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Abraham Lincoln Lesson Plans for grades 6-8

by Gordon Leidner of Great American History

Appropriate for Grades 6-8

Purpose:

The purpose of this lesson is twofold: 1) learn basic information about Abraham Lincolnís life, and 2) read what he said and wrote about democracy, faith in God, and freedom.

These objectives will be accomplished by reading a short biography (30 pages) of Lincoln and then reading selected excerpts of some of his most famous speeches, state papers, and letters. Although all of the material is contained in one book, Lincoln on God and Country by Gordon Leidner, (156 pages, White Mane Publishers, Shippensburg, PA, supplemental material that can be accessed on the Internet is also documented for those educators that want to provide students with additional information.

Order Leidner's Lincoln on God and Country Now

Objectives:

The students will be able to:

  1. Understand the basic facts of Lincolnís life and how his lifeís experiences influenced his faith in God and his beliefs about freedom and democracy.
  2. Understand how Lincoln became a great leader in spite of the disadvantages of poverty and lack of a formal public education.
  3. Understand the meaning and intentions of some of Lincolnís most famous speeches, state papers, and letters.
  4. Understand how Lincolnís religious beliefs and outlook on freedom changed as he matured.

Activities:

  1. Students will read the short biography and selected speeches writings of Lincoln in order to become acquainted with his life and beliefs. They will answer questions on the reading assignments.
  2. Students will write letters to Lincoln, asking him questions and expressing their own opinions about various subjects. They will write articles about him, acting as if they are newspaper reporters that are describing the events of Lincolnís life.
  3. Students will use the Internet to visit places that Lincoln lived and sites that help them develop a better appreciation for Lincolnís world.
  4. Students will use online resources such as Great American History's Civil War Outline and History Place Timeline of Lincolnís Life, both with hotlinks, to find in-depth answers to questions about Lincoln and the issues that he faced.

Resources/Materials Needed:

The book Lincoln on God and Country by Gordon Leidner serves as a single-source textbook. The internet site "Great American History" (greatamericanhistory.net) offers supplemental information and resource tools. In the event that Leidnerís book is not accessible, other Lincoln history books and books of Lincoln quotations can be adapted by the teacher, but it should be noted that the lessons assume the student has access to Leidnerís book.

Note: for this lesson plan, grades 6-8, not all of Lincolnís speeches and writings in Lincoln on God and Country are used. Only a limited amount of speeches and writings are read by the student (referenced as Quote no. 1, page 102, etc.ówhich refers to the endnote number of each quotation).

The Lesson Plan for grades 9-12 uses the entire set of speeches and writings in Lincoln on God and Country.

Assignment 1:Years 1809-1830

Objective:

Introduce the student to Lincoln and his youth.

Reading assignment:

  1. In Lincoln on God and Country (LGC) textóread the Preface (vi-viii) and "Youth," pp. 3-6.
  2. A>)years 1809-1831 to find websites on Lincolnís youth. Also, go to Abraham Lincoln Online Biographical Material. Review the content of these sites and familiarize yourself with information available on Lincolnís life.

Chapter 1 (Biography) Questions:

  1. What state was Lincoln born in? How long did he live in the state of his birth?
  2. What state did his parents move to next? Why did they move?
  3. What did Lincolnís parents think of slavery?
  4. What happened to Lincolnís mother? How old was Lincoln when this happened?
  5. How much education did Lincoln receive in school? Where, instead of public school, did Lincoln receive most of his education?
  6. What was the main book Lincoln learned from? What were some other books Lincoln read?
  7. What church did the Lincolns attend in Indiana?
  8. What did Lincoln enjoy doing most?
  9. When the Lincoln family decided to leave Indiana, what state did they move to?
  10. How old was Lincoln when he moved away from his family?

For further reading:

Lincolnís Youth: Indiana Years by Louis A. Warren.

Order Warren's Lincoln's Youth: Indiana Years Now

Writing Assignment:

  1. You are a friend of Abe Lincolnís when he was young, and are visiting with him for a few weeks in Indiana. Write a letter to your parents describing some of your experiences while living with the Lincolns.

