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Grade Level/Unit:

Sheltered 8th Grade - Life During the Civil War for Women and Civilians

NOTE: Though this unit was written with the sheltered and special needs populations in mind, it can be used with all students populations.The lesson length would vary depending upon your students and time per class period. Instruction is "chunked" or broken into manageable pieces for special needs learners to experience success and enjoyment.

The lesson is intended to follow an overview of the American Civil War from a film, the text and/or teacher direct instruction. Create a timeline and have a large map of the U.S. in the 1860's available for student reference as they do the spider activity.

Lesson Purpose:

While examining life during the Civil War for women and civilians, students will

1. use and identify types of primary sources used to document life during Civil War (letters, diaries, books, photographs etc.)
2. develop historical empathy for the women and civilians who lived during the Civil War
3. examine the lives of women from multiple points of view (geographic and occupational)
4. identify forms of communication, keeping in touch with the family, during Civil War period
5. identify the efforts, jobs and duties of women during the Civil War
6. identify effects of Civil War on daily life of women, children, and other civilians
7. describe daily life during Civil War
8. describe the geography and its importance to war and people during the Civil War
9. learn basic battle information
10. practice interpersonal and relationship skill through cooperative/collaborative learning
11. practice and increase decision-making skills
12. improve study skills

Information Literacy Skills:

Students will:

1. use problem solving skills throughout the unit
2. organize information learned to complete daily assignments and a culminating final group project
3. increase reading, understanding and usage of both verbal and written English
4. learn to recognize factual information
5. compare and contrast differences and similarities

Lesson Length:

2-4 weeks is required for the entire project depending upon type of student population.

1-2 days are needed for most project steps. These can be used independently to supplement your own unit.

Suggested Pacing for a Sheltered Class:

The following is a suggested plan, based on a 45 minute class period, to use this unit with sheltered students:

Week 1:

Week 2:

Week 3:

Week 4:

Additional Resources and Materials:


paper (lined and blank), pencil, erasers
colored pencils or marking pens
construction paper
rulers, scissors, and glue sticks

Supplemental Online Resources

Civil War Gazette
To access from the Technology Project page, select Curriculum, then WebQuests, and then scroll untill
you find "Civil War Gazette"

Print Materials

Goode's World Atlas
Spanish/English Dictionary
library and trade books
Fort Life-Historic Communities by Bobbie Kalman and David Schimpky
Games from Long Ago-Historic Communities by Bobbie Kalman
Abraham Lincoln, Troll Associates - with cassette tape
Robert E. Lee: Brave Leader, Troll Associates - with cassette tape
Clara Barton: Angel of the Battlefield, Troll Associates
Civil War Heroines, Bellerophon Books (coloring book with short summaries)
Civil War Thematic Unit, Teacher Created Materials, Inc. (fabulous reproducibles)
The Civil War, Scholastic (literature units, projects, Reader's Theater and activities)
Civilians, by Juanita Leisch, Thomas Publications (photographs, everyday life, war effects and jobs)
Blue and Grey Cookery, Hugh and Judy Gowan, Capitol Press

Optional Technology

Encarta Atlas CD ROM
Vital Links Multimedia Program
E-mail access (for extension activities, i.e. correspondence with Reenactment Groups, Daughters of Confederacy, Sons of Confederacy, etc.)

Interdisciplinary Connections:


Venn Diagrams
Problem Solving
Civil War & English Vocabulary Words
Writing process ("spiders", letter writing, storyboards)
Oral and written expression


drawings (flags, maps & scenery)
interpersonal skills
decision making
time management

Lesson Sequence:


After doing some background teaching about the political issues and chronology of events from the era of the Civil War, the teacher asks the class to imagine how it would be to live 140 years ago. The following questions will help lead the thoughts and discussion, if needed:

What would be different? What would be the same?
They did not have televisions or cars back then. What other things do you have that weren't invented then?
What was life like for people living then?


Assign students to groups of four. Select the groups based on student abilities and personalities.Assign each group a group number, type of woman during Civil War period and battle or area. You might let the students choose battle areas, with approval.

Spider Activity

In their group, after they have completed this activity listed under the student section, they share all spider information. As each group member talks, the other members add to their individual spiders any information not listed, but deemed accurate.

