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A look at the US and USSR foreign policy in 1947

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
45 minutes to one hour
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Group activity. Students in class use primary sources like Truman Doctrine speech, Marshall plan, and Iron Curtain speech to discuss foreign policy from US/USSR perspectives at the time of the Cold War.

Discussion as a class to analyze the changing nature of the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1940s

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

Look at differing perspectives during the Cold War

Lesson Objectives - the student will

Students will understand the foreign policy objectives for the United States and the Soviet Union at the beginning of the Cold War.

Students will be able to use primary sources for historical research.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met

Objective 6, Concept D; Identify how laws and events affect members of and relationships among groups

Objective 7, Concept A; Select, investigate, and present a topic using primary and secondary resources, such as oral interviews, artifacts, journals, documents, photos and letters

Objective 7, Concept F; Identify, research and defend a point of view/position

Missouri Standards

2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)


Kansas Standards

Benchmark 4: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points of the World Since 1945.

1. (A) analyzes the Cold War as the competition between two competing ideologies or world views and its impact on various regions of the world. (e.g., roots in WWII, Mao’s China; the Cold War in Europe; NATO, Warsaw Pact, and the competition for nonaligned nations; collapse of Communism in Europe).

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in world history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

3. (A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in world history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, forming conclusions about its meaning (e.g., use provided primary and secondary sources to interpret a historical-based conclusion).

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed

Map of 1947 Europe with explanation of events in Europe, and 1947 reflection sheet. 


Modern History Sourcebook: Winston S. Churchill:"Iron Curtain Speech", March 5, 1946;

 European Initiative Essential to Economic Recovery; "Remarks by the Secretary of State", June 15, 1947.

 Recommendation for Assistance to Greece and Turkey; House of Representatives 80th Congress, 1st Session, Harry Truman, March 12, 1947.

 Europe at the Start of the Cold War;


Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed

Copies of Truman Doctrine speech, Marshall plan, Iron Curtain speech,

Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?


1947 was the year that many in the United States and the Soviet Union governments realized that the two were no longer allies, but at the very least rivals.  Essentially it was beginning of the Cold War.  These documents chronicle events that led to such a realization.



1) Divide the class into two groups.  One group will represent the Soviet side and one the American side.  The teacher can decide if the groups read individually or together. 

2) The Soviet side will read the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan (For younger learners, it may be best for teachers to take certain paragraphs from those documents to analyze).  The American side will read Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech and will be given a map of 1947 Europe with an explanation that the Soviet Union was in charge of setting up governments in the countries in Eastern Europe.

3) Students should take notes on what they are reading on the “Reflection sheet.”  They should write what events are taking place in the world and give advice to their respective world leader for actions to take. 

4) After some personal time to reflect on the documents with the Reflection sheet, students should reconvene as a group and discuss their choices for action.  Encourage the students to go the next step and determine what consequences the actions they chose might cause.

5) Reconvene as a group.  Have a representative from each group share what has been decided as the best course of action for their country’s foreign policy. 

6) A final discussion as a class could follow to analyze the changing nature of the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1940s.

Primary sources:  Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan

Vocabulary: Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, Iron Curtain

Important people:  Harry Truman, George Marshall, Winston Churchill

Reflection sheet