Why Support the Marshall Plan?

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
Approximately 3 to 4 class periods (51 minutes each)
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
This lesson will help students focus on the needs of the world following World War II and will allow the students to use and understand the importance of political cartoons as a primary source.
  • Students will begin thinking about this question: What worries do you think that your parents had prior to your birth? Concerns/worries about you, your future, and your responsibilities as a parent. Write your thoughts in your notebook.
  • Discuss the answers with students.
  • Now, project the picture of the infant in front of the war ruins. What do you as students observe? How do you think the infant’s parents would feel? Record your answers in your notebook.
  • What problems did the nations face following World War II? Take responses orally and have a student record those responses on the white board.
  • Segue into the need for a foreign policy like the Marshall Plan.
  • What happened in the Soviet Union? Communism was spreading and created a “fear” around the world.
Rationale (why are you doing this?)
  • This lesson will help students focus on the needs of the world following World  War II and will allow the students to use and understand the importance of political cartoons as a primary source.
Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Students will analyze photographs and political cartoons to determine which of the various reasons given to support or not support the Marshall Plan. Students will use TACOS to assist in interpreting the symbols and images in a cartoon. TACOS can be used to analyze a cartoon. After completing the TACOS information, students should be able to write a thesis statement from the information and use the understanding gained in the writing process.
  • NOTE: TACOS means;
  • Time = when was the cartoon created? What else was happening?
  • Action = what is going on in the cartoon? Are people asleep, marching, laughing, and fighting?
  • Caption = what does the cartoon label say? Does it support the action in the cartoon or is it critical? What is the cartoonist’s point of view?
  • Objects = what familiar objects of people do you recognize? Are any exaggerated in size or action?  How could students find out about objects/people they don’t recognize?
  • Summary of the cartoon = based on the action, caption, and objects, what was the author trying to say?
  • Students will assess which cartoon was most successful in influencing people to support the Marshall Plan
  • Students will write a persuasive document explaining why the Marshall Plan was undertaken.
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met

Sunshine State Standards:

  • LA.     The student will use background knowledge of subject and related content areas, prereading strategies, graphic representations, and knowledge of text structure to make and confirm complex predictions of content, purpose, and organization of a reading selection or cartoon exhibit.
  • SS7.C.2.10:  Examine the impact of media, individuals, and interest groups on monitoring and influencing government.
  • SS7.C.2.11    Analyze media and political communications (bias, symbolism, propaganda).

Kansas Standards

Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas,
developments, and turning points in the era of the Cold War (1945-1990).
2. analyzes the origins of the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the
Soviet Bloc, Mao’s victory in China, Marshall Plan, Berlin Blockade,
Iron Curtain).
3. (A) evaluates the foreign policies of Truman and Eisenhower during
the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the United Nations,
containment, NATO, Truman Doctrine, Berlin Blockade, Korean
War, Iron Curtain, U-2 incident).

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.
3.(A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in U.S.
history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, evaluating
on its meaning (e.g., uses provided primary and secondary sources
to interpret a historical-based conclusion).

Missouri Standards

US History
3aW:  Describe and evaluate the evolution of United States domestic and foreign policies including the Cold War.
3aY:  Describe the changing character of American society and culture.
6N:  Predict the consequences that can occur when institutions fail to meet the needs of individuals and groups.
7A:  Distinguish between and analyze primary and secondary sources.
7C:  Distinguish between fact and opinion and analyze sources to recognize bias and points of view.


Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed
  • “Public Opinion and the Media”, Teacher Curriculum Institute
Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
  • “The ‘Marshall Plan Speech’ at Harvard University, 5 June 1947”

  • Spier, Jo. “The Marshall Plan and You.” Illustration. The Hague, the Netherlands: Ministry of Economic Affairs, 1949, Papers, Manuscript Division.
  • (Oct 8, 2011).
  • Marcus, Edwin. “Can He Block It?” Cartoon. New York, New York Times, 1947. From the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division  (October 8, 2011)..

  • Block, Herbert. “It’s the same thing without mechanical problems.” Illustration. Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post. January 26, 1949. From the Library of Congress Herblock’s History: Political Cartoons from the Crash to the Millennium Exhibit. (October 9, 2011).

  • Marcus, Edwin. “While the Shadow Lengthens.” Cartoon. New York: New York Times, March 14, 1948. From the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. (October 8, 2011).

  • Smith, Dorman. “He’s Finally Getting the Hang of It.” Cartoon. Phoenix: The Phoenix Gazette, 1949. Reprinted in The Rotarian, October 1949, p.9.’s++%22He’s+finally+getting+the+Hang+of+it%22&source=bl&ots=Wpuk5_kXBk&sig=V9MmhEZeuR11EzSNsWGQAvSEjIA&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false  (October 9, 2011). 

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

Together, the teacher and students activities will include:


  • Students will read George Marshall’s Commencement Address at Harvard University in June, 1947. After reading the third and fourth paragraphs, students will work in pairs to develop a list of problems or issues in Europe that needed to be addressed for the European recovery to occur.
  • Students will read the fifth paragraph through the end. Students should specify reasons for America to support the European Recovery Plan as outlined in Marshall’s commencement address.
  • Students will review the series of cartoons or images listed above and determine what each cartoon means and whether the public should support the Marshall Plan. Use TACOS.
Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide
  • Students will use their notes and information obtained from class discussions to write a persuasive paper explaining why the Marshall Plan should be undertaken and what rationale is most important.