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Abraham Lincoln Lesson Plans for grades 9-12

by Gordon Leidner of Great American History

Appropriate for Grades 9-12

Purpose:

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

These objectives will be accomplished by reading a short biography (30 pages) of Lincoln and 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, supplemental material that can be accessed on the Internet is also provided for those educators that want to give students access to 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 a short biography and selected speeches/writings of Lincoln in order to become aquainted with his life and thoughts.
  2. Students will answer questions about his life, speeches, and writings.
  3. Students will answer essay questions that seek an integral understanding of the basic facts about Lincolnís life and his speeches/writings.
  4. Students will use online resources 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. It contains a short biography of Lincoln (Chapter 1), Lincoln quotes (Chapters 2-8), plus introduction and closing chapters that provide interpretive material for the student. Each Lincoln quote in chapters 2-8 is introduced with a short editorial comment to provide the student with background and context. 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 the lessons assume the student has access to Leidnerís book.

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

Also, supplemental information is provided by Internet sites such as Outline 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.

Assignment 1:Years 1809-1830

Objective: Introduce the student to Lincolnís youth and the guiding principles of his life.

Reading assignment:

  1. In Lincoln on God and Country (LGC) textóread the Preface (vi-viii), Introduction (ix-xi) pp. 3-6 of Chapter 1, all of Chapter 2.
  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.
  3. 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. How much education did Lincoln receive in school? Where, instead of school, did Lincoln receive most of his education?
    5. What was the main book Lincoln learned from? What were some other books Lincoln read?
    6. What church did the Lincolns attend in Indiana?
    7. When the Lincoln family decided to leave Indiana, what state did they move to?
    8. How old was Lincoln when he moved away from his family?

    Chapter 2 (Lincolnís speeches/writings) Questions:

    1. What did Lincoln believe the authors of the Declaration of Independence meant when they talked about the equality of men?
    2. How did Lincoln think the authors intended the Declaration of Independence to benefit future generations?
    3. What did Lincoln perceive to be the "real issue" in his debates with Stephen A. Douglas?
    4. What did Lincoln believe was the primary cause of Americaís "great prosperity?" Explain.

    Essay Question:

    How could Lincolnís personal experiences in his youth and as a young man have shaped his opinion about the nationsí founders and the Declaration of Independence?

    For further reading:

    Lincolnís Youth: Indiana Years by Louis A. Warren.

    Herndonís Life of Lincoln by William H. Herndon.

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

    Order Herndon's Herndon's Life of Lincoln Now

    Assignment 2:Years 1831-1841

    Objective: Learn about Lincolnís life in New Salem, his experiences in the Illinois State Legislature, and what some of his early beliefs were about American government and the American people.

    Reading Assignment:

    1. LGC textóChapter 1, pp. 6-13; Chapters 3 and 4.
    2. Use Timeline at The History Place Timeline for years 1831-1841.

    Chapter 1 (Biography) Questions:

    1. What jobs did Lincoln work at when living in New Salem?
    2. What did Lincoln study while living in New Salem?
    3. What happened when Lincoln ran for the state legislature the first time?
    4. What did Lincoln think about religion when living in New Salem?
    5. What happened the second time Lincoln ran for the state legislature? How many terms did he serve?
    6. Describe one important thing Lincoln accomplished while in the Illinois State Legislature.
    7. Who did Lincoln marry? Where was she from?
    8. What political party did Lincoln belong to when living in New Salem?

    Chapters 3 and 4 (Lincolnís speeches/writings) Questions:

    1. What did Lincoln perceive to be the only "real" threat to the survival of the national government? How did he propose the people guard against this threat?
    2. With whom did Lincoln believe the question as to whether or not the Union and liberties of the country would be preserved? Provide a quote of Lincolnís that demonstrates this belief.
    3. What did Lincoln believe were the primary duties of government? What did he think government should NOT do?
    4. Why did Lincoln believe the system of labor in New England was superior to slavery?

    Essay Question:

    Why did Lincoln believe the sovereignty of the Union had precedence over the sovereignty of the individual states? How did he justify his belief?

    For further reading:

    Lincolnís New Salem by Benjamin P. Thomas.

    Lincolnís Preparation for Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Years by Paul Simon.

    Order Thomas's Lincoln's New Salem Now

    Order Simon's Lincoln's Preparation for Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Yars Now

    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. Chapter 1, pp. 13-18; all of Chapter 5.
    2. Internetóuse History Place Timeline of Lincolnís Life for years 1841-1853.

