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World War II: Causes And ConsequencesWorld-War-II-Causes-And-Consequences

  • Subject: U.S. History
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: Two to three class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • Discuss the U.S. economy, society, and politics in the years following World War II.
  • Explore the boom in advertising during this period by reviewing print advertisements from the late 1940s and early 1950s.
  • Analyze a print ad from the period and compare it to an ad for a similar product today.



  1. After watching World War II: Causes and Consequences , review the U.S. economy, society, and politics in the years following World War II. To spark discussion, write the terms below on the chalkboard and ask students: What does each of these terms communicate about post-war America in the late 1940s and early 1950s? In what ways was this a time of prosperity and hope? What were some of the challenges the nation faced? Answers may include the following:
    • Cold War
    • communism
    • arms race
    • baby boom
    • assembly lines
    • vacuum cleaners
    • G.I. Bill
    • television
    • suburbs
    • segregation
    • cars
    • labor camps
  2. Discuss the role of advertising during this era. Ask students: Why did Dick Manoff want a career in advertising after the war? What made this an exciting time for advertising in America? What were some of the new products being advertised?
  3. Explain that students will explore advertisements from the late 1940s and early 1950s. Like all advertisements, these showcase a society's latest products and technology. They also reflect the society's values and common stereotypes. (With older students, you may want to discuss this topic further, sparking conversation with a few advertisements from recent papers and magazines.)
  4. Show and discuss a few examples of late 1940s and early 1950s print advertisements from the following Web sites. (Be sure to select examples from after 1945.) Ask students: What do each of these ads tell you about U.S. society at the time?
  5. Now have students work with a partner to browse the two Web sites and select an advertisement to analyze. (To narrow their focus and ensure diversity, you may want to assign each pair of students a different Web site section.) Have the pairs print the ad using a color printer and then write a short analysis that answers the following questions:
    • What product is being advertised?
    • Who is the target audience?
    • How is the product described? What features are highlighted?
    • What claims does the ad make? What does it promise the product will provide the buyer? (For example: comfort, excitement, popularity, beauty, praise, prestige?)
    • Does this ad use symbols or stereotypes to sell the product? If so, which ones?
    • Does this ad give any evidence or proof to support its claims? If so, what is it?
    • What other information is included in the ad? (For example, was the product's price included?) Was there any information you found interesting or surprising?
    • What does the ad indicate about the U.S. in the post-war years?
    • Do you think this ad would be effective for a similar product today? Why or why not?
  6. Next, have the student pairs find a print advertisement for a similar product from a current magazine or newspaper. Have them write a second analysis, first answering the previous questions and then the following ones:
    • How are the two advertisements similar?
    • How are they different? (For example, do they make similar claims for the buyer? Do they use different symbols or stereotypes to sell the product?)
  7. Have students present their post-war and modern-day ads to the class. Discuss what the ads convey about the post-war era, as well as how life then differed from life today in the U.S.

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:  Students helped define and discuss several terms from post-war America; wrote informative, thoughtful analyses about their selected ads that answered all of the questions.
  • Two points:  Students helped define and discuss some terms from post-war America; wrote clear, complete analyses about their selected ads that answered most of the questions.
  • One point:  Students did not help define and discuss the terms from post-war America; wrote incomplete or vague analyses about their selected ads that answered few or none of the questions.

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arms race
Definition: A competition between countries for the most weapons
Context: As nuclear technology advanced, the United States and the Soviet Union waged an arms race. Each country wanted to have more firepower than the other.

baby boom
Definition: A large and sudden increase in the birth rate in America between 1946 and 1964
Context: Greg Manoff was born in New York City in 1945, making him part of the baby boom generation.

Cold War
Definition: A period of intense rivalry that developed after World War II between groups of communist and non-communist nations, most notably the Soviet Union and the U.S.
Context: The Berlin Wall stood for nearly 30 years, separating the oppressed from the free and symbolizing the deep divisions that split the world during the Cold War.

Definition: A political and economic system in which all means of production are owned by a single party; a social system in which property and goods are owned in common
Context: As World War II drew to a close, the political and economic system of communism took hold in parts of Europe.

Definition: The area at the outer edges of a city or town
Context: Suburbia was a new word in the 1950s. It sounded like a foreign country, and for some Americans it was.

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Academic Standards

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • U.S. History: Era 8-Understands the causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs
  • U.S. History: Era 9-Understands the economic boom and social transformation of post-World War II United States; Understands how the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics

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The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go to
This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards:

  • Culture
  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Power, Authority, and Governance
  • Production, Distribution, and Consumption
  • Science, Technology, and Society

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