Assignment 2:Years 1831-1841

Objective:

Learn about Lincolnís life as a young man in New Salem, his experiences in the Illinois State Legislature, and what some of his early beliefs were about freedom, American government, and the American people.

Reading Assignment:

  1. LGC textó"Young Legislator" pp. 6-11; Lincolnís Speeches and Writings, Chapter 2 pp. 44-45 (quotes 7 and 8); Chapter 3 pp. 49-50 (quotes 10-13); Chapter 4 p. 54, (quote 7).
  2. History Place Timeline of Lincolnís Life to visit websites for years 1831-1841.

Chapter 1 (Biography) Questions:

  1. Where was New Salem, Illinois? (it is now a State Parkófind it on a map or via the Internet) How big was the village when Lincoln lived there?
  2. What jobs did Lincoln work at when living in New Salem?
  3. What did Lincoln study while living in New Salem?
  4. What happened when Lincoln ran for the state legislature the first time?
  5. What did Lincoln think about religion when living in New Salem?
  6. What happened the second time Lincoln ran for the state legislature? How many terms did he serve?
  7. Describe one important thing Lincoln accomplished while in the Illinois State Legislature.
  8. Who did Lincoln marry? Where was she from?
  9. What political party did Lincoln belong to when living in New Salem?
  10. What was Lincolnís second job while he was working in the state legislature?

Speeches and Writings Questions:

  1. What did Lincoln say had kept the American government together?
  2. What document did Lincoln say his political feelings sprang from?
  3. What did Lincoln say was the "legitimate object of government?"

For further reading:

Lincolnís New Salem by Benjamin P. Thomas.

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Writing Assignment:

  1. You are a resident of New Salem, Illinois. Write a letter to a friend, telling them about what life is like there.
  2. You are a newspaper reporter that has been given the assignment of reporting about the political accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln.

Assignment 3:Years 1841-1854

Objective:

Learn about Lincolnís life in Springfield, as a lawyer and congressman. Learn what attitudes he developed towards his law career and politics.

Reading Assignment:

  1. LGC textó"Midlife," pp. 13-16. Lincolnís Speeches and Writings, Chapter 4 pp. 53-55 (quotes 5 thru 8); Chapter 5 pp.62-65 (quotes 4 thru 6).
  2. Internetóuse History Place Timeline of Lincolnís Life to visit websites for years 1841-1854

Chapter 1 (Biography) Questions:

  1. Who were Lincolnís three law partners?
  2. How did Lincoln talk and act towards juries?
  3. What did Lincolnís democratic opponent for congress claim about Lincolnís religious beliefs?
  4. What did Lincoln do while in the US Congress that angered the people from his home district?
  5. What did Lincoln try to do about slavery when he was a congressman?
  6. What was the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Illinois?
  7. What were the names of Lincolnís four children? What happened to their second son?

Speeches and Writings Questions:

  1. In Lincolnís letter to his lazy stepbrother, why did Lincoln say he didnít want to loan him money?
  2. When talking about his confidence in American government in 1854, what did Lincoln say was the difference between American government and preceding governments?
  3. In Lincolnís notes for a law lecture, what did he say about honesty?

For further reading:

A. Lincoln, Prairie Lawyer by John J. Duff; Lincoln Runs for Congress by Donald W. Riddle.

Order Duff's Lincoln, Prairie Lawyer Now

Order Riddle's Lincoln Runs for Congress Now

Writing Assignment:

  1. You are a lawyer friend of Lincolnís, traveling with him on the Illinois Eighth Judicial Circuit. Write a letter to a friend of yours in Indiana, describing what life is like and what you and Lincoln do in the courtroom.
  2. You are one of the people living in Springfield, Illinois, that Congressman Lincoln represents in the US Congress in the years 1847-1849. Write to Congressman Lincoln in Washington, telling him what you think about slavery and asking him what he plans to do about it.

