Friday, May 16, 2008

Social Studies Lesson Plan - The Civil War: A Nation Divided

After a few Civil War lessons with my 6th graders, I tried an activity called Agree or Disagree with them. This activity was great at encouraging discussion. All the statements were deliberately left open to interpretation; therefore, many perspectives were raised. One important point to emphasize with the students prior to the activity is to RESPECT their classmates' opinions. This should be a calm and respectful discussion or debate.

The Civil War: A Nation Divided



Students will generate discussions with classmates based on their beliefs.


Students will be able to agree or disagree with other people’s opinions with respect.

Students will support their stance by providing facts.

Students will learn the difficulty in discussions, and accept the opinion of others with the understanding that it may arouse their emotions in some ways.


“Agree or Disagree” handout, agree/disagree/undecided signs, “A Nation Divided” handout, student notebooks


“A Nation Divided” handout



Explain the activity of “Agree or Disagree” and the rules of the game.

Put students in groups and explain that they can show the signs “agree” or “disagree” ONLY when the group is unanimous in opinion. As long as at least one person in the group feels otherwise about the statement, the group needs to show the sign “undecided”.

Use the first statement as an example for the first round.

During Lesson:

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3 to 4 students.
  2. Give each group a copy of the statements.
  3. The teacher reads out the statement, gives the groups 20 to 30 seconds to come to a decision and hold up a sign.
  4. Each group chooses one member as a representative to explain their conclusion, and the teacher facilitates the discussion, ending it wherever most suitable for the class.
  5. The teacher reads the next statement and follows the same procedure as before. Have a different student represent the group for each round to ensure all students have a turn to speak.


Ask students:

Why was it such a difficult activity for you?

What about this exercise that was difficult? Which part in particular?



Students’ discussion during the activity.

Teammate interaction (respect the opinions of others).

Homework: read “A Nation Divided” handout and summarize.


Adaptations (For ELL Students):

Give the list to ELL students a couple of days before the lesson, have them go over the statements at home and look up any unknown vocabulary words.

Have the list of statements in front of the students as the teacher reads them, this gives the students both visual and audio help.

Make a sample response in writing, for example, if you disagree, you would say I disagree because…(give a reason or fact).

Extensions (For Gifted Students):

Have a debate.

Provide a scenario or topic, assign the students their stance, and give them 2 minutes to debate over the topic.


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