Each day this week (Monday, today and Friday), I'm reviewing a different Cold War themed historical fiction book, providing a suggested lesson plan and, in a first, 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.
Suspect Red, by L.M. Elliott
This second historical fiction novel I'm going to recommend, Suspect Red, by one of our favorite authors, L.M. Elliott, has a fantastic Educator Guide, offered by the publisher, Disney / Hyperion, and is, in some ways, better for a Social Studies classroom than Monday's book recommendation, The Enemy; Detroit, 1954, by Sara Holbrook.
For one, it is chock-full of Cold War references and photographs to accompany them. My 16-year-old snagged the book from me, based on the opening photos, and although the reading level is more 7th/8th grades, it captures their attention with all its non-fiction references. It also helps reinforce the images they see in the Social Studies lesson provided below.
The main character is a teen boy who lives in D.C. and his father is an FBI agent for Herbert Hoover, and is kinda on the "outs." When a new kid shows up in school, and he's from Czechoslovakia, the MC sees a way he can help his dad's career -- by ferreting out a commie or socialist spy.
Cold War Lesson Plan: Air Raid 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 middle school students.
In this lesson plan, students begin the lesson with an Air Raid simulation as the anticipatory set, and take notes on the Cold War, using the guided note taker, if necessary. They will read an overview about the Cold War and answer several brief questions.
Cold War Gaming: Covert
Covert is a role-playing spy game which requires quite a bit of time. This one I can't see using in your classroom, unless you have much longer blocks of time (say, in my daughter's high school, where they meet for two hours once a week). It takes 30-45 minutes for players just to read and understand the rules.
Then, students or you at home can begin play -- but you need to know this game can take 2-3 hours to finish, and it really needs to be played on consecutive days, so players can finish.
I could see it as a last week of school activity for older, 8th grade students.
Covert tests players' knowledge of European geography, as they move up to three spies around the map to complete missions. It's great play for anyone who's very competitive and players don't have to cooperate with others. Individuals strategize to complete at least six missions, and then add up scores, with the highest score the winner.