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Perspectives in The Civil War

Chelsee Wilson | Published: June 8th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 8th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3-5 class period(s)
  • Duration More 180 minutes


In this lesson about perspectives in the Civil War, students will participate in a role-playing activity to become familiar with the motives and points of view of various key figures in the Civil War; analyze each figure in greater depth; participate in a close reading and annotation activity involving primary source materials from the Civil War, then form groups to share the knowledge they've acquired from the readings; and use a template to create a Two-Voice Poem with emphasis on the views of marginalized or traditionally underrepresented historical groups. This lesson includes optional modifications for distance learning. Resources for use in Google Classroom are included.

Essential Question(s)

Why do people fight? What is worth fighting for? 



Students participate in a Historical Mingle activity to explore different historical points of view and key figures in the Civil War.


Students discuss their roles from the Historical Mingle and complete a graphic organizer summarizing each figure's significance.


Students read primary source documents from the Civil War era and participate in Why-Lighting and Jigsaw activities to practice close reading and annotation skills. Then, they share their knowledge with each other in groups.


Students write Two-Voice Poems using a template and focusing on traditionally underrepresented historical groups.


Students submit their Two-Voice Poems and/or graphic organizers as assessments for the lesson.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Historical Mingle Activity Cards (attached, one or two sets per class)

  • Historical Mingle Graphic Organizer (attached, one per student)

  • Civil War Primary Source Readings Packet (attached, one per student)

  • Jigsaw Graphic Organizers (attached, one per student)

  • Two-Voice Poem Templates (attached, one per student)

  • Two-Voice Poem Rubrics (attached, one per student, optional)

  • Highlighters

  • Pens/pencils


Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Begin with slide 1 and introduce the title, then move to the lesson's Essential Questions on slide 2: Why do people fight? What is worth fighting for? Ask students to, over the course of this lesson, think about these questions in relation to the U.S. Civil War and the roles and motivations of various key figures in that conflict. Slide 3 introduces the Lesson Objectives. Address these expectations with your students to prepare them for their learning.

Tell students that they will be handed a card with a name, a description, and (in some cases) a photograph. Distribute the prepared Historical Mingle Activity Cards randomly, one to each member of the class, and introduce the Historical Mingle learning strategy on slide 4. Ask students to read the description carefully and think about how they can assume the role of the character on their card. Give students 2–3 minutes to read through their roles and determine how they will present themselves, as outlined on slide 5.

Once students have assumed their roles, invite them to get up from their seats, seek out another character in the class, introduce themselves, and mingle. Give students 2–3 minutes to mingle with their partner, then ask them to find a new partner. Continue until students have mingled with three to four partners. If students struggle with asking questions, display slide 6 during the activity. This list of general questions should prompt the respondent to consider their role during the Civil War. After students have visited with several other historical figures, ask them to return to their seats.


Distribute a copy of the attached Historical Mingle Graphic Organizer to each student.

Move to the discussion instructions on slide 7. Have students debrief and discuss the Historical Mingle. Use slides 8–18 to guide the discussion. As you move to each slide, ask the student(s) who played this role to respond to the questions shown. As students answer and discuss these roles, the class should fill in the Historical Mingle Graphic Organizer.

After all of the roles have been discussed, move to slide 19. Ask students to analyze their graphic organizers for any trends that they see and try to brainstorm and identify reasons why each person would fight for one side or the other.

Once students have analyzed the roles for trends, ask students to share out. Move to slide 20. Invite students to share their thoughts about each historical figures' significance and motivation. You may also wish to use the space provided on slide 20, or a similar whiteboard space, to jot down important shared ideas for the class to note.


Pass out copies of the attached Civil War Primary Source Reading Packets to students, along with highlighters.

Primary source documents are first-person historical or eyewitness accounts, as well as pamphlets, speeches, posters and other historical records that are original to a particular time or event. Each of the documents in this packet represents an account from the Civil War era. Explain to students that they will be responsible for reading and becoming an expert on one document in the packet.

After assigning student(s) to each document, display slide 21 and introduce the Why-Lighting strategy for text annotation. As students highlight the important facts in their assigned document, also have them make notes about in the document margin about why they chose to highlight that particular information. Allow ample time for students to read and consider their documents, highlight, and make notations.

When everyone has completed the Why-Lighting strategy, assign students to groups. Be sure there is only one representative of each reading per group. Since there are 11 readings, you might only have two large groups in your class. Once students are grouped, move to slide 22 and distribute a copy of the attached Jigsaw Graphic Organizer handout to each student. Introduce the Jigsaw reading strategy to the class. The purpose of the Jigsaw strategy is to have each student, who has become an expert on their assigned reading during the Why-Lighting activity, reveal their acquired knowledge with their classmates. Students share responsibility for each others' learning while developing group communication and close-reading skills.

Invite students, now that they are the experts about their assigned documents, to teach the rest of the group what they've learned. Ask group members to fill out the corresponding portion of their Jigsaw Graphic Organizers as each student discusses their reading.


Next, introduce the Two-Voice Poem strategy and ask students to use it to showcase the perspectives of two different groups during the Civil War. Display slide 23 and hand out the attached Two-Voice Poem template to students.

Ask students to select at least one group that is not traditionally represented in discussions about the Civil War, such as women, immigrants, African Americans (free or enslaved), or Native Americans.

Students may choose to refer to their Jigsaw Graphic Organizers to find inspiration for the content of their two-voice poems.


You may have students turn in their Jigsaw Graphic Organizers and/or Two-Voice Poems to be used as formative assessments for the lesson.