Beacon Lesson Plan Library

An Overview of the Civil War

Diane Krapf
Collier County Schools


Examine the history of slavery in the U.S. and how it contributed to the Civil War. Students will use available technology to research and present information in response to a series of student-generated questions.


The student writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of content and experiences from a variety of media.

The student knows the causes, key events, and effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction.


-Polacco, Patricia. [Pink and Say]. New York: Philomel Books, 1994
-White board and markers
-Computers with Internet access (one per 4 students)
-Presentation software (2 copies)
-Encyclopedia software (1 copy per computer)
-Paper and writing instruments for notetaking (for each student conducting research)
-Slips of paper (containing each student's name) in a container


1. Obtain a copy of the book [Pink and Say] by Patricia Polacco.
2. Prepare a few starter questions to generate brainstorming by the students. (For example: How long did the Civil War last? How many lives were lost? Where were some of the major battles? Did the Civil War end slavery immediately?)
3. Place the names of all the students in a container.
4. Establish Internet connection with the Civil War Website and ensure capability to display for all the students to see.
5. Secure presentation and encyclopedia software (sufficient copies to accommodate entire class).


1. Read aloud the book [Pink and Say] by Patricia Polacco.

2. Ask students: What kind of questions does this book raise in your mind? List the questions on the board. If necessary, model and/or guide generation of questions by saying: After reading this book, I would like to know just how many people died during the Civil War. I would also like to know how long the Civil War lasted and where it was fought (which states).

3. Using a container with all the students' names, draw two names at a time to assign as a pair to research one or more questions. The final four students will be designated to prepare a presentation of the completed research.

4. Explain that each pair of students will be responsible for researching their question(s) using the Internet or other available technology.

5. Display the World Book Online America website that lists a table of important events during the Civil War as a starting point.

6. Instruct the research pairs to write concise notes of the information located, which will be provided to the presentation teams. Share the rubric with the students at this time.

7. The presentation teams will use PowerPoint or similiar presentation software to prepare a slide that answers each question. These students can be establishing the presentation format and pre-typing the questions while the pairs with questions are conducting their research.

8. As a culmination to the activity, the presentation teams will show the slide show while each research pair presents the data from their research questions.


Use the rubric provided to rate the performance of each participant (by the partner and the teacher).


1. Augment the PowerPoint presentation with graphs, etc., of related information. (For example, a map of the U.S. showing which states were Union versus Confederate.)
2. Use this assignment as a catalyst to research black history through present day.
3. Allow students to survey/interview school staff and/or community leaders to determine what they know about slavery and other causes of the Civil War.
4. Have students review worldwide current events regarding present-day civil wars to make comparisons to the U.S. Civil War.
5. Have students draw posters of the Civil War.

Web Links

Web supplement for An Overview of the Civil War
World Book Online

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