Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
120 to 160 Minutes
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will study Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan as it relates to the early Cold War and U.S. policy of containment.
  • Use of primary sources / artifacts
  • Synthesis and decision making
  • Cooperative learning
Rationale (why are you doing this?)

This lesson addresses Kansas State standard - KS11SSUH0125.  Moreover, students will study Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan as it relates to the early Cold War and U.S. policy of containment. 

Lesson Objectives - the student will

Students will analyze the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan and evaluate his decisions to aid European recovery.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • This lesson addresses Kansas State standard - KS11SSUH0125


3aW:  Describe and evaluate the evolution of United States domestic and foreign policies including the Cold War.


Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed
  • United States History – Modern America – Pearson Prentice Hall
  • Map of Europe  - detailing the iron curtain
Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
  • Primary Source:  Man Against the Marshall Plan – Truman Library
  • Transcript of George Marshall’s Speech at Harvard University – Truman Library
  • Link to photographs of European desperation
  • Truman document:  Memorandum for the President – Subject Greek Situation – Truman Library
  • Truman Doctrine Speech plus audio recording of Truman reading the speech – Truman Library
  • Political Cartoon:  “The Bigger Question” – Truman Library
Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?
  • Students will begin by selecting a link to the Truman Library repository of post-war photographs / International Relief. Students are to spend about five to ten minutes analyzing the photographs to get a sense of the despair and suffering in post-war Europe.  At the end, students are to complete a five-minute quick-write where they describe the suffering of average post-war Europeans. 
  • Students will access a map of post-war Europe that contains an outline of the iron curtain.  The teacher will ask students to make a short list of western European countries most vulnerable to Soviet expansion; given their proximity to the iron curtain. 
  • The teacher will ask students to analyze a primary source document, Memorandum for the President, Greek Situation.  The document sets the stage for the dire situation and vulnerability for Greece to fall to communist rule.  Students will complete a SOAPS analysis of this document. 
  • After analyzing and discussing the Greek Situation, the teacher will break students into small teams for a role-playing activity.  Students will get into teams of five or six.  Each team will have a President Truman, Secretary of State, Secretary of War, Chief of Staff, Press Secretary, and Secretary of Agriculture.  The students are asked to address the following question:  Given the current situation in Greece, what action should the United States take to address the situation in Greece?  Students are given up to twenty minutes to develop a small plan to address the Greek crisis.  The teacher will want to caution students to think about how U.S. action will be perceived by the Soviets and Americans at home.   The teacher may want to provide students with a list of options to address the Greek crisis. 
  • Each team’s Press Secretary will present their solution to the class, the presentation maybe a short and simple; in the form of bullet points. 
  • The teacher will present a copy of the Truman Doctrine Speech and provide the audio of Truman delivering the speech before Congress.  Students are to listen and follow along with the speech.  Students are also asked to address the following questions once they have listened to the speech:

1.  How did Truman convince Americans that Greece was in a state of crisis and needed $250 million in aid?

2.  How did Truman justify bypassing the United Nations?  

3.  How did Truman avoid provoking the Soviet Union? 

4.  How did Truman’s approach in delivering this speech assist him in conveying his message to the American people?  

  • Once students and the teacher have processed and discussed the Truman Doctrine, the teacher will ask students to compare / contrast their resolution to the Greece/Turkey crisis and Truman’s decision regarding the same crisis.
  • After analyzing and comparing the Truman Doctrine, the teacher will redirect students back to the larger issues presented at the beginning of the class; the human suffering and unemployment throughout Europe.  Second, the teacher will redirect students back to the iron curtain map and list of vulnerable countries.  The teacher will attempt to get students thinking about the larger crisis in Europe.
  • The teacher will hand out a political carton: “The Bigger Question” and ask students to analyze the cartoon using political cartoon analysis sheet from the National Archives.  The teacher will ask students to think about whether aid to Europe was popular with all Americans and why some Americans may have opposed European aid packages. 
  • The students will read a copy of George Marshall’s Harvard University transcript outlining the Marshall Plan for European recovery.  Students will complete a SOAPS analysis of the document. 
  • Next, each student sitting in his or her group will read one of the arguments against the Marshall Plan and record the main idea and two or three supporting details supporting the argument.  Each team member will share the argument with fellow team members. 
Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide
  • The teacher will conduct a think-aloud and ask students to develop a t-chart to record reasons to support the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plans and reasons to oppose the these plans.  Students will record this information on their t-charts. 
  • Finally, the teacher will ask students to write a short persuasive essay: Do you agree with Truman’s decision to help Europe recover from the devastation of WWII or oppose this decision?  Students are asked to provide details from the lesson documents that support their reasoning.