(Days 1-2)

Over the course of this two-day lesson, SWBAT:

  • examine information in a digital format
  • cooperatively complete an electronic worksheet on PBWorks 
  • form and revise a hypotheses based on the information they discover during the activity
  • write a five paragraph essay explaining their hypothesis and the information they discover during the activity

Battle of Antietam, Maryland--Burnside's division carrying the bridge over the Antietam Creek, and storming the Rebel position, after a desperate conflict of four hours, Wednesday, September 17 / from a sketch b by Forbes, Edwin, 1839-1895, artist | Print


Link to Common Core Standards for History/Social Studies (Grades 6-8)

  • RH.6-8.2.
  • RH.6-8.4.
  • RH.6-8.5. 
  • RH.6-8.7.

Link to Common Core Standards for Writing (Grades 6-8)

  • WHST.6-8.1.
  • WHST.6-8.4.
  • WHST.6-8.5.
  • WHST.6-8.7.
  • WHST.6-8.9.

DCPS Social Studies Standards

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  • Civil War Human Timeline placards
  • Civil War Human Timeline answer key
  • Link to Lesson Activity
  • Road to Civil War resource site
  • Road to the Civil War Essay Handout (Assessment)

Civil War Human Timeline placards

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Civil War Human Timeline key

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Road to the Civil War Essay Handout

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Warm Up

Civil War Human Timeline Activity.  (See resources section for placards and key). This activity will gauge student's knowledge of key events in the Civil War. Students will have the opportunity to practice the skills and knowledge needed to complete a timeline.

Civil War Anticipation Guide. 6-8 of the placards could be turned into an Anticipation Guide.  Students can make a tab-book FOLDABLE or take 2-column notes of teaching points.

New Material

During the Civil War America was divided. For four years (1861-1865), the people of the north and south fought one another in the bloodiest conflict this nation has ever endured. What made the nation fight with itself is a question that many historians often ask.

Historians examine major events, important facts, and various pieces of evidence to try and determine the answer to this question: “What caused the Civil War?” During this activity, students will have the opportunity to play the role of a historian and examine some of the same evidence that real historians might use to answer that question.

Students will use the information on the Road to Civil War Website to complete an online activity dealing with the causes of the Civil War. The lesson can be found on the creator's PBWorks Space.


(Part 1) Recalling Prior Knowledge: The Civil War is one of the most widely discussed and debated aspects of United States History.  Students will be asked to try to remember some things they may have heard or seen about the Civil War. Students will then be prompted to write a hypothesis explaining what they think caused the conflict in the comments section of the Lesson Activity page. The hypothesis should consist of one thought or sentence and should explain what the student thinks caused the Civil War.  During the lesson, students will examine some evidence to see if their hypothesis is correct.

(Part 2)Examining and Interpreting the Evidence: Using the Lesson Activity page, students will examine twenty-one events and in cooperative groups, complete the questions associated with each of those events.

(Part 3) Application of New Learning:  After students have had the opportunity to look at all of the evidence, they will be prompted to write another hypothesis explaining what they think was responsible for the start of the Civil War. Their final hypothesis should contain at least three major reasons for the war.  The revised hypothesis will be written in the comments section of the Lesson Activity Page.


Using their new hypothesis, students will complete the outline below. Students will then use this outline to write a high quality FIVE paragraph essay that explains what they think caused the Civil War. Students are to use examples in their essay from the information discovered during the activity to prove that their hypothesis is correct.

Road to the Civil War Essay Handout

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Closure and Reflection

[The closure of a lesson should directly tie the new material, student practice, instructional objectives, and assessment together. It should also connect this lesson to the previous lesson and link to the next lesson(s). In this is space you can also include your notes about how the lesson went. You should indicate what worked well, what was problematic, ideas for modifying the lesson for future use, and how this particular lesson ties in with others in the same curricular unit.]