Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Pictures of the Berlin Airlift: Primary Sources (Photos and Cartoons) to Motivate Learning
Scott Trusty
Western Civ
Time Frame:
One class session - As a follow-up to the previous day
Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

This lesson will take place during our unit on the Post World War II years. On the previous day I will explain the collapse of cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union. I will explain that Berlin was a key city in the growing dispute because of the occupation of the allied powers in the four zones and the location of Berlin in the Soviet zone. The importance of the Berlin Airlift as one of the first challenges to Soviet expansion will be stressed. The fear of the US that the Soviets were positioning themselves to take over a crumbling Europe will also be addressed. In the usual routine of note taking the students will learn many details of the Berlin Airlift.

For this day's lesson I will explain that most of the primary sources we have used have been some form of document. On this day we will use photos and cartoons from the time period as our primary sources. As an example I will put some transparencies of a cartoon and a couple of photos up and explain what I see in the picture and show the caption that was written for the picture on the WhistleStop site.

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

Show Me Standard:

SS2 - Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States, and the World.

SS7 - The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents).


Benchmark 4: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points of the World Since 1945.

1. (A) analyzes the Cold War as the competition between two competing ideologies or world views and its impact on various regions of the world. (e.g., roots in WWII, Mao’s China; the Cold War in Europe; NATO, Warsaw Pact, and the competition for nonaligned nations; collapse of Communism in Europe).

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in world history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in world history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

Full description of activity or assignment.

Following the introduction of the lesson and the examples that I give to the class, I will pass out the primary sources for the students to use. Each pair of students will receive a packet of two cartoons and seven photos (printed from the WhistleStop web site). The cartoons will be complete with captions, the photos will not have any caption attached. Each pair of students will be asked to describe what they see in the photos. They will then write a caption for each photo explaining the historical background of what is being shown and the importance of that event. There will be three different sets of the cartoons and photos containing similar scenes. If a pair of students is having extreme difficulty with a photo or cartoon they will be able to collaborate with another pair of students with the same packet of sources towards the end of the hour.

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

The student's captions will be checked throughout the hour to see if they are noting key points. During the last ten minutes of class the teacher will post some pictures from each packet and ask for the student's captions; the original caption will then be provided for comparison. Photos or cartoons that were the most difficult for the students to understand will be shown at this time. At the end of the unit a unit test will be given as usual. One of the constructive response questions on the test will be a copy of one of the photos with instructions for the students to explain the historical context for that photo.

Resources and Technology Used: The teacher will print pictures and cartoons from the Berlin Airbridge section of the WhistleStop site. The cartoons and photos will be grouped as follows (highlighted numbers below represent links to individual cartoons in each group) Click on a number to access a cartoon, which you can then print:

Group A = 1 2 3 4

Group B 1 2