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School of Education, Health and Human Behavior
School of Education

Grade level: 6-12

Analyzing the Words of Abraham Lincoln

Objectives : Through analyzing various Abraham Lincoln quotes, students will further understand Lincoln's way of thinking throughout the time period.

Students will also see how some of the quotes may contradict each other.

Students will be able to discuss the impact and legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

Standards : 3.A.3 Write compositions that contain complete sentences and effective paragraphs using English conven­tions.

3.B.3a Produce documents that convey a clear understanding and interpretation of ideas and information and display focus, organization, elaboration and coherence.

16.A.3b Make inferences about historical events and eras using historical maps and other historical resources.

Procedures : Students will be presented with one of four quotes and questions to guide their thinking. Using knowledge acquired during a previous lesson, students will answer the following questions:

1. At what point in Lincoln's life do you think this quote is from?

2. Was it difficult or easy to believe that this was something that Lincoln said? Explain?

After the students have finished their questions, they will then join other students with the same quote and they will share their answers to the questions with the group. The group will then decide on final answers the questions and then be asked to share with the class. When they are sharing their ideas, they will read aloud the quote and then read aloud the answers to the questions. After everyone is finished sharing each student will be instructed to get out a piece of their own paper. They will then be asked to write about their findings by answering the following questions that will be displayed on the board. Did these quotes follow the beliefs you previously had of Abraham Lincoln? Why or why not? Did you find any of these quotes personally confusing? What made them confusing to you? Did you learn anything new or different about Abraham Lincoln?

Assessment : Students will be assessed by the following rubric:

Participation in group discussion: /15 points

Grammar/ Mechanics: /10 points

Completion of essay (answers all questions, stay on topic, turned in promptly)

/15 points

Total: /40 points

Modifications for grades 10 and 11 :

Time: Two days

Applicable Illinois Learning Standards: Social Science: 16.A.4a Analyze and report historical events to determine cause-and-effect relationships. 16.A.4b Compare competing historical inter­pre­tations of an event. 16.B.4 (US) Identify political ideas that have dominated United States historical eras (e.g., Federalist, Jacksonian, Progressivist, New Deal, New Conservative). 16.D.4a (US) Describe the immediate and long-range social impacts of slavery. 16.D.4b (US) Describe unintended social consequences of political events in United States history (e.g., Civil War/emancipation, National Defense Highway Act/decline of inner cities, Vietnam War/anti-government activity).

English Language Arts: 1.A.4b Compare the meaning of words and phrases and use analogies to explain the relationships among them. 1.B.4a Preview reading materials, clarify meaning, analyze overall themes and coherence, and relate reading with information from other sources. 1.B.4c Read age-appropriate material with fluency and accuracy. 1.C.4b Explain and justify an interpretation of a text. 1.C.4d Summarize and make generalizations from content and relate them to the purpose. 3.A.5 Produce grammatically correct docu­ments using standard manuscript specifications for a variety of purposes and audiences.

Resources/materials needed:

  • A copy of each of the four documents used in the lesson. Each can be found at the following links:

Fourth Lincoln-Douglas debate: Letter to Greeley: Emancipation Proclamation: Gettysburg Address:

  • A copy of the document analysis template which is found at the end of this plan.


The class will be divided into groups of four. Each group will receive several copies of one of the documents containing one of the quotes. Also, each group will receive a question sheet to assist them with analyzing and evaluating the source. Each group will then locate and study the specific quote within their documents. After a class discussion on the Lincoln quotes, students will choose ONE of the following free-response essays and write a two-page paper. The purpose of the essay is to show how Abraham Lincoln's ideas and attitudes concerning slavery and African-Americans in general changed during his political career.

Essay A : Write a biography of Abraham Lincoln (begin with the 1858 Senatorial debates and end with his assassination in1865) in which all four quotations analyzed in class are used. You may use fragments of the quotations. Incorporate the quotes into the essay in chronological order and explain the circumstances in which each was said.

Essay B : Write a letter, diary/journal entry, letter to the editor of a major newspaper, etc. in which you share your thoughts on the evolving views of President Lincoln as it relates to race and slavery. You will write your draft in the perspective of one of the following people:

Confederate soldier Widow of a Union soldier former slave veteran from either side

Grading Rubric:

I. Introduction (_____/25)

a. Topic Sentence/Attention-Grabber

b. Background Information

c. Thesis Statement

II. Body (_____/25) (3 paragraphs)

a. Baby Thesis

b. Historical accuracy

c. Correct use of quotations

d. Concluding Thought

III. Conclusion (____/25)

a. Restate Thesis

b. Provide analysis

Total: _____/75

Lincoln Quotes:

1. "I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races."; Lincoln-Douglas debates, 1858

2. "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."; Letter to Horace Greeley, 1862

3. "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."; Gettysburg Address, 1863

4. "That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free"; Emancipation Proclamation, 1863

Names ______________________________

U.S. History:

"The Changing Mind of Abraham Lincoln" Document Analysis Sheet:

1. When and where was the speech made or letter written? What was the occasion?

2. To whom is Lincoln addressing?

3. What is the general content of the document? What is he saying?

4. What were some historical events surrounding speech, letter, etc.?

5. What major immediate impact(s) did the quote have?

6. What is your group's assessment of the quote? Has time changed our views on the quote or on Lincoln in general concerning his quote?

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