Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Lesson Plans for Conference at Yalta Activity
Derek Frieling
American History
Time Frame:
Part of one class period for introduction and one full class period for the debate.
World War II
Yalta Conference
World War II

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Students will fulfill the role of the political leaders at the Conference at Yalta and reenact the conference.  They will debate the issues discussed at the conference to determine if they come to the same ends as what actually happened in 1945.  Students will then predict the implications of the conference on the course of the Cold War and our world today.


Many historians agree that basis of the Cold War began at the Conference of Yalta in February 1945.  The leaders at the talks have been criticized for putting the world on the path that polarized the two super powers.  Through this role-play activity, students will become conscious of the motivated factors that led the delegates to come to their conclusions and realize the impact of these decisions.

The Conference at Yalta was the critical point that changed the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union from that of allies to rivals.  The positioning for dominance in the post-World War II world would continue throughout the Cold War and especially during the Truman presidency.  The decisions made during the Conference at Yalta and the Truman Administration still are affecting the world today.

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

MO 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)

2aD-Describe and evaluate the evolution of the United States domestic and foreign policy including the Cold War.

2bG-Examine the wars of the 20th century, including:  causes, comparisons, consequences, and peace efforts.

3B-Compare and contrast governmental systems, current and historical, including those that are democratic and totalitarian.

7B-Distinguish between primary and secondary sources.


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).

1. (K) explains why the United States emerged as a superpower as the result of World War II.

2.(A) 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).

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

Ferrell, Robert H.  Harry S. Truman:  A Life.  Columbia, MO:  University of Missouri Press, 1994.

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

The following is a list of suggested primary sources.

The Yalta Conference Agreement-


Documents concerning the United Nations- http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/un/large/ 

Documents concerning Germany and the Berlin Airlift- http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/berlin_airlift/large/index.php

Documents concerning Japan and the decision to drop the atomic bomb- http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/bomb/large/index.php

Documents concerning the Cold War in the Truman Presidency-

Technology Required:

Primary and secondary sources may be acquired via the Internet

Full description of activity or assignment.

Students will be divided into groups to fulfill the roles of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin at the Conference at Yalta.   Each group will be provided the role sheet for their respective country noted below.  Students will be under strict instruction to fulfill their roles as opposed to personal contemporary beliefs.  Students will familiarize themselves with their roles using the sheets and by conducting additional research using the sources noted above.  Students will then write a paragraph on each issue to prepare a statement of their beliefs and talking points to be pursued in the debate. 

            At a subsequent class, a debate will be held to discuss each issue and determine which option the delegates will agree to at the Conference of Yalta.  Following the debate, a class discussion will debrief the students to determine how closely they mirrored history and discuss the difficulties of the debate considering the factors influencing them.

            Finally, students will examine each of the issues discussed at the Conference of Yalta and trace their development through the Truman Presidency to the modern era.  They will fill out the Yalta Conference Lives On worksheet.  This can be done as a homework assignment or a class project with teacher guidance.



Conference at Yalta

Setting:  World War II is nearly over.  Even though Japan continues to fight on, Italy has been knocked out of the war, and Germany appears to be in the final weeks before it is forced to surrender.  The principle members of the Allies will meet once again to discuss the progress of the war.  However, unlike previous meetings which discussed war tactics, victory in Europe is a forgone conclusion.  The scope of this conference will focus on what to do in the time period following World War II.

Task:  As diplomats of the primary Allied countries, it will be your job to represent your country’s wishes at the Conference at Yalta.  Read the descriptor page describing your country’s desires on various issues concerning World War II and the post-war era.  Determine your country’s position on each of the topics to be discussed at the conference.  Be prepared to defend your country’s stand on the issues and willingness to negotiate a resolve with the other Allied leaders.


Principle Leaders:

            Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain

            Franklin Roosevelt, President of the United States

            Joseph Stalin, Premier of the Soviet Union


Key Issues:

  1. World Organization
  2. Liberated Nations
  3. Post-War Germany
  4. Post-War Poland
  5. Continued War in Japan




Great Britain 

Leader:  Winston Churchill, Prime Minister


*Recognized British politician for over 60 years.


*Veteran of the Boer War and World War I.


*Recognized the Treaty of Versailles had failed and in part led to World War II.


*Predicted the appeasement policy of Neville Chamberlain at the Munich Conference would fail.


