Adding a theme can provide a layer of fun and purpose to an otherwise dull assignment. While I was searching around for ideas on teaching Cold War Foreign Policy I stumbled upon this gamified lesson from 1999!

Communism and Containment. Grade 10 Lesson. Schools of California Online Resources for Education (SCORE): Connecting California’s Classrooms to the World.

I loved the thematic concept of this activity. “Sleeper” agents were placed into a cryosleep deep in mountains of Utah way back in 1945 along with experimental weapons. They were trained to awaken, assess the US standing in the world, and, if necessary, use the weapons to reassert US Dominance. Of course by 1999 the Cold War was over and the sleepers needed to be reeducated. Pretty fun concept but the lesson was a bit dated; at one point the lesson reminds teachers that students will need to have access to the internet. I polished it up a little bit and tweaked the lesson to fit my crunched timeframe (one 90 minute class) as well as my 2020 state standards.

Here is my updated lesson:

The point of all this is that theme doesn’t have to be an overarching semester long journey. It can be added a class at a time. Theme isn’t a silver bullet but it did provide that initial spark that drove interest in the assignment. Obviously they knew that they weren’t saving humanity for real but that initial hook was enough to get them into the actual work without a challenge.