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The thirteen days of the Cuban Missile Crisis is the closest humanity has ever come to a full scale nuclear conflict and represents the hottest moment of the Cold War. When Soviet missiles entered Cuba President Kennedy assembled his team to figure out how to handle the development. Many called for an invasion of the island and pointed to the urgent need to do this before the missiles could be used. So why didn’t Kennedy order our armed services to carry out the attack?
In this DBQ, you will be provided with secret White House audio tape transcriptions, recorded minutes from declassified NSC meetings, and abridged versions of private letters exchanged between Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro. These documents are arranged chronologically and labeled by day so that you can track the progression of the crisis.
Answering the questions in the DBQ will take 2.5 class periods. After, there are optional tracks you can take with your students to help them process the materials, but each method seeks to answer the question: “How should we remember the Cuban Missile Crisis?”
The DBQ includes:
• An introduction essay contextualizing the DBQ packet (294 words)
• An abridged, chronological, day-by-day account of the crisis. Each day’s text is about 400 words, is a primary source, fits onto one sheet of paper, and includes a question at the end of the page. (Note: day 2 and 4 are short secondary sources consolidated around day 3’s events)
• A list of the characters appearing in the DBQ along with their job titles and responsibilities.
The three supplemental tracks included are:
• An artistic route. Students will create a poster pitching a film based on the crisis. Instructions are provided. (1.5 days)
• Writing a 5-paragraph essay. A template for writing an outline and rubric to grade the essays are provided. (3 days)
• A discussion-based class. Open ended questions are provided to you for distribution. (2 days)
The DBQ is supported by:
• A PowerPoint to guide the main lesson and the optional tracks
• Answers to questions appearing in the DBQ packet.
• An essay prompt, outline template, and rubric
• A socratic seminar observation checklist
Want to teach the Cuban Missile Crisis as a simulation instead? I've built another lesson plan that teaches the 13 Days as a simulation and trial.
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