    Chapter 1 (Biography) Questions:

    1. Who were Lincolnís three law partners?
    2. How did Lincoln talk and act in front of 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?

    Chapter 5 (Lincolnís speeches/writings) Questions:

    1. Compare and contrast the political position Lincoln took between his first and third campaign for the Illinois State Legislature. Why were they so different?
    2. How could Lincolnís documented guidelines for Lawyers have served to make him a popular lawyer?
    3. What were two of Lincolnís methods of using humor to weaken his political opponentsí position?
    4. What did Lincoln mean when he talked about seeing two drunken men fight themselves out of their own coats and "into that of the other?" What was the political analogy?

    Essay Question:

    How did Lincolnís training and experiences as a lawyer help him in his political career?

    For further reading:

    A. Lincoln, Prairie Lawyer by John J. Duff.

    Lincoln Runs for Congress by Donald W. Riddle.

    Honorís Voice by Douglas L. Wilson.

    Order Wilson's Honor's Voice:The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln Now

    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 textóChapter 1, pp. 18-22; Chapter 6.
    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.
    3. 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. What did Lincoln think the primary moral issue of those days was?
      7. 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?
      8. Why did Lincoln have an advantage over his political opponents in the 1860 presidential election?
      9. What did the political platform that Lincoln won election to the presidency say about slavery?
      10. What did the southern states do as a result of Lincoln winning the presidency?

      Chapter 6 (Lincolnís speeches/writings) Questions:

      1. Why was Lincoln considered a "moderate" on the slavery issue? How did he differ from the extremists on both sides of him?
      2. How did Lincoln believe African Americans equal to whites? Unequal?
      3. What was Lincolnís strategy for abolishing slavery?
      4. What was Lincolnís primary complaint about Stephen A. Douglasís attitude towards slavery?

      Essay Question:

      Select two or three excerpts from Lincolnís writings that give the best synopsis of how he felt about slavery. Would these arguments be considered an adequate attack on slavery today? Why or why not?

      For further reading:

      Prelude to Greatness by Don E. Fehrenbacher.

      The Lincoln-Douglas Debates by Harold Holzer.

      Lincolnís Rise to Power by William Baringer.

      Order Holzer's The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Now

      Order Baringer's Lincoln's Rise to Power Now

      Assignment 5:Years 1861-1863

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

      Reading assignment:

      1. LGC textóChapter 1, pp. 22-28. Chapter 7.
      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.
      3. 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 general did Lincoln put in charge of the Unionís Army of the Potomac after the battle of Manassas?
        4. What brigadier general captured two Confederate forts in Kentucky?
        5. What happened in the Seven Days Battles? What was the name of the Confederate general that took over command of the Southís eastern armies?
        6. What did Lee do after defeating General Pope at the battle of Second Manassas?
        7. 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?
        8. Why had Lincoln, up to the summer of 1862, been reluctant to free the slaves?
        9. Why did Lincoln decide to free the slaves?
        10. After what battle did Lincoln issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation? What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?

        Chapter 7 (Lincolnís speeches/writings) Questions:

        1. In his first message to Congress, how did Lincoln justify his decision to use military force to keep the southern states in the Union?
        2. At the beginning of the Gettysburg Address, what historical document was Lincoln referring to? How did the Gettysburg Address serve to integrate the purposes of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?
        3. In Lincolnís letter dated April 4, 1864, who does Lincoln give credit for the removal of slavery? Why not himself?
        4. In the same letter, explain the meaning of Lincolnís analogy about sacrificing a limb to save a life.

        Essay Question:

        Why did Lincoln wait until the summer of 1862 to add the elimination of slavery to the war goals? How did he justify his decision to eliminate slavery?

        Further reading:

        Lincoln the President: Springfield to Gettysburg, by J. G. Randall.

        The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln by Francis Carpenter.

        The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln by Phillip Shaw Paludan.

        Lincoln and the Generals by Thomas Williams.

