Antietam and Emancipation Inquiry Middle School Lesson Plan

Grade Level: Middle School

Approximate Length of Time: 4 hours

Goal: Students will be able to discuss a number of reasons the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in September 1862 and Americans’ feelings surrounding the issuance.


  1. Students will be able to read primary and secondary source documents and answer questions related to the content of the document.
  2. Students will be able to complete a graphic organizer, finding key information regarding primary and secondary sources.
  3. Students will be able to address a question about a historic event, providing evidence for their answer using primary and secondary sources.

Common Core:

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


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.

Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.

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
6—Power, Authority, and Governance
10—Civics, Ideals, and Practices


This is an inquiry lesson where students will do research to answer the inquiry question about Emancipation in 1862. 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. The PowerPoint presentation will serve as the guide for the lesson, providing a sequence for the lesson, listing when documents should be reviewed, and providing leading questions.

Inquiry Question:

Why was the Emancipation Proclamation issued in September 1862?


  • PowerPoint presentation
  • Antietam Animated Map
  • Vocabulary
  • Notes Sheet
  • Secondary Source Packet
  • Primary Source Packet
  • Antietam and Emancipation Essay
  • National Archives Document Analysis Worksheet
  • Storyboard

Pre-lesson Prep:

  • Depending on your students this lesson might work best as a self-guided lesson or a lesson where they work with a partner.
  • Pre-read the PowerPoint. There are videos mentioned in the PowerPoint, which are not linked; therefore, be sure to cue the videos ahead of time.
  • Print copies for each student of the Vocabulary and Notes Sheet
  • Print out the Primary and Secondary Source Document Packets for each student. Students should have highlighters ready – they should highlight and takes notes all over these documents.
  • Print out copies of the National Archives Document Analysis Worksheet, the students will use this form for each document. There are a number of primary and secondary documents; therefore, a notebook or Word Document where they answer each of the questions on the Analysis Worksheet will save you a lot of printing. They should stay organized and label each page with the document they are taking notes on. 
  • Print out copies of Antietam and Emancipation Essay for each student.
  • Print a copy of the Storyboard for each student.


  1. Review the Vocabulary and begin the first few slides of the PowerPoint.
  2. Sow the Antietam Animated Map.
  3. Hand out the Notes Sheet, National Archives Document Analysis Worksheet, and Document Packets.
  4. Continue with the PowerPoint, which will provide guidance on when to use the documents, show videos, and discuss questions.


  1. Provide each student with a copy of the Storyboard.
  2. Students will answer the inquiry question by completing the Storyboard.
  3. They should use evidence from their primary and secondary source documents – they can cite the documents by putting the author’s last name in parenthesis at the end of a quote or sentence in which the document is referenced. Since all of the documents will be from the packet, there are no page numbers provided to include in the citation.

Assessment in this Lesson:

  1. Oral responses to questions throughout the PowerPoint
  2. A completed Notes Sheet
  3. Completed National Archives Document Analysis on each document
  4. A Storyboard providing a complete answer to the inquiry question supported with evidence from the provided documents