What our Berlin Wall lesson plan includes
Lesson Objectives and Overview: Berlin Wall introduces students to the Berlin Wall, which they may have heard about but likely do not understand the history of, and its relationship to World War II and the Cold War. The lesson introduces the students to the history of the wall, from its construction, its use, and to its fall. At the end of the lesson, students will define the Berlin Wall, identify and explain its original purpose, the use of the wall, and the circumstances leading to its demolition. This lesson is for students in 5th grade and 6th grade.
Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, you will need the following supplies: scratch paper, construction paper, colored pencils, and the handouts. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can gather the supplies and copy the handouts.
Options for Lesson
Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One optional addition to this lesson is to invite someone who remembers the construction or demolition of the Berlin Wall to come speak to your class about that experience and what it was like to live through that time in history. Another additional activity is to have your students research other historical walls that have been built throughout history and present their findings to the class. Finally, you can show your class a video of President Ronald Reagan’s speech and have them discuss its impact. You can also have them write their own speech to encourage the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.
The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. It notes that while many students will have likely heard of the Berlin Wall, they may not know its history, significance, and connection to both the Cold War and WWII. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.
BERLIN WALL LESSON PLAN CONTENT PAGES
The Berlin Wall lesson plan includes five pages of content. First, students will learn that they split Germany into two different countries following World War II. The United States, France, and Britain controlled West Germany while the Soviet Union controlled East Germany. Additionally, they split Berlin, Germany’s capital city, into pieces, with one piece controlled by one of the four previously mentioned countries.
In August 1961, the Communist government that controlled East Germany build a wall, called the Berlin Wall, to separate East Germany from West Germany. Nikita Krushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union at the time, ordered the building of the wall to stop people from fleeing to West Germany from East Germany in search of better conditions.
The Wall is Built
Students will learn that they constructed the wall overnight between August 12 and 13, 1961. They originally made it out of barbed wire. People could still cross this wall so they built a larger, more permanent wall made out of concrete that was 66 miles long and 12 feet high! They also set up 300 guard posts to watch the wall and stop people from crossing over. Students will learn that they also called this wall the “Iron Curtain.” The Soviet Union viewed this wall as a way to keep outside influences, like capitalism, out of East Germany. However, other countries saw it as a prison keeping the people of East Germany in. The wall also represented the ongoing conflict between democratic western countries and communist countries of eastern Europe called the Cold War. This was a time of political hostility between the two sides that lasted from 1945 to 1990.
Students will then learn that many people were actually injured or died trying to cross the wall between 1961 and 1989, when the wall came down. They estimate that between 125 and 1,000 people died, though we don’t have an accurate number. The lesson includes some descriptions of some of the people who we know died trying to cross the wall.
The End of the Berlin Wall
In the 1980s, people living in East Germany began fighting for their freedom and the ability to leave the country. They staged mass demonstrations and organized protests. Additionally, many world leaders began speaking out about this issue. The leader of East Germany opened the wall in late 1989 to great celebration. They did not start destroying the wall for a while, but regular people began breaking pieces of it down with sledgehammers and other tools.
Students will also learn that two years before the wall was opened, United States President Ronald Reagan gave a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. He gave this speech to mark the 750th anniversary of Berlin. During this speech, he urged the Soviet Union to tear down the wall. This speech has become very famous because many people believe it directly led or contributed to the wall falling.
Finally, students will learn that the government officially destroyed the wall in 1990. Some pieces of the wall still exist, but are not operational. They’ve preserved these parts of the wall for historic purposes. Germany was also reunified in October 1990. Today, it is a unified, democratic country.
Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:
- Allies: Germany surrendered to them, ending World War II
- Iron Curtain: nickname of the wall and a symbol of political hostility
- Cold War: time of political hostility existing between the Soviet Union and countries it controlled and the U.S.-led Western powers between 1945 and 1990
- Death strip: an area between East and West Germany where buildings had been torn down with nowhere to hide; many people died or were killed here
- Brandenburg Gate: location of the 750th anniversary celebration of Berlin; location of President Reagan’s famous speech
BERLIN WALL LESSON PLAN WORKSHEETS
The Berlin Wall lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.
SPEECH ACTIVITY WORKSHEET
Students will work with a partner to complete this activity. The pairs will work together to discuss and answer three questions related to President Ronald Reagan’s famous speech. They will then use construction paper to create a wall between countries that they think would encourage safe travel. They have to include an opening in the wall, signs, and more.
Students can also work either alone or in larger groups for this activity if you’d prefer.
MATCHING AND SIGNIFICANCE PRACTICE WORKSHEET
For the practice worksheet, students will complete two exercises. The first exercise has students match descriptions with the correct term. Terms include “Allies,” “Brandenburg Gate,” and “Iron Curtain.”
Next, they will read a list of dates and numbers and describe their significance in relation to the Berlin Wall. For example, they will have to identify why the dates and numbers “8/13/1961” and “66” are significant.
BERLIN WALL HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
The homework assignment asks students to read questions about the Berlin Wall and circle the correct answer out of a list of options. Students will use what they’ve learned during this lesson to complete this assignment.
Worksheet Answer Keys
This lesson plan includes answer keys for the activity worksheet, the practice worksheet, and the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.