The Country Goes to War: Traditional Middle School Lesson Plan

Grades: Middle School

Approximate Length of Time: 50 minutes

Goal: Students will be able to explain the state of the nation and list the sequence of events leading to the Civil War.


  1. Students will be able to complete a timeline of events from the election of Lincoln to the First Battle of Manassas.
  2. After reading primary source documents from leaders and from citizens, students will be able to discuss how individuals felt about the coming war.
  3. Students will be able to identify the Southern states, Northern states, and border states on a map of the United States.

Common Core:

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

Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

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. Entrance Pass
  2. The Country Goes to War PowerPoint
  3. The Country Goes to War PowerPoint Student Note Sheet
  4. The Country Goes to War PowerPoint Student Note Sheet (Teacher Version)
  5. 1860 U.S. Map Worksheet
  6. Labeled 1860 U.S. Map (for teacher use)
  7. Pencils in 3 Different Colors
  8. Exit Pass

Anticipatory Set/Hook:

Using the Entrance Pass, have students provide three significant events or developments that led up to the American Civil War.


Review the PowerPoint before class.

Activity 1

  1. Hand out The Country Goes to War PowerPoint Student Note Sheet.
  2. Present The Country Goes to War PowerPoint.
  3. The students should complete the note sheet during the presentation.

Activity 2

  1. Hand out the 1860 U.S. Map Worksheet and have students fill in the Northern states, Southern states, and border states using different colors as a class. See Labeled 1860 U.S. Map as a guide.
  2. Have the students answer the follow-up question.


  1. Have students watch the In4 Video, Union with Dr. Gary Gallagher.
  2. Discuss why the idea of Union was so important.
  3. Revisit why South Carolina left.
  4. Discussion Question or Journal Question: What are some of the reasons why the war broke out?

Assessment in this Lesson:

  1. Entrance Pass completed with three events or developments that pushed the United States toward civil war.
  2. A completed The Country Goes to War PowerPoint Student Note Sheet.
  3. A colored and labeled map of the U.S. in 1860 with follow-up question.
  4. Informal assessment through conclusion discussion. Or journal entry.