Lesson Plan

Missouri Compromise, 5th & 6th Grade

Lesson Plan Image
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
State Standards:
Missouri:  #2 Knowledge, Concept B - Dispute resolution; 3a. Knowledge of continuity & change in the history of Missouri and the U.S. #5 Knowledge of major elements of geographical study
Additional Standards:
Kansas:  KCCRS RI.5.3- Explain relationships between two or more in historical context.
KCCRS RI.5.6 - Make judgements about strengths & weaknesses
Oklahoma:  4.3 Identify major American Indian groups in region; life, customs, land usage.
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. 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. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. 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.

Essential Question

Is Compromise necessary for the success or survival of a representative government?


Students will  be able to differentiate perspectives and learn it is healthy to disagree, as long as the focus is on finding common ground.
Student Friendly Objective:  I will know that there are multiple perspectives to any issue and that the focus we work through is to acknowledge the difference, but work towards finding/creating common ground.


Bios. for Character Composites.

Emphasize point that at the time of discussion of entering Missouri into the Union, there was an equal number of slave and free states in the Union.
Brief introduction of slavery.


Blank Map of Missouri Compromise
Intro Video Over What Kids Argue and Compromise Over : 30 sec.
Blank map of the United States of America circa 1820
The "Missouri Question" 1819 map
3x5 index cards with composite bios.
Masking or painters' tape


Lesson Hook/Preview

Pose the question to students and ask them to think of a time in which they were left out of decisions: what reasons were there for their being left out? What did this do? The tone of the evening? Their personal feelings towards those that made the decisions. How did those that were able to voice their decisions treat you? With minimization of your lack of input? Sympathy? Apologies? Sarcasm?
Close the conversation with the pros and cons of compromise and acknowledge that everyone has experienced times in which they were left out of decisions. Pose to them that in order to be involved in conversations for decisions a person needs to have which type of characteristics or cultural beliefs?
Emphasize that there was a group that was left out of the Missouri Compromise discussion: American Indians


1. Tape a line down the middle of the classroom (masking or painters' tape)
2. As students enter the classroom distribute the composite bio cards to each student (students will take on one of six composite characters)
3. Students need to go to their personal desk and review and reflect on their composite bio. cards.

  • They need to be able to state personality traits about their character to play the "Common Ground Game"
  • Give students approximately 7 minutes to write down on their cards (backside) 5 things their composite character cares or is concerned about as it relates to the Missouri Compromise
4. Evenly distribute students into two sections on either side of the line approximately "10 student steps" back from the line.
"Common Ground Game" Rules
1. The object of the game is to find common ground with the multiple composite character bios (NOT with the students' personal feelings)
2. Students are to make statements in the persona of their composite bios (NOT themselves personally)
3. Students make a statement and if the OTHER composite bios would LIKELY agree with that statement they take one step towards the "common ground line"/taped line down the middle of the classroom.
4. If students personal composite bios would NOT agree, they take a step BACK from the "common ground line"/taped line down the middle of the classroom.
5. To determine who goes first:
a)The person on the side that is closest to the teacher's desk with the most recent birthday will make their personal statement first.
 i)If student personas would agree with the statement they would take a step closer  to the "Common Ground Line". If they do not agree they would (room permitting) step back or remain where they are.
 ii)From there you will alternate sides based on the most to least recent birthdays.
 1) (Birthday identification is also a way to focus on the SEL (Social, Emotional Learning) aspect of community building within your classroom)
2) Students will move forward or back/stay after EACH statement given.
6. Once everyone has given at least one statement you survey the room and look how close or far everyone is to the "common ground line" taped line in the middle of the room.
7. Teacher then shows the results of the actual Missouri Compromise
8. Students then return to their seats and construct their reflective response to the following questions:
 1)Those that shared the same persona composite character: did you end up on the  same plane?
a) If so, why do you think that is?
b) If not, why do you think that is?
2) How does the game "Middle Ground" represent the actual and true struggle that the  U.S. was going through as it relates to the Missouri Compromise?
 3) Is a compromise the best way to get things done in a representative democracy?  Defend your response with evidence from personal experiences and your Middle  Ground activity.

What do you do when no common ground is created or found? How would not being able to fully address the system of slavery question within the Missouri Compromise impact the future sustainability of the Missouri Compromise?

Supports for Struggling Learners



Why was it created? To balance the power between Free and Slave States in Congress


Who did it benefit? The leaders who wanted to keep expanding the United States territory.


What did the MO Compromise do in reality? It put a band-aid on addressing the issue of slavery. It allowed slavery to expand alongside free states at the same rate. Balance was number one goal, not ending slavery. It made the country larger, but not unified.


Give the students the above information and then have them construct reflective responses either in written, verbal form (flipgrid, free video app for teachers to record student responses, - info.flipgrid.com, etc.), or visual depictions.

  1. I understand that the Missouri Compromise was trying to address the issue of….

  2. I changed my attitude about how effective the Missouri Compromise was because….

  3. I was surprised about the ______ of the Missouri Compromise due to the fact that it….

  4. I related to the ______ of James Tallmadge because he….

  5. I empathize with the _____ of the Missouri Compromise because…

Enrichment Activities

Accurate or Misconception? You be the judge.


Below are a list of statements about the Missouri Compromise and the people that created it and those that experienced it. You are asked to deliver a judgement on the accuracy of these statements. You are to answer first if the statement is accurate or if it is a misconception. Second, you must deliver your reasoning. Explain in one sentence why the statement is accurate or why it is a misconception.



  1. The Missouri Compromise was about making sure that there was a balance of free and slaves states in Congress.

  2. The Missouri Compromise was an effective way to deal with the issue of the expansion of slavery and the growing nation of the U.S.

  3. James Tallmadge added the antislavery bill to the application of Missouri becoming a state because he thought it would be a way to end slavery without any hard feelings.

  4. Trying to solve the moral issues through political gains is an effective way to get things done in any nation.

  5. The Missouri Compromise was the first sign that violence was the growing option for dealing with the issue of slavery.


Share these statements with a partner and compare your reasonings. Reflect on what was similar between you and your partner and what was different. 

How did your thinking change or grow? 

How has your understanding of the Missouri Compromise been challenged?

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Last updated: March 21, 2022