John Wilkes Booth Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teach your students about John Wilkes Booth with this interactive lesson plan. Students will read an informational, non-fiction text explaining Booth's life and plot to assassinate Lincoln, take a quiz, and apply learning to an activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • outline John Wilkes Booth's plot and assassination of Abraham Lincoln
  • discuss Booth's life and actions as a Confederate


1 - 1.5 hours


  • Copies of the lesson John Wilkes Booth: History & Facts, one for each student
  • Collection of primary source documents about Booth and the assassination of Lincoln, such as newspaper clippings, including photographs; one set for each group
  • Eyewitness accounts of Lincoln's assassination, found with a simple search; one for each group
  • Images of the Ford's Theater, both inside and out

Key Vocabulary

  • William Shakespeare
  • Slavery
  • John Brown
  • Abolitionist
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Confederate States of America
  • Civil War
  • Ford's Theater
  • Andrew Johnson
  • William Seward

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2

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.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3

Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.


  • Engage students with the topic by showing them images of the Ford's Theater and tell them the name of the location. Does anyone know what happened there? What is the significance of the location?
  • Share thoughts as a whole group, then tell students they will be learning about the person who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth. Ask:
    • Why do you think Booth assassinated Lincoln?
    • What type of character traits may Booth have had?
    • How may his background have contributed to the assassination?
  • Distribute copies of the lesson John Wilkes Booth: History & Facts and read the section 'Booth the Actor' together and compare content to the previous discussion.
  • Now have students read 'Booth the Confederate,' 'The Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln,' and 'The Assassination at Ford's Theater.'
  • Tell each group they will be reading an eyewitness account of the assassination and distribute documents.
  • Have groups read their eyewitness account together as you create a chart on the board labeled 'Who, Where, When, and What.'
  • Instruct each group to choose one person to fill in the chart with their witness's name, where they were, when they gave the account, and what the account was.
  • When all groups are finished, read the chart together and discuss the similarities and differences between accounts. Ask:
    • Are there any discrepancies?
    • What may account for them?
    • Which accounts do you find reliable or unreliable? Why?
  • Have students read the section 'Booth is Captured' and share primary source documents with each group that detail the capture and subsequent events.

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