Introduction to the Civil War Lesson Plan

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 plan will help introduce your students to the American Civil War. Students will read a text lesson, collaborate with other students to create and perform a skit, and test their knowledge with a short quiz.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain political, social, and economic factors that led to the Civil War
  • Identify leaders and their roles during the Civil War
  • Describe the impact of the Civil War


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.


To activate prior knowledge create a KWL chart with students. Fill out the first two columns of the chart in which students describe what they know and what they want to know about the Civil War.

Read the text lesson The American Civil War: Causes & Impacts as a class. Pause after the 'Social Factors' section to discuss the following:

  • What were the factors that led to political division between the northern and southern states in the mid-1800s?
  • What are states' rights? What are some examples of states' rights that are still disputed today?
  • What was the goal of the Missouri Compromise of 1820?
  • Compare the economies of the northern and southern states. How did the economical differences lead to division?
  • What is an abolitionist?

Continue reading the remainder of the lesson with students. Ask:

  • How did Abraham Lincoln's election lead to the Civil War? What was Abraham Lincoln's role during the Civil War?
  • Compare Jefferson Davis to Abraham Lincoln.
  • Why was Frederick Douglass' role so important?
  • Describe the Caning of Sumner. Do you think something like that could happen today? Why?
  • What were some of the consequences of the Civil War?
  • How did the war impact former slaves?

Revisit the KWL chart to review and complete the final section in which students list the things they learned.

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