Gettysburg Address Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this lesson plan to teach students about the Gettysburg Address. Analyze language, then ask students to demonstrate understanding with a writing activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify the purpose and impact of the Gettysburg Address
  • demonstrate understanding of main ideas of the Gettysburg Address
  • characterize key vocabulary used in the speech


1-2 hours


  • copies of the Gettysburg Address, one for each student
  • yellow, orange and green highlighters

Key Vocabulary

  • Gettysburg Address
  • Civil War
  • Founding Fathers

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9

Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington's Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech, King's 'Letter from Birmingham Jail'), including how they address related themes and concepts.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2

Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.


  • Begin by writing this focus question on the board: 'What was Abraham Lincoln's main point in the Gettysburg Address?'
  • Ask students to briefly discuss what is meant by 'main point'; share answers and clarify as a group to ensure students understand the concept.
  • Tell students they will be analyzing the Gettysburg Address, identifying and interpreting key vocabulary, and determining Lincoln's main point of the speech.
  • Show the video lesson Gettysburg Address: Summary & Analysis.
  • After the video, discuss:
    • Why did Lincoln and Edward Everett give speeches?
    • How were Lincoln and Everett's speeches the similar? How were they different?
    • Why was the idea that 'all men are created equal' radical at the time of the Gettysburg Address?
    • What did Lincoln explain were the motivations for the Civil War?
    • Have students discuss their reactions to the speech.
  • Distribute copies of the Gettysburg Address to students. Ask them to read the document, looking for unknown vocabulary and highlighting those terms in yellow.
  • Students should also search for repetitive vocabulary and highlight those words in orange.
  • On chart paper or the board, record unknown vocabulary and define as a class. Use context clues and other strategies.
  • Next, create a list of frequently used words. Discuss reasons why these words may have been used often.
  • Finally, ask students to read the document once more, looking for strong vocabulary words--ones that have a big impact. Highlight these in green.
  • Share as a class and create a list. Discuss as a class why these words are significant.


  • Return to the focus question, 'What was Abraham Lincoln's main point in the Gettysburg Address?' Discuss and share ideas.
  • Lincoln's speech was considerably shorter than Everett's but expressed essentially the same ideas. Ask students to imagine re-writing the Gettysburg Address as a tweet.
  • Divide into small groups, partners or individuals, depending on your students' needs. Using the Gettysburg Address and vocabulary lists, students will rewrite the address as a 140-character tweet.
  • Circulate throughout the room to support learning and clarify.
  • Have students share answers in a speech-like format. Discuss, analyze and critique work.


  • Ask students to rewrite address in an 'elevator speech' format, or what you could tell someone in an elevator ride of about 30 seconds.
  • Have students translate the speech into more modern language, like the way they might speak to friends.
  • For a creative writing assignment, have students imagine they're writing a review of the speech for a local paper. Use journalism format, including quotes from the speakers and those in attendance.
  • Share the audio version of the speech with students.

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