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Can the South Win the Civil War?

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Can the South Win the Civil War?

The following unit could be used as an integrated language arts and social studies unit. It could be used at a variety of grade levels; I used it with a sixth grade class.

Civil War/ Slavery Activities

1. Divide the class into two teams, North and South. Make a poster on which to keep score of the battles won. Give points for:

  • Daily Oral Language sentences. These are sentences with errors that students correct. (1 point for a perfect sentence done on the board.)

  • Tests. (1 point for the team with the highest average on tests)

  • Reading the most books (1 point for each 100 pages read by the end of the unit)

  • Spelling Bee (1 point for winner)

  • Homework done (one point for each time entire team passes in their homework)

  • Math games (1 point for each one won)

  • Any other competitions

  • Good for You cards (1 point each)

  • (If you want to use negative points, you could subtract points for negative things, but I have a hard time taking away points once a kid has earned them.)

2. Read aloud Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reeder and Brady by Jean Fritz.

3. Have a variety of Civil War/Slavery books relating to African/Americans available for students to choose. Use the contract (Note: The student contract can be found in Part II of this Unit.) for each student to do with the book(s) of their choice. At the end of the unit have class present contract orally to the entire class.

4. Have each student make Journals in which to do contract work. Use blue covers for North and gray for South. Students should decorate with appropriate symbols for their side. Samples for Union and Confederate flags and uniforms available. Students should color and enclose in their journals.

5. Provide students with historical background of the Civil War and related issues. Sources:


  • History text at appropriate reading level.

  • PBS documentary on the Civil War

  • Filmstrips

  • Lessons from reference books, especially dealing with the causes of the war. (The Civil War, How and Why)


6. Discuss the Underground Railroad and have students listen to tapes or videos and read books about Harriet Tubman.

7. Read aloud The Drinking Gourd and from To Be A Slave.

8. Research soldiers' foods and try making some.

9. Bulletin Boards


  • Enlarge an outline map of the U.S. using the overhead and trace on bulletin board. Have each team research which states were on their side and have them color them blue or gray accordingly. Add symbols and terms for each side in margins. As students read their books, have them mark places they read about on the map. Title for bulletin board: A Nation Divided

  • Collect pictures of important people of the Civil War period and display them. Title: The Civil War or Civil War Characters


10. Have each team make a time line of important events.

11. Read aloud Lyddie by Katherine Paterson. (This book deals with a young Vermont girl's "enslavement" in the textile mills in Lowell, MA prior to the Civil War. Use this to help students see that neither side was all right or all wrong.)

12. Writing assignments


  • Have students research and write a biography of a person related to the unit.

  • Have students write a personal narrative as if they were a twelve- year old boy or girl living in the North or South at the time of the war.

  • Have students write a letter home as though they were a soldier from either the North or South.


14. Music/Poetry


  • Read poetry of the period

  • Have students learn soldiers' songs appropriate to the time.(e.g., "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home")


The student contract is found in the article "Can The South Win THe Civil War? Part II"


Lesson by Margaret Twitchell

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