Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Marking Time
Nancy H. Muller
Social Studies 20th century
Time Frame:
Two 45-minute class periods, work ongoing throughout the unit, plus homework. Because of the nature of the project, total time lapse will be six weeks.
Cold War

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Students will create a timeline of the period 1950-1989.   This will be used at the beginning of the unit on the latter part of the 20th century.  It will be an ongoing project as we work through the unit.   The actual timeline will hang in the middle school hall.  This will be a class project, but each 8th grader will be responsible for a portion of the timeline.  These years were chosen because they include the beginning of the Korean War and end with the fall of Communism in Europe. 


A timeline is an effective way in which students may participate in history.  This “Marking Time” timeline will be ongoing and student-centered.  It is a way to catapult students into this period of history.  I would like to give the students a skeleton of this period (the timeline), then build on the skeleton.  Since this year is the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, we will be honoring our veterans on Veterans’ Day (November11), with special tribute being paid to the Korean vets.  The timeline, which will be hanging in the hall, will help prove to our vets that history is an important part of our curriculum.  It will be an effective method to get through this part of the 20th century.  This will also segue into the lesson plan “Bomb Shelter,” also to be used with 8th graders.

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

  • Show-Me Standards:  #2 In Social Studies, students in Missouri public schools will acquire a solid foundation which includes knowledge of relationships continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world.  (As students work through the timeline, they will understand how the United States provided the continuity factor for the world, yet they will see change as the attitude of the US changes.)
  • NCSS:  #VI  Power, Authority & Governance “f:  identify and describe factors that contribute to cooperation and cause disputes within and among groups and nations”   (As students work on the timeline, they will see examples of countries differing in opinion and going to war over the differences)
  • National Geography Standard Essential Element IV:  Human Systems:  Standard 13  “How the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth’s surface”  (As students work on timeline, they will see how cooperation and conflict, in fact, change boundaries –EG: 38th parallel).


Benchmark 4: The student engages in historical thinking skills

1. (A) examines a topic in United States history to analyze changes over time and makes logical inferences concerning cause and effect.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • “Killed in Korea: The Untold Story,” VFW magazine Korean War Special 60th Anniversary Issue, June-July, 2010, pages 18-19

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

Technology Required:

Access to a computer with internet

Full description of activity or assignment.
  • On SmartBoard, display Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC.  Possible link:  www.Panoramio.com
  • Review terminology “Truman Doctrine,” “communism,” USSR,” “containment,” domino theory.”  Use definitions in textbook.
  • Introduce unit by reading “Killed in Korea” The Untold Story” with class.   
  • Play www.YouTube.com  clip : Harry Truman on Korea”
  • Play http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjWDrTXMgF8  clip:  Reagan:  Tear down this wall speech.
  • Discuss the connection of these two clips.  (Truman is just venturing into South Korea, trying to save it from communism.  Reagan, at the other end, sees communism in Europe as a failure and is asking the Soviets to get rid of the line that divides.)

Divide students into small discussion groups (3-4).  For five minutes, ask students to brainstorm about Korean War, Vietnam War, Iranian Hostage Crisis and anything else 1950-1989.  At the end of that time, brainstorm on board or SmartBoard.  From this list, choose 2 or 3 items/people that could be used on a timeline (EG: Dwight Eisenhower becomes president 1952). 

Explain the concept of the timeline as an ongoing study line through this unit. 

On 3x5 cards, write decades 1950-60, 1960-70, 1970-80, 1980-90.  Have enough cards made so that each student will have a choice of a decade.  Student will be responsible for one event and one person in that decade that is different from the other students’ choices.  Student will hand in short explanation of the choice.  When that has been approved, he/she will submit a short essay (1-1 ½ pages), explaining why this person/event is of importance to its decade.

Each student will be issued two pieces of pre-cut foam board, approximately 2’ x 1’.  On the boards, the student will prepare his/her addition to the timeline.  This might include artwork, symbols, pictures, date, and explanation of the chosen person or event chosen.  Timeline will be ongoing throughout the unit.


Name ______________________                            Date submitted____________


Poster Section


____  10 points   Poster was handed in on date requested.


____   25 points    Presentation: Poster clearly illustrates the event on the timeline.   The

symbols and pictures make the historical event clear to all.  Every item on the            poster pertains to the event listed.   All space on the poster is used well.  Pictures on the poster are large enough to be seen at a comfortable distance.   Date is clearly placed on the poster. 


____   15 points   Neatness:  Poster is clean and neat.  Writing is legible and large enough

                             to be read at a comfortable distance.   Words are spelled correctly. 

                             Correct grammar is used.




TOTAL POINTS:            /50                        Letter Grade:   A   B   C    D    F



Teacher Comments:







 Name ____________________________                             Date _____________


Decade ____________________



1.  Please name the event you consider significant to the decade.   What impact did this event have on history?



2.  Why is this event significant?




3.  How does this event connect with other events in the decade?





4.  Which person have you chosen?




5.  What important contribution did this person make to the decade?






6.  Does this person connect with the event you have chosen?  Explain





This event is acceptable for the timeline.  Poster will be due on _______________.

The person is acceptable for the timeline.  Poster will be due on ______________.


Teacher’s comments:


Name ______________________                              Date________________


1.  Which date have you selected for the timeline?




2.  State three reasons why you think this date should be included:








3.  State the cause-effect relationship between this date, and at least two other dates on the timeline.  (One cause, one effect)







4.  In one paragraph, please describe how you will display this date and why.  What picture or symbol will you use and why?
















5.  How will you label your entry on the timeline?










Name _____________________                    Title of Essay ________________


Date Submitted (same as date posters are due): __________________________


____  10 points           Title page includes title of short essay, centered;  your name, 

                                    Social Studies/8, and the date in the lower right-hand corner.


_____ 15 points          Essay clearly states the theme—i.e., the reason this event or person

                                    should be included on the class timeline.   Your argument should

                                    include connections to other events and persons of that decade.     

                                    Essay should be convincing.


_____ 15 points          Essay is grammatically correct.  Spelling is accurate.  Essay

                                    includes a logical beginning, middle and end.


_____  10 points         Essay was turned in on time.




TOTAL:       /50                       LETTER GRADE:    A     B      C      D       F


Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • There will be two assessments: one on the actual contribution to the timeline, and one on the short essay.  These can for both the event and person contributions.