Reconstruction Era Activities for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

If your class is learning about the Gilded Age, then the Reconstruction Era is an important time period to study. Use these activities to help your students explore the events and ideas of the Reconstruction Era.

Putting a Nation Back Together

After the Civil War tore the United States apart, the time period known as the Reconstruction Era found Americans trying to heal old wounds and come together once again as a changed nation. When younger students study the Reconstruction Era, they have the opportunity to see how events during these years forever impacted the United States. Students can also examine how different groups of people approached and responded to the efforts to reconcile the nation.

Let's look at some activities to help younger students understand the events of the Reconstruction Era and their importance in American history.

To Punish or Not to Punish

Have students stage a debate about whether or not the Confederate states should have been punished for their actions during the Civil War.

Materials

  • Map of the Union/Confederate states at the end of the Civil War
  • Index cards
  • Pencils

Teacher Directions

  • Show the class a map of the Union/Confederate states at the end of the Civil War. Discuss with students how many people, including the president and Congress, clashed over whether or not the Confederate states should be punished for their actions in the Civil War.
  • Provide each student with an index card and pencil.
  • Have each student list their opinion on whether or not the Confederate states should be punished for leaving the Union. Students should jot down reasons to support their opinion and identify any appropriate consequences the Confederacy should have been given or what conditions they should have had to have met to rejoin the United States.
  • After students have prepared their index cards, have students that support punishing the Confederate states line up on one side of the room, while those who do not support punishing the Confederate states line up on the other side of the room.
  • Have students supporting each viewpoint take turns presenting their opinion and reasoning for supporting or not supporting punishment for the Confederate states.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you still feel the same way after hearing both sides of the argument? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think both President Lincoln and President Johnson supported being more lenient on the Confederate states?

Reconstruction Amendment Skits

Have students use their acting skills to create skits explaining the Reconstruction Amendments.

Teacher Directions

  • Discuss with the class the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Describe how these amendments were proposed in response to issues surrounding the Civil War and how ratification of some of the amendments was used as a condition for Confederate states to re-enter the Union.
  • Divide the class into small groups and assign to each group one of the three amendments.
  • Each group should create a skit to show the meaning of their assigned amendment. For example, a group who is assigned the 15th Amendment could show people of different races being denied the chance to vote before the amendment and then those same people being allowed to vote after.
  • When the groups are finished, have them present their skits to the class.

Discussion Questions

  • Why were the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments important during the Reconstruction Era?
  • Why are the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments still important today?

Freedman's Bureau Advertisements

Engage students' creative sides as they develop advertisements for the Freedman's Bureau.

Materials

  • Poster board
  • Art supplies (pencils, colored pencils, markers)

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