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Civil War
Lesson Plan

A Civil War Overview

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3rd Place, Best Lesson Plan Contest 2010-2011

Grade Level: Elementary

Approximate Length of Time:  Three 50 minute classes


  1. Students will be able to describe the state of the nation and sequence the first events of the war.
  2. Students will be able to discuss the effects of the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, paying particular attention to the Gettysburg Address.
  3. Students will be able to list and discuss the sequence of events leading to the end of the Civil War.


  1. Students will listen to and present their reaction to the Sullivan Ballou letter.
  2. Students will summarize and place in chronological order events of the Civil War. 
  3. Students will engage in a group discussion concerning the meaning and significance of the Gettysburg Address. 
  4. Students will present facts about a particular battle and how individuals involved may have reacted by creating an interview that could have taken place post-battle.
  5. Students will summarize the end of the Civil War from the perspective of either a Union or Confederate soldier.


Download the lesson plan, along with the following materials, at the bottom of this page.

  • Sullivan Ballou Letter (Primary Document)
  • Battle / Event Cards
  • Battle/ Event Summary Clue Sheet
  • Battle/ Event Trading Cards (Timeline activity)
  • Movie Maker Civil War Battles/ Events
  • Gettysburg Address (Primary Document)
  • Civil War Radio Handout
  • Computer or recording device

Anticipatory Set/ Hook:

  1. Imagine you are 16 years old and you want to sign up to join the army.  They will not take you unless you are over 18. 
  2. Take out a small piece of scrap paper.  Write the number 16 on the paper.
  3. Take off your right shoe.  Place the paper in your shoe and put it back on.  Be sure the paper is under your foot. 
  4. Now, stand up and raise your right hand.  Repeat after me: I do solemnly swear that I am over 18.  You now are all new recruits in the army and you did not lie about your age!  Yes, this did happen.


Activity 1

  1. Teacher reads the letter from Sullivan Ballou to the class.  This is a primary document written one week before he was killed at the Battle of Bull Run.  Using the discussion questions, give children time to discuss their feelings after the reading.
  2. Pass out a set of Battle/Event Cards to each group of between 3 and 5 students.  Have them read the cards orally to their group.
  3. Pass out the Battle/Event Summary Clue sheets to each group.  Still working with their group, write a paragraph to create a summary of each battle or event of the Civil War.  The clues will guide the thoughts of the paragraph.  Students should take turns writing their group summary, handing in one summary paragraph per battle or event.

Activity 2

  1. Pass out the Battle/Event Trading Cards to each student.  Have students cut out the cards and place them in chronological order by the dates on the cards.  Glue them either on construction paper or into interactive notebook. 
  2. Show the Civil War Animated Map to check their chronological order.
  3. Pass out copies of the “Gettysburg Address” to each child.  Read over it individually and then orally.  The oral reading can be done by children, the teacher, or watch the Gettysburg Address video.  Have children write down two or three thoughts about the address.  Then have an oral discussion with the children giving their ideas on the meaning and significance of the speech.

Activity 3

  1. Students will create an imaginary Civil War Radio News Show.  In this show students will announce the major battles and events of the Civil War. 
  2. Place students into groups of 3-5.  Each group will have one event or battle.  Some groups may have to write two scripts if you do not have 8 groups.
  3. Pass out the Civil War Radio Show direction packets to each group and review the directions. 
  4. After the scripts are complete, call each group up in chronological order to read and record their portion of the show.  Record into the computer or another recording device.
  5. Play back the show as a review of the Battles and Events of the Civil War.


Children will choose to be a soldier from the North, or a soldier from the South.  The time is after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  Write a paragraph telling how you feel and why you feel that way.  The paragraph should be at least 5 sentences long and contain a reference to at least one of the eight battles or events we have been studying.


  • Summary Sheet completed from information cards.
  • Trading Cards placed in chronological order.
  • Informal assessment through class discussion of Gettysburg Address.
  • Radio Show presentations.
  • Paragraph written from view of a soldier after the war.


  • The radio show can also be turned into a play with costumes and props. 
  • Using Movie Maker program, have children create a movie to review people and or events of the Civil War.