Assignment 4:Years 1854-1860

Objective:

Learn about Lincolnís life during his re-emergence into politics in the 1850s and development as a national spokesman against slavery. Become acquainted with some of his more important speeches and statements against slavery.

Reading assignment:

  1. LGC textó"Spokesman," pp. 18-22. Chapter 6, pages 72-73 (quote 4); pp. 86-88 (quotes 27-31)
  2. Internetó Outline of the Civil War from greatamericanhistory.net, II. Political and Social Catalysts for the War)

Chapter 1 (Biography) Questions:

  1. What was the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and what did it accomplish?
  2. What was the Kansas-Nebraska Act and what effect did it have on people like Lincoln?
  3. Who developed Popular Sovereignty? What did Popular Sovereignty say?
  4. What did the Supreme Courtís Dred Scott decision say? Was it good or bad for the antislavery movement?
  5. Did Stephen A. Douglas support the Dred Scott decision? Did Abraham Lincoln?
  6. How many times did Lincoln and Douglas debate each other in the Great Debates?
  7. What did Lincoln think the primary moral issue of those days was?
  8. Did Stephen A. Douglas think that the writers of the Declaration took into consideration the black race when they said "all men are created equal?" Did Abraham Lincoln think they did?
  9. Who won the senate race between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln?
  10. Why did Lincoln have an advantage over his political opponents in the 1860 presidential election?
  11. What did the political platform that Lincoln won election to the presidency say?
  12. What did the southern states do as a result of Lincoln winning the presidency?

Speeches and Writings Questions:

    1. What does Lincoln say about the rights of black people in his Peoria, Illinois speech of 1854?
    2. What did Lincoln think would be a good idea to try on those people arguing in favor of slavery?
    3. What were the two definitions of liberty Lincoln said existed in his day?

For further reading:

Prelude to Greatness by Don E. Fehrenbacher, California.

Order Fehrenbacher's Prelude to Greatness Now

Writing assignment:

  1. You are a newspaper reporter that just heard Lincolnís speech in Peoria, Illinois, in October of 1854. Write an article that describes what Lincoln said about slavery for your newspaper.
  2. You are an abolitionist from Massachussetts that is thinking about supporting Lincoln for the presidential election in 1860. Ask him the important questions that you would like to have answers to before you decide if you will vote for him.

Assignment 5:Years 1861-1863

Objective:

Learn about Lincolnís life during his first two years as president and development as an effective leader in his effort to preserve the Union. Become acquainted with some of his more important speeches and statements about leadership.

Reading assignment:

  1. LGC textó"The Leader," pp. 22-28. Chapter 7, pp. 92-93 (quotes 9-10); pp. 97-98 (quote 19); 99-100 (quotes 22 and 23)
  2. InternetóOutline of the Civil War from greatamericanhistory.net)

Chapter 1 (Biography) Questions:

  1. What was the first major crisis Lincoln faced after taking office as president? What did he do about it?
  2. What was the result of Lincolnís call for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to put down the rebellion?
  3. What happened at the first battle of Manassas, Virginia? What were the results of that battle?
  4. What general did Lincoln put in charge of the Unionís Army of the Potomac after the battle of Manassas?
  5. What did Lincoln do to try to make up for his lack of knowledge of military strategy?
  6. What tragic event saddened Lincoln and his wife Mary in February, 1862?
  7. What was McClellanís main fault?
  8. What Union brigadier general captured two Confederate forts in Kentucky?
  9. What happened in the Seven Days Battles? What was the name of the Confederate general that took over command of the Southís eastern armies?
  10. What did Lee do after defeating General Pope at the battle of Second Manassas?
  11. What was the name of the famous black abolitionist that argued in favor of freeing the slaves and allowing blacks to become soldiers in the Union army?
  12. Why had Lincoln, up to the summer of 1862, been reluctant to free the slaves?
  13. Why did Lincoln decide to free the slaves?
  14. After what battle did Lincoln issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation? What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
  15. What general did Lincoln replace McClellan with? What general came after him?

