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School of Education, Health and Human Behavior
School of Education

Third Grade Civil War

Illinois Learning Standards

16.A.1c Describe how people in different times and places viewed the world in different ways.

16.B.2d (US) Identify major political events and leaders within the United States historical eras since the adoption of the Constitution, including the westward expansion, Louisiana Purchase, Civil War, and 20th century wars as well as the roles of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

16.C.2a (US) Describe how slavery and indentured servitude influenced the early economy of the United States.


Students will gain a better understanding of the American Civil War and the hardships endured during it.


Red and blue ribbons for students to tie around their arms

Printout of


Day One

Have students discuss what they know about the civil war to build background knowledge.

Read the passage from Americanrevwar site aloud to the class, stopping as needed to explain parts of the synopsis.

Once the passage is completed, continue the class discussion of the Civil War.

Ask closing questions to check for comprehension

What was the Civil War? A war where the south tried to leave the United States

Who were the two sides of the Civil War? Northern & Southern states

Why was the Civil War fought? Slavery

What year did the Civil War start? 1861

What does secede mean? To break away and form your own country

Who was President of the United States during the Civil War? Abraham Lincoln


Day Two

Before school starts:

Split the class into two teams: red and blue, making sure to split up friends on separate teams

Rearrange desks so that each team sits with only their team members

As students come in, have them sit in their new spots and pass out red and blue ribbons to tie around their arms.

Explain to students that the blue team and red team are at war. You don't know how long it will go on, but it is very clear that neither of the two teams wants to admit defeat.

The rules for today's exercise are

· Students may not work with, talk to, or play with someone from the other team at all until you declare that the war is over. This includes lunch, recess, and any other times that the students may be out of the classroom.

· Things may happen throughout the day that might not seem fair to the students, but war is not fair and they are expected to continue along with the school day no matter what happens.

· The winner of the war will be the team that earns the most points that you award throughout the day. You will not tell them how to earn points. There will be a tally of team points on the board that will be updated throughout the day.

Do the following throughout the day:

· Update the point totals on the board randomly, never letting the students know how or why point totals have changed.

· At different points of the day, declare that an important battle has just finished, and a student's desk has been lost to the other team. Move that student's desk over to the other team's side of the room and have the student whose desk was lost work from another spot in the room.

· At another point of the day, choose one student to switch sides, making the teams lopsided. Change that students ribbon and move their desk to the other team.

· As the day wears on, have one team slightly ahead. Tell the other team that since they are behind, they will have to work that much harder in class. Assign an extra homework assignment to that team only.


At the end of the day, declare that the war is over. Gather the students together to discuss the day's activities.

What was it like to not be able to work with, talk to, or play with your friends?

Relate this to how many families were broken apart by the Civil War. Many families had members that fought on both sides of the war.

Did they think that everything that happened today was fair? (losing desks, people switching sides, extra homework)

Many times during a war, things that seem very unfair happen to people who are fighting for something that they believe in.

How did they like not knowing how points were awarded or when they would change?

During the Civil War, it was not easy for news to travel quickly, so often a battle would happen that would change the course of the war, but most soldiers on either side didn't know about the battle for weeks or even months after it.

Point out to the class that this lesson only lasted for a few hours and the worst that happened was some people lost their desk or one side was given extra homework. How was the Civil War different from today's activity?

People died, the war lasted for years, it was for real, etc.

Ask the students who was President of the United States during the Civil War?

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln's job during this war was to keep the country together even though many people wanted to leave, and many people died during it. Do you think this was an easy job to do for years?

Announce that tomorrow, the classroom will be back to normal. People will be able to talk to and play with their friends again and the desks will be back in their normal seats. Also announce that the extra homework for the losing team is cancelled.


Have students write a page in their journal for this prompt:

Describe today's Civil War exercise. What happened? Did your team win? Did you think everything that happened was fair? How did you feel when these things happened?

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