Life at War: Inquiry High School Lesson Plan

This image depicts two portraits of Union soldiers posing in their uniforms.

Grades: High School

Approximate Length of Time: 2 hours

Goal: Students will be able to discuss the life of soldiers during the American Civil War.


  1. Students will be able to complete a graphic organizer, finding key information within primary and secondary sources.
  2. Students will be able to address a question about a historic event, providing evidence from primary and secondary sources.

Common Core Standards:

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

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

Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content

Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

NCSS Standards for Social Studies:

2—Time, Continuity, and Change
3—People, Places, and Environment
5—Individuals, Groups, and Institutions


This is an inquiry lesson where students will do research to answer the main, inquiry question about the life for soldiers during the American Civil War. Students will develop a hypothesis, search for evidence in multiple primary and secondary sources, and complete a graphic organizer. Through this process, students will develop a strong answer to the inquiry question posed at the beginning.

Inquiry Question:

What was the American Civil War for those who were the “boots on the ground?”


  • Documents Packet
  • Graphic Organizer
  • Highlighters


  1. Have students begin with a hypothesis to answer the inquiry question.
  2. Students will then read through the Document Packet, filling out the Graphic Organizer as they progress.


Students will answer the inquiry question either orally or in essay form. They should use evidence from their primary and secondary sources. They can use the documents, their notes, the video and their graphic organizer. Students can do additional research to bolster their argument.

Recommended Collections for Letters and Diaries:

Assessment in This Lesson:

  1. A completed graphic organizer
  2. Notes taken on graphic organizer, documents, or other notes sheets
  3. A complete answer to the inquiry question with quotes from the provided documents