Emancipation Proclamation Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this lesson plan to teach your students about the Emancipation Proclamation. Have them use high-level thinking skills to analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the document.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define the Emancipation Proclamation and its purpose
  • summarize key political events leading to the Emancipation Proclamation
  • evaluate and judge effectiveness of the Emancipation Proclamation


  • 1 hour


  • Copies of the Emancipation Proclamation
  • Sticky notes/highlighters
  • Chart paper

Key Vocabulary

  • emancipation
  • proclamation
  • secede
  • Confiscation Act
  • contraband

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2

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.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

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

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4

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.


  • Begin by asking students to define 'emancipate.' Share answers, clarify the definition (if necessary) and discuss as a group.
  • Tell students they will be working as historians to analyze and evaluate the Emancipation Proclamation document. Write this guiding question on the board: 'Did the Emancipation Proclamation free the slaves?'
  • Show our lesson Emancipation Proclamation: Summary & Analysis.
  • During the lesson, direct students to take notes, encouraging them to think critically and write down any questions they think of as they learn.
  • After the video, discuss the following questions. Replay the sections of the video lesson as needed or print copies of the transcript for reference.
    • What were some reasons for the Civil War?
    • How did the Northern and Southern states differ in their view of slavery? How did this impact the nation?
    • What was the difference between Abraham Lincoln's personal opinion of slavery and his professional intentions regarding slavery?
    • Why didn't Lincoln want to change the slavery laws?
    • How did the Contraband Act influence the Civil War?
    • Why did Lincoln create the Emancipation Proclamation?
    • What impact did the Emancipation Proclamation have on the war? On slaves? On slavery?


  • Divide students into small groups, partner pairs or individuals as you see fit. Hand out copies of the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • Return to the central question: Did the Emancipation Proclamation free the slaves? Ask students to read and interpret the document with this question in mind. Guide them to use sticky notes and highlighters to document thinking and cite evidence to support their answers.
  • Have students record their work on chart paper to share with group. As students present, encourage them to discuss and debate their opinions using text evidence.


  • For homework, ask students to write a letter to Lincoln addressing their stance on the document.
  • Read newspaper articles from the time of the Emancipation Proclamation. Discuss how opinions and attitudes changed because of the document.

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