Reconstruction Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this lesson plan to teach your students about Reconstruction. Examine aspects of the Reconstruction Act and discuss key vocabulary. Follow up with an activity comparing primary and secondary sources.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the Reconstruction process
  • discuss the conflict of the Reconstruction process
  • distinguish between primary and secondary source documents


  • 1 hour


  • primary and secondary source documents related to Reconstruction

Key Vocabulary

  • Reconstruction
  • Reconstruction Act of 1867
  • Radical Republicans
  • 13th Amendment
  • Black Codes
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • New State Constitutions
  • Military District
  • 14th Amendment
  • Civil Rights Act of 1866
  • Radical Reconstruction
  • Andrew Johnson
  • 15th Amendment

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

  • 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.9-10.4

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.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.9

Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.


  • Build background knowledge and connect students to the lesson by asking them to recall a time they had to work on a project with someone with very different views or opinions. Allow them time to flash write, and then share answers. Discuss the methods students used to overcome the obstacle.
  • Tell students they will be learning about the attempts to reconstruct the country following the Civil War. Review concepts related to the war, if necessary.
  • Show the video lesson Reconstruction Acts of 1867: Definition & History.
  • Share vocabulary and ask students to define during lesson in notebooks.
  • Pause at 2:18 and discuss:
    • What problems did Americans face after the Civil War?
    • What was the goal of Reconstruction?
    • Why was Reconstruction difficult?
  • Have students take notes on the following topics:
  1. New State Constitutions
  2. Military Districts
  3. Ratification of the 14th Amendment
  4. Aftermath of Radical Reconstruction
  5. Consequences of Radical Reconstruction
  • Show students the remainder of the video.
  • Have students share information. Discuss:
    • How did Southern states respond to Radical Republicans?
    • What was the purpose of the Reconstruction Acts of 1867?
    • Why did some people feel the Reconstruction Acts were passed to punish the South? Do you agree?
    • Why did Andrew Johnson try to Veto the Reconstruction Acts?
    • Why is it debatable whether or not Reconstruction was successful? What do you think?


  • Tell students that what we know about events in the past come from many sources. Explain the difference between primary and secondary sources. Discuss how these accounts are alike and different and how history can be shaped by these differences.
  • Assign each student a primary and a secondary source document without telling them which is which. Ask students to read the documents closely, comparing and contrasting information from each.
  • Students should determine which is the primary source and which is the secondary source and record reasons for their thinking. Discuss thinking and share feedback.


  • Dig more deeply into each of the Reconstruction Acts. Determine whether the Acts were aligned with the goal of creating a unified nation.
  • Create a timeline of events from Reconstruction to the present day related to Civil Rights. Ask students to consider how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.
  • Use our related lessons to research the Radical Republicans. Write a report on their impact.
  • Compare and contrast the North and South during Reconstruction. Use our related lessons as a guide.

Related Lessons

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