appropriate for, teachers to indoctrinate their students with their own or
society’s set of values. For this reason, students will be encouraged to identify,
consider the merits of and argue logically for different ethical and political
values—but values will never be presented as objective imperatives to be taught
and tested. In this lesson, the student will evaluate the extent to which the tools
of manipulation from the Cold War period are evident in today’s political
What tactics did the United States use to garner support for the Cold War foreign policy?
What tactics did the Soviet Union use to mask the true social, economic and political conditions of the
What parallels can be drawn between the actions of either government then and now?
- Cold War Power Point presentation
- Propaganda Handout for each student
Accommodations: This lesson allows the students to access multiple intelligences, in that the homework
assignment requires them to express the material through a visual representation.
Similarly, the students will utilize higher thinking skills in the critical evaluation question
posed throughout the presentation. Finally, the focus activity has the students working
together in mixed-ability groups, allowing the students with learning disabilities to receive
aid from their higher achieving peers.
a. The Hook – In order to review the content from the previous lesson and/or reading, the students will
jot down quick examples for seven key vocabulary terms in mixed-ability groups. The instructor will go
over the definitions for each and allow students to share the examples.
b. Lesson Activities – This lesson centers on a power point presentation containing a wealth of audio and
visual representations of Cold War Era propaganda on the part of the United States and Soviet
governments. Each slide poses several critical thinking questions to spark class discourse moderated by
the instructor. The instructor will make sure to call on students in order to garner participation from
every student. Students will be encouraged to take notes if they like, but it will not be necessary as a
handout with key information will be given at the end of the presentation.
c. Lesson closure – The exit slip activity consists of each student evaluating the extent to which
propaganda themes are present in today’s culture. Four or five sentences are required on a sheet of
paper turned in to the instructor for the student to leave. A participation grade is given for completion,
and the instructor will review the slips to check for comprehension and critical thought.
Assessment Strategies: Informal assessment will be taken all along the presentation process through the
moderated class discourse. The class will be formally assessed in their homework
activity, in which they must draw visual representations demonstrating the five
principles of propaganda described on the worksheet. It will be turned in for a