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History Detectives 5th Grade Standard IV Object. 3

Main Core Tie

Social Studies - 5th Grade
Standard 4 Objective 3

Time Frame

2 class periods of 45 minutes each

Group Size

Small Groups




Students will use primary source materials to investigate significant historical events during the American Civil War.



  1. 6 folders labeled with the 6 general topics of this lesson (See attachments for file folder labels.)
  2. Each folder will contain copies of primary source materials for its specific topic. (See attachments. Some sample resources are provided or the teacher may wish to use their own primary sources.)

    1. 1860-1861
    2. 1862-1863
    3. 1864-1865

    1. 1860-1861
    2. 1862-1863
    3. 1864-1865
  3. Historian's Investigative Sheet (See attachments.)
  4. 2 different colors of 'My Civil War Primary Source Fact Page' pg. 1 (1 color will represent the north and 1 the south) (See handout attachments pg. 1.)
  5. 'Timeline During the Civil War' (See handout attachments pg. 2)
  6. 'Determining Importance of Historical People, Places, or Events During the Civil War' (See handout attachments Pgs. 3 and 4)
  7. Student 'Sequencing' (See handout attachments pg. 5)
  8. Teacher will place a timeline covering 1860-1865 at the front of the classroom. (With only the years on it.)

Background for Teachers

Teacher needs general knowledge of the events of the Civil War.

Student Prior Knowledge

  1. They need to know how to use a timeline.
  2. Need to have basic research skills.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to analyze and determine the importance of events during the Civil War.

Instructional Procedures

  1. Teachers will prepare 6 investigative folders. Each folder (Ex. -1860-1861) will have 5 topics. Here's some suggested topics can be used to put in each folder.


  1. 1860-1861
    Lincoln's Election
    Lincoln's Inauguration
    First Battle of Bull Run
    General George B. McClellan
    Blockade of South
  2. 1862-1863
    U.S.S. Monitor
    Emancipation Proclamation
    Battle of Shiloh
    Gettysburg Address
  3. 1864-1865
    Ulysses S. Grant
    Massachusetts 54th (All Black unit)
    Sherman's March
    Lincoln's Reelection
    Lincoln's Assassination


  1. 1860-1861
    South Carolina flag
    Map of Southern States
    Picture of Jefferson Davis
    First Battle of Manassas
    Virginia Divided
  2. 1862-1863
    Robert E. Lee
    Robert Smalls
    Jeb Stuart
    Battle of Gettysburg
  3. 1864-1865
    Burning of Atlanta
    John Wilkes Booth
    Ford Theater
  1. Pre-assessment options
    Option #1: The teacher divides the class into 6 groups. (Groups smaller than 4 students are not suggested.) Then the teacher assigns 1 folder to each group. The students will look through their assigned folder and discuss what they know about each primary source document or artifact. Next, as a group, they will write a sentence or statement about each item. The groups will then share their information with the whole class.

    Option #2: Have the students complete the Historian's Investigative Sheet and then present their findings to the class. (See Materials' attachments.)

    Option #3: Have the students answer the following questions.
    • What do you know about the Gettysburg Address?
    • What do you know about the Emancipation Proclamation?
    • Why did the southern states want to create their own country?
    • What was the country like after the war?
    • Why did the southern states and the northern states fight a war?
  2. Main lesson options
    Option #1: If the teacher did not use the Historian's Investigative Sheet for the pre-assessment, have the students complete it and then present their findings to the class.

    Option #2: Each student takes one of the items in one of the folders, researches that topic, summarizes what happened and why it was important enough to include in the folder. (Ex. -- 1 student researches Lincoln's Election, another the Inauguration. You can use "My Civil War Primary Source Fact Page" handout pg. 1 for this option. Also, see handout pg. 1 instructions for other ways of using the Fact Page.)

    Option #3: The teacher will use the "Timeline During the Civil War" handout pg. 2. This assignment can be given to individual students or to small groups. Have each student or group research 1 topic from their group's Primary Source folder. Together the group will summarize that 1 topic in the correct space on the handout pg. 2. Then the teacher will regroup the students into different groups using the Jigsaw method, so that you have at least 6 students (1 from each time period) in the new group. The teacher gives each student, representing a time period, 1 minute to present their topic summary to this new group. As the other students listen, they fill in the blank time periods. Thus, when the group is finished, this chart is filled in.

    Option #4: Small groups of students will look through their year's Primary Source folder (Ex.-1860-1861). They will do research on each of the 5 topics to determine the most important of the 5 events or people from their assigned year and side (North or South). Each group will write their findings onto "Determining Importance of Historical People, Places, or Events During the Civil War" handout pg. 3 and be prepared to support their choice.

    As a follow-up to this, each group could fill out the remainder of the handout after listening to each group. Then they determine which of the #1 topic, from either the North or the South, they would choose to be the most important for that year and be prepared to support their choice.

    Option #5: After groups have researched and presented their overviews of each Primary Source item from each folder, give the students the "Determining Importance of Historical People, Places, or Events During the Civil War" handout pg. 4. They will circle the primary source item in each box below that they feel represents the most important choice.

    Option #6: Copy "My Civil War Primary Source Fact Page" handout pg.1 in two different colors. One color will represent the Northern event and one color will represent the Southern event. (Ex. - North page is blue, South is grey.) The teacher has each group (Ex. North 1. 1860-1861) fill out that page. Next, the teacher will give the students the "Sequencing" handout pg. 5. Using the information they have gathered, students will decide which of the 5 choices in their year's Primary Source folder was the most important. They will then write that item's title on the timeline in the middle of pg. 5. (See handout pg. 5 instructions for other extension ideas.)

    Option #7: The students that research each of the 10 items in each year's Primary Source folders, (such as 1860-1861 = 5 from north, 5 from south) will fill in the 'My Civil War Primary Source Fact Page' pg. 1. Next the students will present information to the class and place their colored page onto the class timeline. (See Materials' attachments 'My Civil War Primary Source Fact Page' pg. 1.)

    Option #8: Have the group for each time period draw a picture and write a 20-word summary of each event, person, place to present to the class.
  3. Teacher reads a read aloud about the Civil War era. (Here are some suggested titles.)
    Suggested Read-Alouds:
    • Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco
    • Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
    • If You Lived At the Time of the Civil War by Kay Moore
    • A Picture Book About Harriet Tubman by David A. Adler
    • Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Doreen Rappaport
    • The Everything Civil War Book: Everything You Need to Know About the War That Divided the Nation by Donald Vaughan


Extension -- Students could research for specific info.

Students could make their own type of Baseball Cards with the dates and the information they have from their Primary Source Folder. Then they could create a review type of game or activity to go along with them.

Assessment Plan

The students will refer to the whole class timeline to select the single most important event in each time frame and write them on their individual timeline page. Then they must write their reasons supporting their choices.

Created: 06/26/2009
Updated: 02/05/2018