This lesson will fit in during my Cold War unit so students will already have a background in the containment policy and with Truman’s policies (including the Korean War) during his time.
PowerPoint Presentation – PowerPoint covers the material regarding the Cuban Revolution and their relationship with the USA and the USSR prior to the Missile Crisis. It includes information on the Bay of Pigs. Students will take notes and ask questions as needed during the presentation. (See attached)
After PowerPoint, students will receive a document packet including the documents listed above. It is also possible to hand out the documents individually as they arrive in the film. But, for time’s sake, I would hand them out in a packet. Plus, students often glance through them ahead of time and it can peak their interest.
Start the film of Thirteen Days pausing as necessary to introduce main players. (The film does do this with subtitles, but sometimes it helps to clarify what their roles are.)
Pause the film at critical points that the documents will help clarify. Have the students examine the documents and see what information that they can gather from them. They can recall the film clip or supplement their information to understand the importance of the documents.
I suggest the following points…
Situation Explained (13:13-17:12)
ExComm Meeting #1 – Options are Discussed (19:45-23:10)
Blockade brought into discussion (26:25-27:50)
JFK Leaves Chicago/Update meeting (38:40-41:30)
Address to the Nation (50:30-52:20)
Stevenson Addresses the UN (1:28:15-1:32:25)
Khrushchev Letter #1 (1:43:45-1:44:45)
Khrushchev Letter #2 (1:46:40-1:49:30)
As I pause the film, I also add information that the film might not cover adequately.
Since the lesson will take 2 days, I will assign a short 1-page paper between the two days to have the students look deeper at what is going on. Depending on where in the film the class is will determine what question would be best. I might even let the students choose from multiple options.
Possible ideas include –
Was Kennedy correct in letting the American people know what was going on?
What risks was Kennedy taking in choosing the blockade?
What can we learn about the USSR’s power structure from Khrushchev’s letters?
Why was Cuba so important in the scheme of the Cold War?