A House Divided Speech Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Who presented the 'A House Divided' speech and what was its overall message? This lesson plan uses a text lesson to outline key facts about Abraham Lincoln's influential speech. An activity connects students with the actual words of America's 16th president.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the events that led up to Abraham Lincoln's 'A House Divided' speech
  • summarize Abraham Lincoln's 'A House Divided' speech
  • explain the impact of Abraham Lincoln's 'A House Divided' speech


60 to 90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).


Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.


Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.


  • Paper copies of the text lesson Abraham Lincoln's A House Divided Speech, one for each student
  • A worksheet created using the quiz from the associated text lesson, one for each student
  • Photocopied transcripts of Abraham Lincoln's 'A House Divided' speech
  • Poster board
  • Markers and colored pencils


  • Begin by writing the following sentence on the board for the class: 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.'
    • What does this sentence mean?
    • Has anyone ever heard this before?
  • Pass out the paper copies of Abraham Lincoln's A House Divided Speech.
  • Tell the class to read the 'A House Divided' and 'Missouri Compromise' sections of the text lesson.
    • Did anyone know that Abraham Lincoln spoke those words in his speech against slavery?
    • What does 'a house divided' mean in regard to slavery?
    • What was the Missouri Compromise and why was it important in terms of slavery?
  • Have the class read 'The Compromise of 1850' section of the text lesson.
    • How did the Compromise of 1850 change things on the issue of slavery?
  • Ask the class to read the 'Kansas-Nebraska Act', 'Dred Scott', and 'Early Politics' sections of the text lesson.
    • How did the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision change the political landscape for Abraham Lincoln?
  • Have the class read the 'A House Divided Speech', 'Crisis' and 'Biblical Reference' sections of the text lesson.
    • Were any of you aware that the 'A House Divided' speech cited a biblical reference?
    • Why wasn't the end of slavery the focus of Abraham Lincoln's speech?
    • Tell the class to read the rest of the text lesson.
    • Who was Abraham Lincoln pointing to with the term 'machine'?
    • Was Abraham Lincoln's 'A House Divided Speech' successful? Why or why not?
  • Pass out the worksheet and instruct the students to work independently to complete it.
  • When all students have finished the worksheet, review each question and answer with the class as students follow along, checking their wok.

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