Today in History:

President Lincoln's Dilemma

Instructional Plan 

    Lesson Title: President Lincoln’s Dilemma 


      Connection to Previous Learning: Students understand that slavery was a cause of the civil war.  They also understand that opinions on slavery were many and varied.

      Connection to Future Learning: Students will learn about the Emancipation Proclamation and they will come to understand how this affected the Civil War and life in America.  

    Student Performance Objectives:

      Ohio Standard(s): History

      Ohio Benchmark(s): Analyze causes and consequences of the American Civil War  

    Materials / Resources Needed:

  • Books containing information about the Missouri Compromise
  • Books that describe various sides of the slavery argument
  • Computers for research purposes

    *If students are capable, they may find these resources themselves.

  • Stovepipe Hat
  • Beard


      Time Estimate: 3 Class Periods

      Opening / Focus / Anticipatory Set: “Presidents rarely make decisions without consulting several members of their cabinet as well as outside resources.  Who do you think that President Lincoln might have spoken to about the very controversial topic of slavery?”  Make a list of student responses.  “What positions do you think these people might have had regarding this topic?”  Make a separate list of positions.  Help students come to positions such as anti-slavery, pro-slavery, Missouri Compromise, etc. 

      Teacher Modeling / Demonstration / Facilitation of Learning:  Explain to students that they are going to be split into groups representing the various positions in their list.  Tell them that each group will have to find reasons that their assigned position is the position that President Lincoln should take as his own.  They should also know that they will have to present this information in a convincing manner at the end of the project.  Let them know that they may or may not agree with the position they are asked to be part of but none the less they should do their best to take on that position for the purposes of this assignment. 

      Check for Understanding:  Ask the students if there is a part of the project that is confusing.  Clarify any questions they may have and state that if additional questions arise they should first ask a teammate and if an answer cannot be found within their team they may come and ask you.

      Guided Practice or Activity: Give students their assigned position and pass out a web.  Allow five or ten minutes for students to web information they already know about their position or arguments they feel their position may have.

      Group Activity: After webbing, students should meet as a group and share their ideas to help begin a discussion.  Give students the rest of the period as well as the next class time to research their position and formulate their presentation for President Lincoln.  On the third day, students should present their arguments to a teacher dressed in a stovepipe hat and beard representing President Lincoln.  Following each presentation, “President Lincoln” should fill in a comparison chart that shows how each position feels about current slaves, future slaves, slave states, and other areas of concern.  Students should make similar charts either as a part of their notes of the class or on a separate piece of paper.

      Closure of Lesson: “President Lincoln” should deliberate momentarily on what he plans to do.  Then he should announce the Emancipation Proclamation.  (This should help lead into future lessons on this topic.) 

    Assessment of Learners’ Achievement: Assessment of student learning comes from the depth of their presentation, their participation in research, and their participation in the presentation. 


      Struggling: These students are supported by their group members.

      Advanced: These students should be challenged to infer information they cannot directly find in books or on the internet.