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School of Education, Health and Human Behavior
School of Education

Lesson: Gettysburg Address

Grade Level: Elementary 3/4

Time: 60 min class period


English Language Arts:

State Goal 1: Read with understanding and fluency.

A. Apply word analysis and vocabulary skills to comprehend selections.

1.A.1a Apply word analysis skills (e.g., phonics, word patterns) to recognize new words.

1.A.1b Comprehend unfamiliar words using context clues and prior knowledge; verify meanings with resource materials

Social Science

State Goal 14: Understand political systems, with an emphasis on the United States.

F. Understand the development of United States political ideas and traditions.

14.F.1. Describe political ideas and traditions important to the development of the United States including democracy, individual rights, and the concept of freedom.

State Goal 16: Understand events, trends, individuals and movements shaping the history of Illinois, the United States, and other nations.

B. Understand the development of significant political events.

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

OBJECTIVES:By the end of this lesson, students will

  • Discuss the meaning and importance of the Gettysburg Address and the events surrounding the speech.
  • Be familiar with the words and language of the Gettysburg Address.
  • Create a replica of the Gettysburg Address.


  • Abraham Lincoln was President during the Civil War.
  • The Civil War was being fought between the Northern and Southern states because states in the South succeeded [went away] from the Union and created the Confederacy.




  1. Review prior knowledge listed above with students by asking questions. [5 min]


  1. Tell students background of Gettysburg Address: The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the major battles of the Civil War that happened from July 1-3, 1863 between the North and the South The North won with General Meade over General Robert E Lee of the South. It was a turning point in the war. More soldiers died in this battle than any other. Over 46,000 soldiers died. [5 min]
  2. Pass out typed copies of the Gettysburg Address to students and have them follow along as teacher plays audio recording from Library of Congress website. [5 min]
  3. Break students into small groups and give them 5 minutes to discuss: "What does this speech mean?"
  4. Bring class back together and facilitate the groups' answers. [5 min]
  5. Explain the Address to the students by breaking it down into sections and explaining the vocabulary. [20 min]
    1. Explanation:

Fourscore 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.

This means that 87 years ago (from the time of the Gettysburg Address) our ancestors built up a new nation where there would be liberty and the belief that everyone is equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

This means we were then going through a great war which would determine if this nation (or any nation with liberty and equality) can last a while.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

The Gettysburg Address was delivered during a dedication ceremony for the soldiers, and it took place at Cemetery Hill (a site of the battle of Gettysburg). People were gathered together on the battlefield to dedicate a portion of it as a cemetery for the soldiers who gave their lives defending our nation.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

This means that it was sensible to dedicate Cemetery Hill to the soldiers, and yet it really wasn't in their power to do that - to set apart that section as sacred. The brave soldiers who fought in the battle had already done that more than the gathered people ever could, simply by fighting for freedom there.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

This is saying that no one will remember what was being said there (which is ironic because this is an incredibly famous speech), but rather what will be remembered is what the soldiers did there. So instead of dedicating Cemetery Hill to the dead soldiers, the people should be dedicated to what all the brave men have done, to their unfinished work that was brought so far.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

This means that these dead soldiers gave their lives fighting for freedom, and that the nation's people are now devoted even more to freedom because of that. Those soldiers will not have died in vain because "we the people" are going to be devoted to what they fought for. "We the people" will make sure that liberty and equality remain. And "We the people" will make sure that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people is going to be here to stay. []

  1. Pass out pens and brown paper bags. Have students rewrite the Address in cursive on the paper bags. [15 min]


  1. Ask students the following questions to check their understanding: [5 min]

§ Why is this speech famous?

§ What was Lincoln saying to the people?

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