Each group compiles information into a GROUP SPIDER. The group draws on construction paper (one piece per group). Each group takes a turn and shares their spider with the class. They are posted around the room and kept until the end of the unit. Then have students do activity again and compare their new results. They will be amazed at how much they learned!

Students tell the teacher the needed Civil War information. The teacher writes the information on poster paper. The chart is kept around class throughout the unit and reviewed every week (or day). New information as learned is added to the chart as teacher spends the last few minutes of the period, or the beginning of the class having students recall what was learned. This allows students to be able to refer to chart during the unit and use as a guide for writing, (reinforces both memory and proper spelling).

Cyber Scavenger Hunt

Assign the following battle areas and sites to each group:

GROUP 1: Fort Sumter GROUP 5: Fredericksburg
GROUP 2: Bull Run or Manassas GROUP 6: Vicksburg
GROUP 3: Antietam GROUP 7: Gettysburg
GROUP 4: Harper's Ferry GROUP 8: Atlanta

Review Internet procedures, if needed. Students are to find basic information about their assigned battle and incorporate in their letters:

Flowing Terrific Terms

Give each student a FLOWING TERRIFIC TERMS worksheet. Each student visits three Civil War vocabulary sites and chooses 10 words different from other group members' words. The activity involves students creating a pictorial illustration and writing word meanings in their own words. Demonstrate and reinforce that "stick figures" are fine to make. This is not being graded for art. This is one form of a graphic organizer which has been successful in helping students remember vocabulary and meanings.

A Young Girl's Life

A glossary for a portion of the diary (CARRIE BERRY GLOSSARY) has been made to assist students in this activity. The diary is rich with details of Atlanta's experiences during the war. This is also a great resource to learn about daily life, chores, free time and foods eaten.

Meeting a Spy and Other Stories

An extra credit assignment is listed in the student section. You may want to develop another or eliminate that section.

Internet Research

Students work alone or with their group to find other information useful to the writing of the final letters and final group presentation. If you can have access to a bank of computers with Internet access for these days of the lesson, the time will be much better spent. If a lab is not available, rotate student groups to the computers and have other groups do other parts of the activity. You can also print off some of the letters and sections from the diary for off line use.

Keeping in Touch

This portion of the lesson will require time and monitoring. The writing process listed under the student section is a suggestion for teachers. There are many great ways to go through the process.

Dynamite Drawings

Students love this portion of the unit. The amount of time spent here depends upon the teaching schedule, type of class, talents of the students (and the teacher), etc. This area can be easily adapted to allow more or less time in this section. Students also can complete some of this work at home. Props and scenery can also be extremely simple (just a head covering for the character and a sheet for a tent) to the elaborate. Having props and scenery helps these students to visualize, experience, and acquire a better understanding of the historical time period. Students often view the final project more seriously when this section is also emphasized. This section also allows the artistically creative students to shine.


This activity helps students plan their final group presentation in a fun and concrete way. They write a storyboard, like a cartoon strip of the scenes in their presentation. It's helpful to point out to them not to spend a lot of time on the pictures. The purpose of this activity is to put in writing their words and scenes. If they draw one scene per piece of paper, they can experiment with the placement of the scenes. The final order will be their final presentation order. They then number the order on the back and write their Period Number, Group Number and Group Members' Names on the back of each storyboard.

Practice Presentation

Some class time is given for practice but it helps to encourage groups to practice for homework. Groups planning to videotape at home need to plan meetings and video times. Students are to prepare for 15 minutes and time themselves. In reality, the presentations will be 10-15 minutes as students forget lines and speak fast when presenting.

Final Group Presentation

Final group presentations take about 1-3 days depending on the size of the class. Students should take notes during the presentations. This helps to ensure focused attention and increases learning. After each group presentation, the teacher can help reinforce concepts and fill in the gaps of learnings missed by students. Students can add this information to their notes. Notes can be collected for an additional assignment or taken home to study for a mini-assessment the next day.

Eileen M. Granet
SCORE - CH/SSP Technology Academy 1997
Grant Middle School
Escondido Union School District
Lesson reviewed for accuracy by Joanna Cowden, CSU Chico

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