        Order Williams's Lincoln and the Generals Now

        Order Shaw's The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln Now

        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 textóChapter 1, pp. 29-34; all of Chapter 8.
          2. Internetóuse History Place Timeline of Lincolnís Life for years 1863-1865

        Chapter 1 (Biography) Questions:

        1. What did Lincoln do about soldiers sentenced to be shot for desertion?
        2. What Union general continued to win victories along the Mississippi River? What Confederate city surrendered to him on July 4, 1863?
        3. What famous battle in Pennsylvania ended on July 3, 1863? What was the outcome of this battle?
        4. When Grant went east to command the Union armies, what Union general took command in the West? What Confederate general did he face?
        5. Who was Lincolnís opponent in the presidential election of 1864? What did Lincoln fear would happen if the Democrats won the presidency?
        6. What crucial military victory by William T. Sherman assured Lincoln victory in the presidential election of 1864?
        7. Who did most of the Union soldiers vote for in the 1864 presidential election? Why did they vote for him?
        8. 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?
        9. On what day did Lee surrender to Grant?
        10. What tragic event took place on April 14, 1865?

        Chapter 8 (Lincolnís speeches/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. Provide support for the statement that Lincoln believed in Godís predestination of manís events.
        4. In Lincolnís Second Inaugural Address, what did Lincoln say was Godís punishment on the country for allowing slavery?

        Essay Questions:

        1. What was Lincolnís perception of the nature of God?
        2. What did he believe his responsibilities were to God and the people?

        For further reading:

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

        Redeemer President by Allen Guelzo.

        Order Wolf's The Religion of Abraham Lincoln Now

        Order Guelzo's Redeemer President Now

        Assignment 7: Lincoln's Legacy on Democratic Government

        Objective: To understand the long-term impact Lincoln had on democratic government.

        Reading Assignment:

        1. LGC textóChapter 9
        2. InternetóOutline of the Civil War from greatamericanhistory.net, II. Political and Social Catalysts for the War)

          Short Answer Questions:

          1. What did Lincoln mean by the statement his generation must prove that "popular government is not an absurdity?" How could democracy be an absurdity?
          2. How did Lincoln say the presidential election of 1864 benefited the country?
          3. What impact did Lincoln believe his generation would have on future generations?
          4. What example did Lincoln offer that democratic government gave all an equal chance?
          5. To Lincoln, what was the evidence that the people were committed to maintaining the Union?

          Essay Questions:

          1. How could the successful separation of the Confederacy and dissolution of the Union have weakened both the chances of survival of and propagation of democratic government?
          2. What would have been possible long-term repercussions to both North and South if the South had won the war?

          For further reading:

          The Fate of Liberty by Mark Neely

          We Cannot Escape History by James McPherson

          Order Neely's The Fate of Liberty Now

          Order McPherson's We Cannot Escape History Now

          Assignment 8: Understanding Lincoln

          Objective: To understand Lincolnís heart and mind on the subjects of freedom, equality for man, and faith in God.

          Reading Assignment:

          1. Review the Introduction (pp. ix-xi) and Preface (pp. vi-viii); read the Afterword (pp. 121-124).
          2. Internetó Outline of the Civil War from greatamericanhistory.net, II. Political and Social Catalysts for the War , Lincoln's LeadershipAbraham Lincoln Online Education Links, or The History Place Timeline. Review the content of these sites and familiarize yourself with information available on Lincolnís life.
          3. Short Answer Questions:

            1. What disparity between the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence caused significant conflict in American social life in the 1800s?
            2. Why was Lincoln torn between loyalty to these two documents?
            3. What can one learn about Lincoln when comparing his writings and speeches from early in his career to those of his later years? How are their styles different?
            4. Why is it so important to understand Lincolnís religious beliefs in order to understand Lincoln himself?
            5. Why do contemporary critics of Lincoln question his sincerity in his desire to free the slaves?
            6. Does Lincoln deserve the title "Great Emancipator?" What arguments could you put forward support this sobriquet?
            7. How does Lincolnís life serve as an example of what is possible in a democracy?

            Essay Questions:

            1. In Lincolnís day, would he have been considered a racist? Provide support, if you can, to both sides of the argument and then draw your own conclusions. Would your conclusions be the same if Lincoln were alive today, holding the same opinions and saying the same things?
            2. How could American history have changed if Abraham Lincoln had not been assassinated?

            For further reading:

            Lincoln in Text and Context: Collected Essays by Don E. Fehrenbacher

            Drawn by the Sword by James McPherson

            Order Fehrenbacher's Abraham Lincoln in Text and Context: Collected Essays Now

            Order McPherson's Drawn by the Sword Now