Teacher Notes

Grade level/Unit:

Grade 11 The Cold War section of the California Framework


Draft H/SS Standards: Grade 11 Students analyze and explain the multiple, and sometimes conflicting, aims and effects of Unites States foreign policy in the 20th century and its impact on the home front with emphasis on the causes and effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Lesson purpose:

Students will simulate or at least complete some research on one of the most important two-week periods in American History. If they participate in the EX-COMM meetings to hammer out the U.S. response to the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba, students will understand the background and causes of the event as they experience team building, crisis management, and doing research using both electronic and manual resources.


Five to eight (5-8 ) class periods of research and 4 class periods to simulate EX-COMM's meetings/debates/creation of speech for Kennedy. Varying the team configuration from one committee with members having research aides to multiple EX-COMMs will alter the time allotments needed. If students do some or all of their research outside of class, the research time would be unnecessary. The number of activities may also be changed in order to alter the time constraints. This process could also be shortened to two days (2) if students research out of class and if only the EX-COMM debate is performed.

Teacher Resources

Teaching Steps:

Introduction/Probing Students' Knowledge

1. Teacher asks class to imagine the most horrible crisis the world might face. A nuclear holocaust should be suggested by the students. Allow them to express their fears and to separate what they know about such a crisis from what they do not know. Narrow discussion to the idea of a nuclear threat/end-of-world scenario. Have the class consider how a government crisis management team might try to avert such a crisis. Focus discussion on the necessary attributes of such a team: personality characteristics, knowledge, being a team player, and so forth.

2. Move discussion toward the history of nuclear threat. Students should be familiar with the concept of the Cold War, the origins of the superpowers, communism and the Red Scare. Because this unit is problem-solving based, do not go into detail about the specific events which lead to the Cuban Missile Crisis (such as the Bay of Pigs). Students should discover this information during the unit.

3. Read the Introduction and The Task together. These are the first two sections of the unit.

4. The student resources mentioned above are fairly equal beginning places for the students so they should be encouraged to start with them. Other resources are provided to you below.

Assign Students to Groups

1. Because any class probably has students with a wide range of knowledge and abilities, groups should be formed by the teacher. Take time to learn about student computer knowledge and usage of the World Wide Web. At least one person in each group must be able to use Netscape Navigator or Explorer to get around the Web. Simply playing with the Web is very different from doing research on-line. Students may teach themselves much of this knowledge while doing this project, but they will not be efficient immediately. Help them increase their ability to hit the needed targets by providing instruction in keyword and phrase searching. Encourage students to take the time to read the search instructions that each engine requires. Try to ensure that they begin with the URLs (the addresses of pages and websites) that are provided in the unit.

2. Also try to place students with learning/language deficiencies with more capable students.

3. Decide which roles you will have students enact. As many as 21 roles are possible and in keeping with the actual EX-COMM. For a complete list of the historical persons on EX-COMM see

4. Emphasize the team-playing aspects of the effort.

Develop Rubric with Students:

1. Use the criteria listed in the student portion of the unit: historical research, historical empathy, task commitment, communication, and problem-solving..

2. Ask them to use a scale of 1 to 4 with 1 being the lowest point and 4 the highest. It is often easier to work from the extremes toward the middle. So, ask them to suggest what a student would do to earn a 4 for historical research. Focus on products since interior motivation cannot be observed and therefore evaluated by others.

3. Doing this step, though it will take some time, will most likely produce a higher quality product/performance than skipping it.

Conduct or Supervise the Initial EX-COMM Meeting:

1. See student instructions in the Process section of this unit.

2. Be sure students have a provisional but clear understanding of what the problem is and what they need to know.

Conduct or Supervise the U.S. Response Debate:

1. Remind students, if necessary, that this is a critical team effort and not a competition to be "the best".

2. Help students to create a speech that is appropriate to the l960s and that contains a clear American response to the crisis.

3. Help the students work out an efficient way to write the speech their JFK will give.


1. Use the questions in the Reflection and Conclusion sections of this unit to discuss what students learned in terms of historical content and in terms of crisis management and team process.

2. Have them write their reflections in a journal if you wish.

Information Literacy Skills

Students should have some computer literacy skills before attempting this unit or they will waste too much valuable time learning to do the research component.

The teacher should alert the librarian to make available materials on this topic.

Specific skills addressed include

Lesson Extensions

The following suggestions can be done by the entire class, by different groups, as extra credit or as make-up assignments for students absent during the simulation. They can be an addition to the simulation or can be performed afterward.


Author: Carol Krup
Poly High School,Riverside Unified School District
SCORE-CH/SSP Technology Academy 1997
Email: ckrup@js-net.com
Reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Byron Jackson, CSU Chico

 Last revised 4/26/02