Lesson Plan

The Legacy of Abraham Lincoln 

President Lincoln and Major General John A McClemand in Antietam, Maryland.

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
State Standards:
State:  Nebraska       
Subject:   History     
Grade Level: 6-8th 

Social Studies 8.4.2a and Social Studies 8.4.4c
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


In this lesson, students will answer the following essential question: What is a legacy? How are legacies established? Can legacies change?
Students will identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose. Students will distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.


In "The Legacy of Abraham Lincoln" students will look at the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and why it exists.  

The Homestead Act and President Lincoln unit is broken up into five lesson plans, each taking 45-50 minutes to complete, targeting sixth through eighth grade students. A class does not have to complete every lesson in the unit - each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources. This is lesson 5 of the unit that focuses on the “Legacy of Lincoln.”

President Abraham Lincoln made the Homestead Act a law by signing it on May 20, 1862. This law gave 160 acres of land away to individuals who met certain requirements. In order to file a claim, an individual had to be at least 21 years of age or be the head of a household. This law allowed women to file claims and own land. The act also required a person to be a citizen of the United States or declare intention to gain citizenship. This allowed many European immigrants, African Americans and others to stake claims as well. Many railroads and western towns sent representatives to European countries to entice people to move to the United States. These representatives showed pictures of beautiful towns with tree-lined streets and rich soil for farming.

The applicant of a claim had to file an affidavit with the local land office stating they met the conditions required by the law. At this time, the claimant would pay a fee of $12 for filing the paperwork.

Once the filing was complete, there were additional requirements in order to receive the patent and title to the land. A person had to build a home, live on the land, make the land his/her permanent residence, and work the land for a period of 5 years.

Many people who came to claim land paid for the services of a locator. This person would assist them in finding an unclaimed tract of land. Many locators showed individuals land near their own claim in order to "settle" the country and have neighbors nearby.

After living on the land, building a home, and farming the land for 5 years, it was time to "prove up." This simply required the homesteader to find two individuals who would serve as witnesses. These witnesses had to state they had known the homesteader for 5 years, knew the claimant had tilled the land and grown crops. With witnesses in tow, a claimant would proceed to the land office to "prove up," paying another small filing fee of $6 and having both witnesses sign the final documents. Afterwards, the claimant would receive a final certificate or patent to the land showing that they met all the conditions.

Homesteading by the Numbers:

10 Percent of U.S. land given away under the Homestead Act.

30 Number of states in which homestead lands were located.

40 Percent of homesteaders that "proved up" their claims and earned a deed from the federal government.

123 Years the Homestead Act was in effect.

160 Acres in a typical homestead claim.

4,000,000 Approximate number of claims made under the Homestead Act.

27,000,000 Total number of acres distributed by the Homestead Act.


Print off the articles and group them into two sets: The first set includes “Abraham Lincoln Impact and Legacy” and “The People at the Polls.” The second set is a chapter from “Abraham Lincoln and the Election of 1864.”

Make enough copies of the article sets so that each pair of students can have one set. Half the class should have one set and the other half should have the other set.

Make one copy per student of – “Lincoln’s Legacy” graphic organizer and “Legacy Assessment” graphic organizer. 


Download Legacy of Lincoln Articles/Readings

Download Lincoln's Legacy graphic organizer

Lesson Hook/Preview

What is a legacy? How do you get a legacy? Can a legacy change? In history, legacies are created and often change over time. As people learn more about an individual the perception that they have of that person may change for the positive or become more negative. Think of a person today that is not viewed as popular. Do you think that 150 years from now the perception of that person will be the same? History has many examples of changing legacies; one is that of John Adams. While serving as the second President of the United States, Adams was not well liked. Later Americans began to view the ex-president with more favor. More recently a widely popular biography and subsequent HBO movie series has made Adams a much more popular individual in the eyes of many Americans. 


  1. Students should be placed into small groups of no more than 2 students. Each group will have a different set of research materials. The groups will complete “Lincoln’s Legacy” graphic organizer to research Lincoln’s public perception before his death and today.
  2. Ask the groups to partner up with another group that had a different set of resources to answer the reflection questions.

Students should share their answers to the reflection questions.


Legacy – How something is remembered or how the memory is handed down in history

Public Perception – How the public or large groups of people think or feel

Assessment Materials

Give students a copy of the Legacy Assessment graphic organizer. The student can choose a present leader, celebrity, or even themselves. They will write or illustrate how that individual is perceived currently and predict how the public will perceive that individual in the future. Then, the student will explain his/her reasons for that prediction.

Legacy Assessment

Download Assessment

Supports for Struggling Learners

Struggling learners could be given just one article instead of a complete set. The best article for struggling readers is “Abraham Lincoln: Impact and Legacy.”

Struggling learners could be partnered in mixed-ability groups.

Related Lessons or Education Materials

This is part of a larger curriculum unit on the Homestead Act for grades 6-8.

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Last updated: May 21, 2015