Shifting Tides 1863: Traditional Middle School Lesson Plan

This is a photograph of Abraham Lincoln.

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.

Common Core:

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.

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).

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. Shifting Tides Timeline and Map
  3. Shifting Tides Timeline Teacher Version
  4. Highlighters
  5. The Gettysburg Address
  6. The 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, copied back to back.
  3. Allow students a few minutes to fill in the timeline.
  4. Begin the PowerPoint - students will fill in battle information on their maps throughout the presentation.

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
  3. Give students time to answer the questions independently. 


  1. Why do you think Americans feel that The Gettysburg Address still speaks to them today? Do you think this is an eternal document? Why?

Assessment in this Lesson:

  1. Completed Shifting Tides Timeline and Map
  2. Completed The Gettysburg Address Questions
  3. Informal assessment through the closure questions