Emancipation Proclamation Lesson Plan for High School

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson will help your students understand the purpose and the controversies surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation. Students will watch a video lesson, collaborate with other students, and test their knowledge with a short quiz.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define the Emancipation Proclamation
  • understand the purpose and the limits of the Emancipation Proclamation
  • discuss the controversies surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation


This lesson will take 45-90 minutes.

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

Materials Needed

  • Sticky notes
  • Chart paper


  • abolish
  • emancipation
  • executive power
  • liberate
  • propaganda
  • ultimatum


To activate prior knowledge, divide students into small groups. Have each group work together to describe what the Emancipation Proclamation is. Have each group write their definition on a sticky note and place it on chart paper in the front of the room. Combine each group's definition to create one class definition to write on the chart.

Watch the video lesson The Emancipation Proclamation: Creation, Context and Legacy as a class. Pause at 2:42.

Provide each small group with a sheet of chart paper. Have each group fold their chart paper in half. On the top half, students will write the reasons Lincoln felt compelled to issue the Proclamation. On the bottom half, students will write the reasons Lincoln hesitated to issue the Proclamation. Provide each group the opportunity to share their answers.

Continue watching the video. Pause at 6:36.

Have groups add to their reasons in both columns and share with the class.

Watch the remainder of the video.

Use the lesson's printable worksheet to check for understanding.

Have each group create a skit or a video in which they explore one of the following questions:

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