Once you've finished with WWII in your middle school curriculum , your students are poised to delve into the Cold War. Each day this week (today, Wednesday and Friday), I'll review a different Cold War themed historical fiction book, provide a suggested lesson plan and supplementary teaching materials, and, in a first for my blog, a gaming suggestion with each post!
There's so much atmosphere from this time period for authors to capture. Many non-fiction accounts focus on one aspect to the exclusion of all others (the McCarthy hearings, Korean War, the Cuban missile crisis, the Apollo Program, etc.), so readers only get a small slice of the history.
Literature, on the other hand, can help capture the broader feel of the time period and what it was like to live back then.
After years of searching, I finally found these excellent historical fiction books that capture the milieu.
Arizona Social Studies Standards
By the new standards, these Cold War lessons work excellently with the following standards that deal with perspective:
7.SP2.1 Analyze multiple factors that influence the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
7.SP2.2 Explain how and why perspectives of people have changed over time.
7.SP2.3 Analyze how people’s perspectives influenced what information is available in the historical sources they created.
By the old Arizona Social Studies standards, all of the following lessons address 2SS.C8.G8.PO6 and 3SS.C5.G8.PO2.
Arizona English Language Arts Standards
I would recommend pairing these texts with the English Language Arts standards that also touch on point of view, portrayals of historical events, and how authors create suspense (the Cold War literature I'm going to review is great for this standard!).
7.RL.6 -- Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text
7.RL.9 -- Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.
8.RL.6 -- Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
The Enemy: Detroit, 1954, by Sara Holbrook
The main character struggles with internalizing the polarizing rhetoric of the Cold War, trying to sort out if neighbors are enemies or spies, best friends are bullies, parents are instigators and commies, and recuperating WWII soldiers "Nazis" or veterans.
The book is so new, it's not got a free teaching guide from the publisher yet, nor is there anything on the pay-for-teaching resource providers I've checked.
I know it can be daunting to teach a new novel, even with the best of intentions, if there are few supporting teaching materials. So with each post this week, I'll also supply a lesson plan and writing prompt for your Social Studies or ELA classroom.
If you choose to teach this novel in your ELA classroom, please share your lesson plans! This is an awesome book and your students have a lot to learn from it.
Cold War Lesson Plan: Red Dot Simulation
When I taught the Cold War, I used teaching resources and adapted lesson plans and Power Point presentations from the UNC Database of K-12 Resources. Most of the lesson plans at this site are aimed at high school students, so I adapted a few "hooks" -- ways to draw my students into this unit -- for my 7th / 8th grade students.
The Red Dot Simulation was an enjoyable and memorable simulation that made for an excellent writing opportunity. It got the kids up and out of their seats, talking, considering what it meant to suspect everyone, even their closest friends, and set the stage beautifully for note-taking on the time period.
Cold War Gaming: Codenames
I was always on the lookout for great games for my classroom. This game was perfect for those days when classes were combined with others, and my students needed to learn but decompress in a fun, exciting way.
There's even a FREE, online version that players can play remotely (i.e. when they're not all in the same classroom, or at home, social distancing). A player creates a room, shares the URL with friends, and plays for free!