Beacon Lesson Plan Library

A Press Conference With Abraham Lincoln

Francis Sicius
Colleges and Universities - Florida


Abraham Lincoln (teacher) will deliver his First Inaugural Adress and then accept questions from the Press. (Students) This lesson should be used after a study of the Civil War, including the leaders.


The student understands selected economic and philosophical differences between the North and the South prior to the Civil War, including but not limited to the institution of slavery.

The student knows roles and accomplishments of selected leaders on both sides of the Civil War (for example Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Frederick Douglas, William Lloyd Garrison).

The student knows causes, selected key events, and effects of the Civil War (for example, major battles, the Emancipation Proclamation, General Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse).


-Copy of Lincoln's inaugural address (see weblinks)
-Video camera
-Lincoln style top hat, overcoat etc.(see extensions)
-Video camera and TV
-(Optional) Newspaper format in -Word-or its equivalent (i.e. A program that creates a newspaper format)
-KWL Chart (see associated file)
-Question/Answer organizer (see associated file)
-Rubric for the Interview with Lincoln (see associated file)


1. Download and print copies of Lincolnís inaugural address. If class time is limited, create a summary of the speech to deliver, rather than the entire address. Students will need a copy of the summary.
2. Be prepared to explain to students, in outline form, Lincolnís argument against secession
This argument was a direct appeal to the South not to seceded. In this speech he:
a. Promised to uphold fugitive slave act
b. Promised to protect slavery where it existed
c. Argued through legal and natural law for the union
d. Argued through common sense and folk logic for the union.
3. Secure a Video Camera and T.V.
4. Get Lincoln's costume.
5. Prepare speech so that each of the above mentioned arguments is clearly articulated.
6. (Optional) Give each group a newspaper name, either real or imaginary. (e.g. Atlanta Constitution, Charlotte Observer, Tallahassee Democrat, Jacksonville Times Union. Charleston Daily News)


NOTE: Students should have already studied the Civil War, its leaders, and its implications. Otherwise, much time will need to be spent detailing the background for students.

NOTE: Because of the difficult reading level of Lincoln's inaugural address, it may be necessary for the teacher to spend extra time developing the vocabulary and rephrasing unfamiliar terms for students. This may add additional time into the preparation and delivery of this lesson.

Set the tone for this lesson by announcing that tomorrow, there will be a special visitor in class. He will be a figure from the past.
1. Divide class up into groups of newspaper editorial boards (four in each group) that have come to listen to the president. You will need to explain what an editorial board is. Include examples.

2. Give students a written copy of the speech to read before this class. Explain to students, in outline form, Lincolnís argument against secession
This argument was a direct appeal to the South not to secede. In this speech he:
a. Promised to uphold the fugitive slave act
b. Promised to protect slavery where it existed
c. Argued through legal and natural law for the union
d. Argued through common sense and folk logic for the union.
The students' homework is to prepare questions they would ask Lincoln about the speech. Have each student to write down 3 questions based on the speech content and previous knowledge gleaned from their study of this time period.

3. Choose a student to run the video camera.

4. At this time have students begin a KWL chart. (see associated file) This chart deals with what they know about the causes of the Civil War and what they want to know about the Civil War causes.
Circulate and offer feedback/guidance to those who are having difficulty. Tell students to put the chart in a safe place because they will complete it later for an assessment.

5. Dressed as Lincoln, present the speech in class (record using the video camera) in press conference format. Remind students to listen carefully and note any additional questions that pop into their minds.

Day 2
6. Allow the groups to meet and look at all the questions from each member. The group should choose only two questions to ask the president. Note: It is important that whoever is the 'president' is also knowledgeable about the speech, the implications included, and the allusions made. Events that occurred after the speech cannot be talked about since they hadn't happened at the time of the speech. (If you think your students might have difficulty forming the questions, write some on cards and be prepared to hand them out to various students. These questions should address the key issues in the speech that are listed in the assessment section of this lesson.)

7. After asking the questions and receiving answers from the -president,- students will watch the video. The video which is a -moving image document,- along with the written speech are the two sources the students will use to reach their conclusions. The video will give students an opportunity to review the responses to the questions and details of the speech they did not understand or hear the first time around. If there is a difference of opinion in the group as to what was said, the video provides an irrefutable reference.

8. The teacher will need to stop and start the video in order to record and organize information from the questions and answers for students. On an overhead projector or the blackboard, draw a Question/Answer organizer. (See the associated file.) Record the information from the speech and the question answers appropriately on the chart. Involve students as to where to place the information correctly.

Day 3
9. Students should go back into their groups and discuss the issues in the speech. Based on this speech, the editorial board (group of students) votes to decide if their newspaper will be for or against secession from the Union. You may need to review what secession means and refer to the chart/answers to remind students of the reasons.

10. At this time, explain to students what an 'editorial' is. You might want to have an example from the local paper, especially if there has been one written about something that concerns students and the school system. Model the first paragraph of an editorial dealing with one of the issues/questions discussed.

11. Each student then must write an ďeditorialĒ supporting his or her newspaper's position about secession.

12. The groups meet again. Join each discussion for a short period of time and remind students that editorials must remain focused on one idea and should consider all sides of the issue. (i.e. compare and contrast) Out of the four editorials, each group creates one editorial which clearly expresses all the ideas presented within the group.

Day 4
13. Student groups share their editorials aloud. Allow time for discussion.

14. At this time, have students complete the L part of the KWL chart for assessment. Make sure they know to list at least three things they learned concerning the causes of the Civil War, the key events or the differences based on the speech and discussions only. Remind them not to include any events beyond the date of the speech.


Each student completes a KWL chart. Formatively assess the charts by using the Rubric for the Interview with President Lincoln (see Associated File). Provide assistance and formative feedback to students who are experiencing difficulty.
Since the benchmarks and GLEs address so much content, this assessment should not be summative based on this one lesson.
There are at least ten major issues presented in Lincoln's argument against secession that students can address or discuss in the KLW chart.(Maintain slavery; return slaves who escape to the north; perpetuity of the constitution; natural law; sentiment (to those who love the union); common sense; Supreme Court or Amendment process (better than going to war); patriotism; and religion)


1. The props for Lincoln's costume could be easily made from construction paper. Allow a student to make a top hat from black paper. A 'Lincoln' type beard could be cut from gray paper and a man's overcoat or sports coat would do for a costume. Other ideas include using a fake Halloween beard or projecting an image of Lincoln on the wall through an overhead project and then having the teacher 'talk' as though he/she was Lincoln.
2. This format could also be used to analyze other important documents such as "The Gettysburg Address," or "The Emancipation Proclamation."
3. Some language arts standards could also be incorporated into this assignment if there is time to develop the vocabulary, review punctuation, and organizational focus.
4. An additional extension would be to use a computer program to have students prepare a headline and editorial in newspaper format. There is a newspaper format in the Word program.

Web Links

Web supplement for A Press Conference With Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln: First Inaugural Address

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