Cold War Unit Plan

A Complete Unit Plan for World or US History in Middle School or High School

My World and US History curricula both have thorough and engaging units on the Cold War. While each cover the major conflicts and developments  of the Cold War era, , the American History course also focuses on the Red Scare and Cold War at home, while the World curriculum looks at decolonization movements that occurred during this era as well.

No matter which course you teach, this amazing Cold War unit plan will be a fantastic resource for your middle school or high school classroom. 

You can download all the lessons and resources for my Cold War unit here, or join Students of History with a subscription to access every lesson online.


The unit kicks off with an introductory lesson on the Cold War. A PowerPoint and guided notes(with Google Slides and "flipped classroom" video options also available) is a great way to start the unit with students. After introducing the Cold War, the lesson moves on to overview activity on different policies from throughout the Cold War.

The early events of the Cold War are covered in the next lesson with a primary source on the Truman Doctrine, interactive notebook map analysis, and a wonderful reading activity on Uncle Wiggle Wings.

In US History, the next lesson looks at McCarthyism and the Red Scare with an interactive group activity followed by a Red Scare reading. Next, students look at the Lavender Scare as an aspect of the fear of communism. 

The next lesson in US History delves into Eisenhower’s People-to-People program. After a review of documents and primary sources to better understand this movement to promote peace, students create a PBL project to finish out the lesson. It's a great way to not get bogged down in so much war and negativity in one unit! 

Next, the unit moves onto Kennedy’s presidency with a thorough PowerPoint and guided notes set (along with Google Slides and video). After going through it, the lesson moves on to this awesome interactive project on the Cuban Missile Crisis. The lesson concludes with students analyzing Kennedy's famous inaugural address.

The World History curriculum takes a deeper look at communism in China with this PowerPoint (also with guided notes, Google Slides, & video) and several great video clips. Students then interpret communist posters before ending with a critique of Mao Zedong. 

Students in World History next look at African decolonization and the partition of India. An in-depth PowerPoint and guided notes set comes first before students complete one of several supplemental activities, such as a Mohandas Gandhi biography reading or Nelson Mandela song analysis worksheet. 

The next lessons in both World and US History move on to the Space Race with students working together on a timeline and newspaper project. Following this, a reading and graphic organizer pop-up on the women from Hidden Figures is great to pair with the lesson or a digital or paper interactive notebook activity. 

Following this, the unit moves on to comparing the Korean and Vietnam Wars with this PowerPoint and guided notes (plus Slides and video). An incredible Vietnam War stations activity is next that allows students to see many different aspects of the war. The lesson concludes with students interpreting the Pentagon Papers or a soldier's letter home.

Students in US History look more at protests against the Vietnam War with this interactive analyzing resistance lesson before reviewing the tragic Kent State Massacre.

The next lesson is a super engaging one on the Berlin wall with an escape room-style activity in which students decode messages about the Berlin Wall to try and "escape Berlin". A reading and interactive notebook activity is available as a concluding activity as well as several great video clips on the wall .

The end of the Cold War is covered next through a PowerPoint (with guided notes and video) on détente, glasnost, and the break-up of the Soviet Union. Video clips are also included to provide more context in addition to a reading on the Reagan Revolution.

A detailed overview of the entire Cold War is available here at the end of the unit as a review or to use in place of any lesson if you run short on time.  A Cold War Dinner Party activity is also a great way to review in addition to this vocabulary reading activity for the end of the unit.

There is a printable and Google Doc unit guide packet and digital notebook set that can be used throughout the unit for extension or remediation. 

The unit concludes with review activities followed by an editable test, with a Google Forms version also included for easy grading.

You can download many of the activities individually through the links above and also see reviews or each. You can download the whole unit here and have everything saved to your desktop immediately. You can also download the resources through a subscription, which grants you access to the ENTIRE US History curriculum.

If you’re unsure which option might be best for you, you can read about the differences between subscriptions and TpT purchases here.

US History Units
World History Units