Lesson Plan - 1863: The Shifting Tides
Civil War
Lesson Plan

1863: Shifting Tides

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A Civil War Curriculum Lesson

Grades: High School

Approximate Length of Time: 50 minutes

Goal: Students will be able to describe the effects of the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg and analyze the Gettysburg Address.


  1. Students will be able to place the historical developments between the attack on Fort Sumter and the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg on a timeline and a map.
  2. Students will be able to discuss the political, social, and military effects of the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
  3. Students will be able to analyze the impact of the Gettysburg Address during the Civil War and evaluate its importance and relevance today.


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


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. Break students into pairs
  3. Hand each pair a Battle Card; this will be the battle they are responsible for reporting on during the PowerPoint presentation.
  4. Hand out the Shifting Tides Timeline and Map
  5. Allow students a few minutes to fill in the timeline.
  6. Have the pairs read over the Battle Cards
  7. Be sure to have the pairs identify their battle on their Shifting Tides Map
  8. Begin the PowerPoint presentation—students will fill in battle information on their maps during the discussion.

Activity 2

  1. When you arrive at the Gettysburg Address in the PowerPoint presentation, pass out the Gettysburg Address and read it as a class.
  2. Hand out the Gettysburg Address Questions and review the discussion questions on the worksheet. 
  3. Have students answer the questions independently. 


  1. At this point in the war, Lincoln feels that it is important to go to Gettysburg and give a speech to the American people. Why do you think he chooses this point in the war?
  2. What do you think his speech does for the American people?

Assessment in this Lesson:

  1. Completion of the timeline and map, identifying the time and location of historic events.
  2. Informal assessment through discussion questions in the PowerPoint presentation
  3. Completion of the Gettysburg Address Questions.