Operation Barbarossa Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students about Operation Barbarossa with this helpful lesson plan. They will study a text lesson, take an accompanying quiz, and participate in a hands-on activity about the doomed military engagement.

Learning Objectives

After studying this lesson on Operation Barbarossa, your students will be able to:

  • Describe Germany's plan and how Operation Barbarossa began
  • Explain what happened instead, and how it mirrored a former plan by Napoleon
  • Recap the impact that the failed plan had on Germany and the remaining several years of World War II


1 - 1.25 hours


  • Copy of the text lesson Operation Barbarossa: Definition & Summary along with the related lesson quiz
  • Internet access
  • Worksheets featuring a 'Word Search' puzzle containing vocabulary terms from Operation Barbarossa (prepared in advance of class, one per pair of students)

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


  • Let your students know they will be studying Operation Barbarossa and ask if anyone has studied the military engagement previously.
  • Pass out copies of the text lesson Operation Barbarossa: Definition & Summary.
  • Read the introduction and the first section titled 'Operation Barbarossa.' Ask:
    • What are four examples of learning from history?
    • How were the two countries involved in the operation? What famous leader did something similar in the early 1800s?
  • Next read the section 'Background to Operation Barbarossa.' Discuss with students:
    • What pact had Germany and the USSR signed previously?
    • How did the book Mein Kampf reveal the details of Germany's plans?
    • For whom was the operation named?
  • Next read the section 'The Plan.' Ask students:
    • Why did Germany want to fight Russia right at the border?
    • What were the three cities that were to be attacked?
  • Now read the section 'Attacking the USSR.' Ask:
    • Why did Germany not attack in May as planned?
    • Why did Russia not prepare for the attack?
    • How did the attack go from being somewhat successful to an unmitigated disaster?
  • Next read the section 'Impact.' Discuss:
    • How did the operation help Germany in the Ukraine?
    • How did fighting on two fronts ultimately hinder Germany?
  • Lastly, read the 'Lesson Summary' about Operation Barbarossa.
  • Have your students take the lesson quiz to determine their grasp of this new material.

Group Discussion and Activity

Group Discussion

  • Allow your students to remain in one large group. Ask them questions that could include:
    • Why do you think Germany didn't learn from history and the failed example that Napoleon set when he invaded Russian in the winter? Was it arrogance? Was it lack of foresight? Were there other reasons?
    • Who suffers more during these horrific wars, the soldiers or the civilians?
    • What would have been a better strategy for the German army?
    • Who had the advantage in the warm months? In the cold months?
  • Conclude this discussion by asking if anyone has any other thoughts on Operation Barbarossa.


  • Let your students know they are going to be doing 'Word Search' puzzles pertaining to Operation Barbarossa.
  • Divide them into pairs.
  • Pass out the worksheets.

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