Speeches and Writings Questions:

    1. What did Lincoln say his "paramount object" was?
    2. In the Gettysburg Address, what did Lincoln say was the duty "of the living" to accomplish?
    3. Why did Lincoln say that he determined "slavery must die?"

For further reading:

The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln by Francis Carpenter.

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Writing assignment:

  1. You are a northern citizen that wants to write a letter to Lincoln in the Spring of 1862 and tell him how well you think he is doing as president. You may want to say something about his sonís death and how you feel about it, as well as how the armies are doing and what you think he should do about slavery.
  2. You are writing to a brother, father, or husband that is in the Union or Confederate Army. Tell them what you think of what they are doing and try to encourage them. Talk about your life at home without them.

Assignment 6:Years 1863-1865

Objective:

Learn about Lincolnís life the last 3 years of his presidency, his development as a respected statesman, and his faith in God. Become acquainted with some of his most famous speeches such as the Second Inaugural Address.

Reading Assignment:

  1. LGC textó"The Statesman," pp. 29-34. Chapter 8, p. 102 (quote 1); pp.107-108 (quote 13); pp. 112-114 (quote 24).
  2. InternetóOutline of the Civil War from greatamericanhistory.net, II. Political and Social Catalysts for the War , Abraham Lincoln Online Education Links, or The History Place Timeline. Review the content of these sites and familiarize yourself with information available on Lincolnís life.

Chapter 1 (Biography) Questions:

  1. What famous Confederate general died as a result of wounds sustained at the Battle of Chancellorsville?
  2. What did Lincoln do about soldiers sentenced to be shot for desertion?
  3. What Union general continued to win victories along the Mississippi River? What Confederate city surrendered to him on July 4, 1863?
  4. Who did Lincoln replace General Joseph Hooker with as commander of the Army of the Potomac?
  5. What famous battle in Pennsylvania ended on July 3, 1863? What was the outcome of this battle?
  6. After what battle did Lincoln bring General Grant eastward to take command of all Union armies?
  7. When Grant went east to command the Union armies, what Union general took command in the West? What Confederate general did he face?
  8. Who was Lincolnís opponent in the presidential election of 1864? What did Lincoln fear would happen if the Democrats won the presidency?
  9. What crucial military victory by William T. Sherman assured Lincoln victory in the presidential election of 1864?
  10. Who did most of the Union soldiers vote for in the 1864 presidential election? Why did they vote for him?
  11. How did the nature of the fighting between the armies under the command of Grant and Lee change in the summer of 1864, when they reached the Petersburg, Virginia area?
  12. What did Sherman and about 60,000 men of his army do after taking Atlanta in September, 1862?
  13. Who were the opposing commanders of Union and Confederate armies at the Battle of Nashville, Tennessee? What was the outcome of that battle?
  14. What was the outcome of Leeís attack on the Unionís Fort Stedman near Petersburg, Virginia? What did the Confederate government do on April 2, 1865?
  15. On what day did Lee surrender to Grant?
  16. What tragic event took place on April 14, 1865?
  17. Speeches and Writings Questions:

    1. Why did Lincoln say he "never joined a church?"
    2. In Lincolnís proclamation of a National Fast Day for March 30, 1863, why did he say the country was being punished by the "calamity of civil war?" What did he propose the people should do as a result of this?
    3. In Lincolnís Second Inaugural Address, how did Lincoln say God was punishing the country for slavery?

For further reading:

The Religion of Abraham Lincoln by William Wolff (originally entitled "The Almost Chosen People").

Order Wolff's The Religion of Abraham Lincoln Now

Writing Assignment:

  1. You recently heard President Lincoln present his Second Inaugural Address. Write a letter to your best friend, telling him or her what Lincoln said in this speech and what you think about it.
  2. As a resident of Washington, D. C., on the morning of April 15th, 1865, you heard the church bells polling in the morning and then found out that President Lincoln had died. Write a letter to your parents describing what had happened and how you feel about it.