Lesson Plans

Civil War & Reconstruction

A Look at Virginians During Reconstruction

In this lesson students will examine how governmental actions during Reconstruction (1865-77) affected individual choices. Students will consider the lives of African Americans in Virginia during this period, noting how national and state political actions impacted the education of African Americans in Virginia. This lesson focuses on the opportunities that Reconstruction opened up for African Americans. Specifically, it provides students the opportunity to learn about a former slave, William Jasper, and his family. It works well after students have learned about slavery and the Civil War in Virginia, and before students study the effects of segregation and "Jim Crow" on life in Virginia—a time during which many of these opportunities vanished.

A Nation Divided: Why Couldn’t They Just Get Along?

This unit explores the differences between the Northern and Southern states and their underlying reasons for the differing views on slavery. Through the analysis of primary sources, the students uncover how the economic differences and priorities had a large effect on the passionate convictions for both sides of the divided nation.

John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry and John Brown's Body (Song)

Students will read and analyze three letters or newspaper articles in groups of 4-5. They will be looking for meaning, opinions, and how the letters/speeches affected Americans in 1859. They will present their findings to the class in order to form more "knowledgeable" opinion of John Brown's raid. Students will then examine three different portraits of John Brown, and choose one of the portraits that they view was the best representation of him in 1859, and will write a letter to an 1859 newspaper encouraging them to print that particular photo to go along with John Brown’s obituary.

Students will listen to the song "John Brown's Body" by William W. Patton and will use the lyrics to analyze the feelings of Northerners towards John Brown shortly after his raid on Harpers Ferry.

Related lesson: Northern and Southern Differences in 1856

Northern and Southern Differences in 1856

Discussion of the economic needs of the North and South prior to the Civil War. The purpose of this lesson is to place slavery in perspective of each area of the country.

Virginia and the Civil War

In this lesson, students will demonstrate their understanding that Virginia played a significant role in the Civil War and became a major battleground between Union and Confederate troops. They will interpret, make generalizations, and discuss a variety of primary sources: the personal diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, a map of the battle of Fredericksburg, and Civil War photographs.