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Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address- A Great American Speech

Created by:
Eric Rybka
Galloway Township Middle School, NJ

Jocelyn Murphy
Egg Harbor City, NJ

Abraham Lincoln

Grade Level:
6 to 8


The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Reactions from several witnesses to the original speech may be referenced, and student reactions to the speech will be explored.

An audio recording of the Gettysburg Address will be played for students to enhance student understanding and appreciation of the speech.

Historical Context

The Gettysburg Address was delivered by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1863. The speech redefined goals for the North and helped to heal a nation in turmoil. While the Gettysburg Address received mixed reviews at the time, it is now considered to be one of the great American speeches.


dedication, vision, determination, war, liberty, Civil War, opinion

Goals and Objectives:

Following this activity, students will be able to do the following:

1.Identify the themes of the Gettysburg Address

2.Compare and contrast the different reactions to the speech.

3. Students will be able to form their own opinion as to the importance of the speech.


STANDARD 6.1 (Social Studies) 6.1 All students will examine source data within the historical, social, political, geographic, or economic context in which it was created, testing credibility and evaluating bias.

Equipment, materials and other technology needed:

Access to a computer with audio capability

Worksheet: Gettysburg Address True or False

Worksheet: The Gettysburg Address and questions

Details of Activity

Part 1: Warm Up (5 min.)

Students will be asked to state any prior knowledge about the Gettysburg Address by playing a game called True or False. The Teacher will ask questions about the Address, some of which will be true and some of which will be false. The questions can be discussed as a group or included in a Powerpoint/Smartboard presentation, etc. (See "Gettysburg Address True or False Questions" attached).

Part 2: Historical Context (10 min.)

Students will then be exposed to the facts surrounding the Gettysburg Address with a focus on:

a. To whom, when and where the address was given

b. Why was it given

c. How the address redefined the Civil War

d. A brief review of the Civil War where necessary

Part 3: The Gettysburg Address and reactions (30 min.)

Students will first be played an audio recording of a dramatic reading of the Address (See attached Web Resource). They will then be given a worksheet (See "The Gettysburg Address" attached) which contains the Address and a section for facts and reactions to the Address. The facts can be reenforced in the closing part of the lesson. Some historically accurate reactions to the Address from 1863 may be handed out to various students to generate discussion using primary sources(See attached Web Resource)

The Teacher along with the students will then read the address and begin the discussion of the meaning. Special attention will be given to the meaning of words and themes expressed within the Address. After this is completed, reactions will be elicited from all students including those who were given the historically accurate reactions to the Address from 1863 (These can be cut and pasted onto the worksheet "The Gettysburg Address" as you wish). Use the reactions from 1863 to generate discussion.

Part 4: Closing (5 min.)

Use the facts section of the worksheet to close the lesson by reinforcing the information discussed earlier.

Practice and Reinforcement

Students can do the following per teacher desire:

a. Have students research and report three additional facts about the Gettysburg Address.

b. Ask students to remember a motivational speech they have been exposed to at some point in their lives and write a paragraph or two about that speech/event and their reaction to it.

c. Optional extended research: The teacher can provide a list of other great speeches and encourage students to read and react to them in a similar way.



www.loc.gov/exhibits/gadd/gaphot.html (photograph)

www.loc.gov/exhibits/gadd/gadrft.html (documents)

Boritt, Gabor. "The Gettysburg Address." In Abraham Lincoln: Great American Historians On Our Sixteenth President, edited by Brian Lamb and Susan Swain,136-140. New York: Public Affairs, 2008

Wills, Gary. "Oratory Syle." In Abraham Lincoln: Great American Historians On Our Sixteenth President, edited by Brian Lamb and Susan Swain, 141-147. New York: Public Affairs, 2008

Web Links:
Introduction to the Battle of Gettysburg.

Animation-Lincoln delivers Gettysburg Address.

This is a website dedicated to great speeches.

A NPS website with original reactions to Address.

Supplementary Materials


For more information about the Teaching American History Program click here