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

1863: Shifting Tides

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A Civil War Curriculum Lesson

Grades:  Middle School 

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 be able to create a timeline of events leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg.
  2. Students will be able to discuss the effects of the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
  3. After reading the Gettysburg Address, students will be able to summarize the content.


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

  • Shifting Tide PowerPoint
  • Battle Cards
  • Shifting Tides Timeline and Map
  • Shifting Tides Timeline Teacher Version
  • Blue and black colored pencils
  • The Gettysburg Address
  • The Gettysburg Address Questions


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 during the PowerPoint.
  4. Hand out the Shifting Tides Timeline and Map, copied back to back.
  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; -- students will fill in battle information on their maps as the pairs present.

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; review the discussion questions on the worksheet. 
  3. Given students to answer the questions independently. 


  1. What happened to the United States after its success at Gettysburg and Vicksburg? What happened to the Confederacy?
  2. What do you think will happen next? Do you think the Union will continue to win important battles, or do you think Lee will rally a viable force? Do you think the West will recover?
  3. Why do you think Americans feel as though The Gettysburg Address still speaks to them today? Do you think this is an eternal document? Why?

Assessment in this Lesson:

  • Completed Shifting Tides Timeline and Map
  • Completed The Gettysburg Address Questions
  • Informal assessment through the closure questions