In my days as a teacher, I remember longing for time to squeeze in meaningful history lessons, only to find myself reading chapters out of a textbook. Needless to say, my students were less than engaged. To help avoid this same situation in your classroom, I have spent hours creating worthwhile and engaging US History lessons. In this free battles of the Civil War activity, your students will learn about some of the most important battles of the Civil War through primary sources.
Engage Students Using Primary Sources
A primary source is a document, image, or artifact that provides a firsthand account of an event.
Map showing Charleston Harbor S.C. Bombardment of Fort Sumter
But why use primary sources? According to the Library of Congress, using primary sources in the classroom:
- Gives students a glimpse into what it was like to live in past eras
- Prompts curiosity
- And improves critical thinking and analysis skills
So, not only are primary sources engaging for students, but they also teach critical thinking skills that can be used across all subjects. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Tips for Teaching with Primary Sources
Teachinghistory.org outlines a process for analyzing primary documents. In this process, students look at the source four times – each time focusing their attention on a different aspect. First, students read for context. Second, students read for meaning. Third, students read for argument. And, fourth, students read like a historian.
Another source I love to use when teaching with primary and secondary sources is the National Archive. Their simple worksheets provide a quick and easy way for students to analyze primary sources.
Free Battles of the Civil War Activity
In this free battles of the Civil War activity, you will find:
- A detailed lesson plan
- Primary and secondary sources, including: a map, a letter, a photograph, a newspaper article, and more!
- Student worksheets
- A reflection page for students who finish quickly
- And access to a Google Classroom version of the lesson!
Taking on the role of historians, students will analyze primary and secondary sources to learn about some of the most important battles of the Civil War. In this engaging activity, students walk around the room searching for clues to find the missing information about each significant battle.
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More Civil War Resources
Looking for additional resources to help you teach about the Civil War?
- Civil War Primary Sources: An outline of 5 (additional) primary sources, complete with teaching suggestions. I have also created a compilation of primary sources for several other US History topics as well!
- Civil War Timeline Worksheet: A simple timeline activity to help your students connect events together in a meaningful way.
- Civil War Videos: 7 of my favorite educational and age-appropriate videos for teaching the Civil War to middle school students.
- Civil War Picture Books: 7 worthwhile picture books to help bring the Civil War to life in your classroom.
- 3 Week Civil War Unit: This all-inclusive unit provides interactive lesson plans that will keep your students engaged and help them learn information in a meaningful way.