*Agreed to the Atlantic Charter with Franklin Roosevelt, which supported self-determination and a new League of Nations.


*Led Great Britain through World War II.  Swore Great Britain would “Never give in” to Adolf Hitler and Germany.



Primary Concerns:


*Feared Great Britain was going to lose power and prestige to the “super powers” following World War II.  Fear of losing control of the British Empire


*Supported democratic nations in Europe and had even housed exile governments during World War II when Germany had invaded their countries (most notably, Lublin government of Poland).


*Had been destroyed by Germany.




United States

Leader:  Franklin Roosevelt, President


*Led the United States through the Great Depression and World War II.


*Had recently been elected to and began serving his fourth term as President.


*Was in very poor health as those close to him saw he was very near to death.


*Recognized the Treaty of Versailles had failed and in part led to World War II.


*Agreed to the Atlantic Charter with Winston Churchill, which supported self-determination and a new League of Nations.


Primary Concerns:


*Twice the United States had been pulled into World Wars.  Wanted to ensure calamities of this nature would never happen again.  United States had a policy of isolationism.


*As America was the “Experiment in Democracy,” there is the desire and belief in the spread of democracy to other countries.


*Greatest number of American deaths was in the Pacific Theater of World War II.  Although Joseph Stalin had asked for assistance in Europe and it was returned with the D-Day invasion and additional support was provided in the Lend-Lease Plan, the Soviet Union had yet to mount an attack against Japan.



Soviet Union

Leader:  Joseph Stalin, Premier


*Leader of the Soviet Union following the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924.


*In attempts of internal reforms, Stalin led the Soviet Union to economic calamity during collectivization attempts.


*Was very paranoid of threats to his control of the Soviet Union and threats of attacks from outside nations.  Within the country, purges were stages to eliminate any threats to his power.  Information from foreign nations were limited and censored while Soviet secrets were not released.

Primary Concerns:


*The Soviet Union suffered the greatest number of deaths (by far) of any of the Allied nations at the conference.


*Germany had twice invaded the Soviet Union (officially Russia the first time) during the World Wars.  Both had led to great loss of territory and millions of lives.  Wants to ensure Germany will never be able to attack their country again.


*Soviet armies had defeated the German forces in Eastern Europe with little help from the other Allied nations.



Conference at Yalta

Diplomacy Sheet


Key Issue

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Option 4

Creation of the United Nations

Dismantle the League of Nations and do not create a replacement

Create a United Nations separate of the League of Nations

Eliminate the League of Nations and create the United Nations

Create a United Nations to work in coordination with the League of Nations

Structure of the United Nations (assuming Option 1 is not chosen in the previous issue)

All nations have free and equal membership in the United Nations

All nations have membership in the United Nations but only the Allied Nations have voting power

All nations are invited to have representation in the United Nations with certain voting privileges given to Allied leaders

United Nations created with two groups-one with non Allied members and one with only Allied members

Liberated Nations

All nations choose new governments democratically by their own people

Nations will choose their own governments with support (influence) from the Allied leaders

Allied leaders will determine new governments for freed countries

Governments restored to pre-war status

German government

German government would be restored to pre-war status

New democratic government would be created

Germany would be occupied and controlled by Allied nations

Allies would let Germany rebuild its government as they saw fit


No reparations

Reparations totaling $22 billion

Reparations totaling $92 billion

German economy would be taken over by the Allies and the Allies would pay to rebuild the country


Lublin government restored (previous government exiled to London during WWII)

Soviet Union create a new Polish government

Create a new democratic government

Poland is eliminated and is divided between the Allied powers


Soviet Union invades Japan immediately

Soviet Union invades Japan within 3 months following the end of war in Europe

Soviet Union does not invade Japan

Soviet Union does not invade Japan if they agree to surrender immediately





Yalta Conference Lives On



Key Issue

Addressed in Truman Administration

Impact of Yalta on Truman Decision

Present Situation

Impact of Yalta and Truman on the World Today

Creation of the United Nations







Structure of the United Nations







Liberated Nations







German government

























Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

Students will be required to write a paragraph on each of the issues discussed at the debate.  They are expected to write a paragraph on which option they prefer and defend their support of that option.  They will bring this paper to the debate and use it as talking points in the course of the debate.

            Following the debate, students will be required to fill out the Yalta Conference Lives On sheet to relate the impact of the resolution on the course of history.