Tools for Teachers

Resources from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs:

The fiftieth anniversary of the Crisis presents an excellent opportunity to engage your students in thinking about this decisive chapter in American and world history.

The original lesson plan (below) was created by Belfer Center research staff to help your students learn about the context and conduct of the Missile Crisis. The plan offers innovative in-class exercises and worksheets as well as simulations that allow students to role-play the crisis as members of the Kennedy Administration.

We welcome feedback and suggestions for improvements.

Table of Contents

1. Learning Objectives and Guiding Questions

  • List of three objectives and questions to help teachers frame the lesson about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War.

2. Lesson Plan

  • Guide to teaching the Crisis, including topics to cover, links to resources, and discussion questions.

3. Worksheets

  • Suggested essay topics, including: (1) whether the USSR should place nuclear missiles in Cuba; (2) how the Crisis could have gone nuclear; (3) what decision JFK should make on October 27, 1962; and (4) Kennedy’s lesson from the Crisis.

4. Simulations

  • Simulation plans, including: (1) whether the USSR should place nuclear missiles in Cuba; (2) how the Crisis could have gone nuclear; and (3) what decision JFK should make on October 27, 1962.

Resources from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum:

Lesson Plan on the Cuban Missile Crisis: How to Respond?

Download the lesson plan, ‘The President’s Desk — a Resource Guide for Teachers: Grades 4-12 (p. 71-73)

The President’s Desk: A Resource Guide for Teachers, Grades 4-12

Visit the President’s Desk of John F. Kennedy’s Oval Office.

Resources from the National Endowment for the Humanities:

Lesson Plan for Grade levels 9-12

This lesson examines how this crisis developed, how the Kennedy administration chose to respond, and how the situation was ultimately resolved. By examining both government documents and photographs students will put themselves into the role of President Kennedy during this crucial period, considering the advice of key administration figures and deciding on a course of action.

Teaching American History

This interactive tool puts the student in the role of President Kennedy, having to decide among several options for responding to the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. By clicking on the names of individual advisers, students can read the views of men such as Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Resources from the Learning Network based on content from The New York Times

Flash Points: Searching for Modern Lessons in the Cuban Missile Crisis

This lesson plan, accompanied by photographs from The New York Times’ picture library, contains activities for students to examine what took place during the 13 days of October 1962, and to dig deeper into factors that made the Cuban missile crisis such a turning point.