The Cold War Across Time (1945–1990): A Jigsaw with Expert Groups

by Wendy Thowdis


To discover the impact the Cold War had on multiple aspects of life, both in the United States and around the world, by exploring changes over time. 

Overview of Jigsaw Process

Expert Groups will create four timelines relating to key political and economic events and policies that occurred between 1945 and 1990 as a result of the Cold War. With timelines in hand, each member of the Expert Groups will create seven Home Groups and share their timeline information. These Home Groups will then create one Essential Question and five critical thinking questions that tie all four timelines together to analyze the impact the Cold War.


Create four Expert Groups (7–8 in each group):        

  • Space Race
  • Arms Race
  • Vietnam War
  • Defense Spending (as a percent of the total US budget)

These groups are to research and decide on ten of the most events in time for their subject that reflect the impact of the Cold War. When the group has selected these ten points, they are to plot them on a timeline with a brief explanation of each event's importance and print a copy of this timeline for each group member.

A good document to begin with: 

Other helpful sources include:

For upper elementary students and students who have trouble reading longer documents, use the following reading excerpts from Gilder Lehrman:

Create seven Home Groups with one Expert from each of the above areas.

  • Each Expert will briefly discuss their timeline by explaining why its ten events were selected.
  • The Home Group will then create an Essential Question about the impact of the Cold War based on all four timelines.
  • The Home Group will next create five critical thinking questions (Bloom) for students to answer which will guide them in analyzing the events and policies of the Cold War.

Each group will share their work by reading their Essential Question and their five guiding questions out loud.

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