Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Tension Over Slavery

Ariel Viera


What caused the Civil War? The students will explore the events that caused tension between the North and South leading to the Civil War.


The student understands the impact of significant people, events and ideas on the development of the United States (for example, Thomas Jefferson, Manifest Destiny).


-State adopted textbook: AMERICA'S PAST AND PROMISE Published by McDougal Littell, 1998, Evanston
-3x5 cards
-Computers with Internet access
-Notebook paper
-Pencil and black or blue ink
-Concept Map for Slavery in the United States (for each student) from the attached file
-Pre/post test (for each student) from the attached file


1. Each student will select one 3 x 5 card with the sub topics from the concept map listed as described in step number 4 in the Procedures. There should be enough cards prepared for each student to receive one.

2. Each student will have an American History textbook . (AMERICA'S PAST AND PROMISE)

3. Bookmark the websites listed so the students will have access to the Internet websites.

4. Refer to pages 132-135 and 441-449 located in AMERICA'S PAST AND PROMISE textbook.

5. Download and make copies of the concept map for each student.

6. Download and make copies of the pre and post tests for each student.


1. Give the pre test to the students.

2. Begin the lesson with a brainstorming section about slavery in the United States. Give a concept map to every student. The student and the teacher will write down the ideas from the students on the concept map about the proposed seven topics.

3. The teacher will place the students in heterogeneous study groups of seven students.
We will use the jigsaw process originally developed by Elliot Aronson. If further clarification is needed concerning the jigsaw process, refer to the jigsaw weblink listed below.

4. A random drawing will take place to assign each individual in the group the topic for review.
Each student will get one topic from 3x5 card and the procedure will be repeated until all students have received a topic. The students will seat in groups of seven students, each one with a different topic. This will be their home team. Those topics will include the following:
* * NOTE -The pages listed are located in the textbook AMERICA'S PAST AND PROMISE.
- Cotton and slavery-Slavery in the U.S., plantations, life under slavery (pages 132-135)
- Uncle Tomís Cabin- Harriet B.Stowe, Uncle Tomís Cabin, outcome of the publication (pages 441-442)
- Kansas and Nebraska Act-Reasons for act, parts of Kansas-Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas (pages 442-443)
- Dred Scott Decision-Dred Scott, the case before the Supreme Court, the outcome of the case(pages 444) - John Brownís attacks-John Brown, raid at Harpers Ferry, the ramifications of the raid (pages 445-446)
- Illinois Senate Race of 1858-candidates, issues , and election and outcome (pages 444-445
- Election of 1860-candidates, issues, and election and outcome (pages 447-449)

5. Students will research their topics and will become experts on their topics. The information will come from the textbook, from the Internet or from other source materials associated with the Civil War such as textbooks, magazines, books etc. The students are required to record their sources, which must include the textbook, at least one Internet source, and any other appropriate source.

6 . After the research is completed, then each individual or expert from each topic forms expert topic groups of three students. All the students who took, for example, Uncle Tomís Cabin, work together. These students help each other to better understand the subject being researched, in order to become an expert so they can go back and teach it to their home teams.

7. The students then will return to their home teams of seven students. The students will make presentations to each group and the students will take notes on each presentation. The, teacher will mention the main points to be sure that all issues have been covered. The teacher will make sure to point out that slavery was one of the main causes leading to the Civil War. Teacherís notes should include the following:
- Cotton and slavery- plantation economy, monocrop, slave code
- Uncle Tomís Cabin-slavery became personal, offensive view of southerners, southerners defended slavery.
- Kansas-Nebraska Act- transcontinental railroad, popular sovereignty, Bleeding Kansas
- Dred Scott Decision- who was Dred Scott, the case of Dred Scott, and decision of the Supreme Court
- John Brownís attack- John Brownís background, objective of the raid, and outcome of the attack on Harperís Ferry
- Illinois Senate race- candidates, platforms, outcomes
- Election of 1860- candidates, platforms, outcomes

8. The students will take notes on each presentation, which will be collected by the instructor at the end of the post test.

9. Post test will be given.


1. A pretest will be given which will show prior knowledge of the subject matter concerning issues associated with slavery which led to the Civil War.
2. Students will also be evaluated by
a post test which will demonstrate knowledge following presentations.


1. The students can look at other causes that led to the Civil War such as states rights, economic issues and social issues.

2. The students might do a poster display on one of the topics.

3. The students could do a role playing skit depicting one of the topics.

4. The students could present a PowerPoint presentation on one of the topics.

5. The students could do a timeline of the events.

6. The students could use music as a mean of expression of the times (ex. spirituals.)

Web Links

This site explains how the jigsaw concept works in the classroom.
Jigsaw Classroom

This has a variety of reviews and viewpoints relating to the the book UNCLE TOM'S CABIN.
Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture

This web page contains an overview of the act with weblinks to key parts relating to the act.
Kansas-Nebraska Act

It contains the Dred Scott's struggle to gain its freedom in the St. Louis Circuit Court.
Washington University Libraries

Web supplement for Tension Over Slavery
The Dred Scott case

It emphasizes the opinion of the Supreme Court concerning the Dred Scott case.
Dred Scott-case

This web page deals with the John Brown story and raid at Harpers Ferry.
John Brown and the Valley of the Shadow

This page deals with the Presidential election of 1860.
Lincoln's Election

This page shares the background information on the Presidential election of 1860.
Background -The Election of 1860

This page deals with the Union attack on Ft. Sumter.
Fort Sumter

Attached Files

Pre and post test and a concept map.     File Extension: pdf

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