Lincoln Memorial Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson plan, instructors will have the chance to explain the history and symbolism of the Lincoln Memorial. Students will then explore how the iconography of the memorial connects to themes in US history and will design their own memorials.

Learning Objectives

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

  • Explain the history and ideology surrounding the Lincoln Memorial
  • Identify the iconography and symbolism in the Lincoln Memorial and connect it to themes in American history
  • Begin analyzing art and architecture as non-textual primary sources about American culture and memory


60-90 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.


Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.


Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.


  • Printed copies of Lincoln Memorial: History, Facts & Location and lesson quiz
  • Slideshow of images, including the outside of Lincoln Memorial, a Greek temple, seated statue of Zeus at Olympia, murals and inscriptions inside the Lincoln Memorial, and seated statue of Lincoln


  • Start class with a discussion about Abraham Lincoln.
    • Who was Abraham Lincoln? How do most Americans remember Abraham Lincoln? Why is he remembered this way?
    • Do you think people in the 1860s felt the same way about him as we do today? Why?
  • Distribute copies of the lesson Lincoln Memorial: History, Facts & Location.
  • Break the class into small groups of 2-4. Students will read the lesson in their groups, with one student reading aloud at a time, switching the reader with every paragraph. Using this method, have students read sections ''Honoring the Greatest President'' and ''Architecture and Construction''. Pause here to discuss this information.
    • What kind of considerations go into designing a monument to a president like Lincoln? What perspectives, ideas, and values do you think the artists and architects tried to achieve?
    • What kind of symbolism did they use for the Lincoln Memorial? Why does this matter? (As students mention each point of symbolism, write these on the board - try to come up with five symbols).
  • Have students continue reading the lesson, completing the remaining sections. Discuss this information.
    • Why would so many leaders like Dr. King want to hold rallies in front of the Lincoln Memorial? Why is this a symbolic place to hold a civil rights rally?
    • Do you think the Lincoln Memorial would have been different if it were designed right after Lincoln's death in 1865? Why?
  • You may test student understanding with lesson quiz.

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