Skip Discover Education Main Navigation
Skip Discover Education Main Navigation

Home> Teachers> Free Lesson Plans> Cold War Into Guerilla War

Cold War Into Guerilla WarCold-War-Into-Guerilla-War

  • Subject: World History
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: durationTime

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • learn about the Cold War by conducting research and interviewing family members and friends;
  • read articles about the War on Terrorism in newspapers and magazines and on the Internet; and
  • write an essay comparing the Cold War and the War on Terrorism using their research and interview notes.


  • Paper and pencils
  • Newsprint and markers
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Cold War into Guerilla War video and VCR


  1. Ask students what they know about the current War on Terrorism. To spur conversation, ask the following questions:


    • What is the significance of 9/11/01?
    • When did the War on Terrorism start?
    • How do you know that we are engaged in a War on Terrorism?
    • Has your life changed since the War on Terrorism began? If so, how?
    • Have the lives of your parents or other caregivers changed since the War on Terrorism began? If so, how?


  2. Next, ask students if they know what the Cold War was. Write down their ideas on a sheet of newsprint. Students may describe it as "a period of extreme tension between the United States and the Soviet Union" or refer to these key events and terms:


    • Cuban Missile Crisis
    • iron curtain
    • Berlin War
    • communism


  3. Tell students that the Cold War was at its height during the 1950s and 1960s, when adults who are middle-aged now were children. To gain a deeper understanding of what it was like to live during that time period, give students the homework assignment of interviewing an adult they know who was a child during the '50s or '60s. Suggest that they ask the following questions:


    • What was it like growing up during the Cold War?
    • In retrospect, were there any incidents that took place because the United States was engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union? What were they?
    • Do you remember when the Cold War ended? Why do you think it ended?
    • Did the world feel safer after the Cold War ended?


  4. During the next class period, students can flesh out their research by viewing theShowdown: The Cuban Missile Crisis segment of the video and by visiting the following Web sites:

  5. After students have completed their research on the Cold War, have them turn their attention to the War on Terrorism. In addition to answering the questions in Step 1, have them look through newspapers and magazines and on the Internet for information.
  6. Ask students to combine their research on both topics in an essay that compares the experiences of adults who were young during the Cold War with their personal experiences during the War on Terrorism. Students should discuss how the two sets of experiences are alike and how they are different.
  7. Conclude the lesson by asking students if there are any lessons to be learned by looking at the Cold War in light of the War on Terrorism. Ask students what they thought brought about the end of the Cold War. What do they think is going to bring about the end of the War on Terrorism?

Back to Top


Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students participated actively in class discussions; wrote an interesting, informative, and creative essay comparing the Cold War with the War on Terrorism; drew insightful conclusions based on what they learned.
  • Two points: Students participated in class discussions; wrote a competent essay comparing the Cold War with the War on Terrorism; drew some conclusions based on what they learned.
  • One point: Students did not participate in class discussions; did not complete their essays; had difficulty drawing conclusions based on what they learned.

Back to Top


The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War. Have students outline the chronology of the Berlin Wall, from its construction in 1961 to its fall in 1989, and explain how the world changed during this time period.The Escape from Berlin segment of the video has information about the wall, as do these Web sites:

Ask students to research the "space race" between the United States and the Soviet Union. Have them write a short essay that takes either the position that "the space race was part of the Cold War" or that "the space race was not part of the Cold War." Tell students they must have evidence to support their ideas.The First Woman in Space segment of the video has information on the topic, as do these Web sites:

Back to Top


Berlin Wall
Definition: A 28-mile wall that separated the city of Berlin into two parts — East Berlin and West Berlin — and that kept the people of East Berlin cut off from the rest of the world. The Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989.
Context: If people from East Berlin attempted to scale the Berlin Wall and escape to the West, they could be shot.

Cold War
Definition: A term describing the intense competition and mistrust between countries in the West and those in the East; over time, the Cold War came to represent the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as the competition to conquer space.
Context: Because citizens of the United States were worried about the threat of nuclear war during the Cold War, they built bomb shelters and practiced ways to take shelter during an attack.

Definition: A form of government and an economic system adopted by the Soviet Union and many countries in Eastern Europe. Communism fell in Eastern Europe in 1989 and in Russia in 1991.
Context: Under the communist system, government ownership of property is stressed over private ownership, and the overall goal is to provide economic security for all people.

Cuban Missile Crisis
Definition: A confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union that occurred in 1962 over the presence of Soviet-supplied missiles in Cuba
Context: Many historians believe that the Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world ever came to a full-scale nuclear war.

iron curtain
Definition: A term used to describe the separation and isolation of Eastern Europe from the West as a result of Soviet barriers against the West
Context: Winston Churchill coined the phrase when he said that "an iron curtain had descended across the continent of Europe."

Back to Top


This lesson plan addresses the following curriculum standards created by the National Council for the Social Studies:
  • Culture
  • Power, Authority, and Governance
  • Global Connections

Back to Top


Marilyn Fenichel, education writer and editor

Back to Top