Shifting Tides 1863: Traditional High School Lesson Plan

This is a photograph of Abraham Lincoln.

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.

Common Core Standards:

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

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. Highlighters
  3. Shifting Tide Timeline and Map
  4. Shifting Tide Timeline Teacher Version
  5. The Gettysburg Address
  6. Gettysburg Address Questions


Print out the PowerPoint with notes prior to class. There are notes included with the slides that will 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.
  3. 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
  3. Have students answer the questions independently. The last question can be answered on a separate piece of paper.


  1. Why do you think Lincoln comes out and gives an address at this time?
  2. What do you think his speech does for the American people?

Assessment in This Lesson:

  1. Completion of the timeline and map
  2. Informal assessment through discussion questions in the PowerPoint presentation
  3. Completion of the Gettysburg Address Questions.