Bleeding Kansas Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

As the events in Bleeding Kansas demonstrated, sometimes democracy is far from civil. With this lesson plan, students will be able to see how popular sovereignty led to open violence.

Lesson Objectives

Following this lesson, students should be able to:

  • describe the events of Bleeding Kansas
  • analyze how these events demonstrated a shift towards open hostility on the question of slavery


  • 40 minutes plus 50 minutes for activity

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.

Key Terms

  • Popular sovereignty
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act
  • Bleeding Kansas


  • Start this lesson by reviewing some of the past attempts made to find a compromise between the free states and the slave states. Write key events and points in history on the board.
  • As a class, watch the lesson Bloody Kansas: Causes, Effects and Summary of Events, pausing for key terms and the following points of discussion:
    • 1:06 - What made the acquisition of new territories both a boon and a bust?
    • 3:12 - Why did so many people move to Kansas? What was the reaction of the settlers already in Kansas?
    • 6:02 - How did the effects of Bleeding Kansas reach far beyond its borders? What ultimately ended the controversy on what kind of state Kansas would become?

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