Shifting Tides 1863: Traditional Elementary Civil War Lesson Plan

This is a photograph of Abraham Lincoln.

Grades: Elementary

Approximate Length of Time: 50 minutes

Goal: Students will be able to discuss the effects of the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, paying particular attention to the Gettysburg Address.


  1. Students will list the sequence of events leading to the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg and highlight each event on a map.
  2. Students will summarize the meaning of the Gettysburg Address.

Common Core Standards:

Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

NCSS Standards for Social Studies:

2—Time, Continuity, and Change
3—People, Places, and Environment
5—Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
6—Power, Authority, and Governance
10—Civics, Ideals, and Practices


  1. Shifting Tides PowerPoint
  2. Shifting Tides Timeline and Map
  3. Shifting Tides Timeline Answer Key
  4. Two Highlighters of Different Colors
  5. Gettysburg Address
  6. The Gettysburg Address in Your Own Words


Print out the PowerPoint with notes prior to class. There are notes included with the slides that can be on the printed slides, but won’t be seen by your students during the presentation.

Activity 1

  1. Use the Shifting Tides PowerPoint to guide the lesson.
  2. Hand out the Shifting Tides Timeline and Map, copied back to back.
  3. Allow students a few minutes to fill in the timeline.
  4. As you discuss the events on the PowerPoint, students should highlight each battle on their maps according to whether it was won by the Union or Confederacy. They may create their own key using the boxes located on the Shifting Tides Timeline and Map worksheet. Students should also keep a tally of the “winners” for each battle.
  5. When you arrive at the Gettysburg Address in the PowerPoint, pass out the Gettysburg Address, read it as a group, and discuss its meaning as a class.

Activity 2

  1. Give each student a copy of The Gettysburg Address in Your Own Words. Review the discussion questions on the worksheet. Students should use the questions to help them work out the meaning of the address.


  1. Allow students to share their completed The Gettysburg Address in Your Own Words.
  2. Discuss why the Gettysburg Address is still significant today (Maybe how the Union remained to today, maybe how we see sacrifice for the democratic ideals of the Constitution to this day. Maybe how we still struggle as a society with issues in a government run ‘by the people.’)

Assessment in This Lesson:

  1. Completed Shifting Tides Timeline and Map
  2. Informal assessment through discussion
  3. Completed The Gettysburg Address in Your Own Words