Space Race Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Use this lesson plan to explore the Space Race. Create a timeline of events, analyze the significance of the race, and play a game involving key vocabulary.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define key terms related to the Space Race
  • list events of the Space Race in order
  • explain significance of the Space Race


  • 1 hour


  • Chart paper
  • One sketch booklet for each student (each booklet consists of 7 small pieces of paper stapled together at the top and tabbed/numbered along the bottom)

Key Vocabulary

  • Cold War
  • Communism
  • Acrimonious
  • Capitalism
  • Sputnik
  • American Apollo program
  • Soviet Soyuz
  • Apollo 11

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4

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.


  • Tell students they will be learning about an important aspect of modern history, the Space Race. Direct them to take notes on a timeline graphic organizer in their notebooks.
  • Start video lesson The Space Race: Definition, History & Timeline.
  • Pause at 2:07. Ask:
    • Why did the Soviet Union and United States want to influence allies after World War II?
    • How were the Soviet Union's economy and United States' economy different?
    • What was the cause of the Cold War in terms of military forces and weapons?
  • Play the remainder of the video.
  • Allow students to share their timeline organizers with each other, retelling the Space Race story for clarification.
  • Discuss:
    • Why was the Space Race especially important to the Soviet Union and United States?
    • Explain other factors that made the Space Race significant.
    • What role did Sputnik play in the Space Race?
    • Why were President Kennedy's remarks about landing a man on the moon surprising?
    • Who won the Space Race? What was the impact on relations between the two nations?
  • Together with students, create a complete timeline of events of the Space Race. Record on chart paper and include key vocabulary.


  • Divide students into groups of 6. Give each student a sketch booklet and explain the rules of the game Telestrations:
    • Students write a vocabulary term on the first page then flip to the next page and draw a depiction of that vocabulary term.
    • Next, students pass their sketch booklets to the right. Each student looks at the new picture in hand to guesses what the image is depicting. They write the answer on the next blank page.
    • Students pass the sketch booklets to the right again. Now, on the next blank page, each students draws a new picture depicting the word written by the previous person.
    • Continue guessing, drawing and passing until all pages are filled.
  • Assign each student in a group a different vocabulary term by whispering it in their ear.
  • Have the students play one complete round of Telestrations, then have them share the contents of their sketch booklets with each other.


  • Have students research the astronauts involved in the Space Race and complete a biography reporting on their lives.
  • Research current space exploration. Compare and contrast to the Space Race.
  • Ask students to imagine they were on the first space launch. Write a reflective essay on the experience.

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