Lesson Plan

War Has Been Declared: Elementary Lesson Plan

Painting: Fire and thick black smoke billow over a rectangular building that sits over water.

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
4.L.3, 4.RF.4.a, 4.RI.1, 4.RI.3
State Standards:
Georgia: SS4H5 a, b, c, and d
Additional Standards:
Georgia Reading Informational: ELAGSE4RI1, ELAGSE4RI7
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.

Essential Question

What events and/or decisions caused conflict within United States that to led to war?


a. The students will be able to explain a series of events that led to the Civil War.
b. The students will be able to describe the structure of the Union and Confederate armies and apply this information within hands-on activities.


Tensions grew for many years before the first shots rang out at Fort Sumter, signaling the beginning of the Civil War. There was a clear division between the north and the south's perspectives of this young country. The Missouri Compromise, The Compromise of 1850, The Dred Scott Decision, and the 1860's election did not occur in a matter of days of each other. These events spanned forty years. To people in the south, those long years of dissatisfaction intensified when Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860. This was a final straw that led to several southern states seceding from the Union.

Fort Sumter was a United States fort inside what was now Confederate territory. South Carolina's governor, Francis Pickens, learned the United States intended to resupply the fort. This meant the U.S soldiers intended to stay; this was not the peaceful evacuation the southerners hoped for. Instead, it piled on to the tension and was a move against their declared independence from the United States. A series of letters were exchanged between Fort Sumter's commander, Major Robert Anderson, and Confederate General P.G.T Beauregard. In the end, six thousand Confederate troops bombarded the fort with artillery. Fire broke out in the fort on the second day. Major Anderson had to surrender. The Civil War had begun.


Teachers can choose individual or all activities depending on their goals, available time, and their students. It is important to read through all the material and webpages before beginning the activities. 


Download Matching Worksheet

Download Regimental Flag Worksheet

Download Timeline Activity: Whole Class Activity

Download Timeline Activity: Individual Student Pictures

Download Timeline Activity: Student Timeline

Lesson Hook/Preview

  1. Review content from “A Nation Divided” Lesson Plan.
  2. Have students present their solutions to the growing sectionalism of the United States from Activity 1 in that lesson.


Activity 1:  Timeline

  1. Draw a large timeline on the board. Write March, 1820, at the beginning and April, 1861, at the end.

  2. Read the NPS information for each event below. After you read the information, ask a student volunteer to place the corresponding picture on the timeline. (See Materials Section for pictures)

  3. Pass out a timeline and event pictures to each student. Instruct students to cut out and paste each picture in the appropriate location on the timeline following the information on the board's timeline. (See Materials Section for pictures and timeline)

  4. Events in order are:

Activity 2: Design a Regimental Flag

  1. With the firing on Fort Sumter, war officially started. With a war, each side needs an army. Students easily get very confused with the different categories of military "groups" and officers within articles. 

  2. Group students in classroom regiments. 

  3. Instruct each regiment to read "What Makes an Army?" 

  4. Provide one "Design A Regimental Flag" template to each regiment. (See Materials Section.)

  5. Instruct them to work together to create a flag design for their regiment.

Activity 3:  Matching Game

  1. The Civil War was a battle on the home front. Many soldiers fought against friends and family members. Often times, soldiers had to piece together their own uniforms. These facts could make it very difficult to tell the difference between the Union and Confederate soldiers.

  2. Instruct students to help their regiment determine the signs and symbols of each army. 

  3. Provide a "Civil War Army Life Matching Game" template to each student. (See Materials Section.)

  4. Encourage students to use dictionaries and internet resources to help them find the answers. 

  5. Challenge: Further help your regiment by looking on the internet for another sign or symbol that represents the Union or Confederate army.

Activity 4:  Speech to Soldiers

  1. Orders have come in from Washington. Your regiment marches into battle tomorrow!

  2. Provide students with paper (or use laptops) to answer the following prompt:  "Imagine that you are the General of an Army. You and your troops are preparing for battle the next morning. They are very nervous. What will you say to them to inspire the courage for them to fight?"

  3. Ask for student volunteers to read their motivational speech.


  • Inauguration - the formal admission of someone to office

  • Secession - the action of withdrawing formally from membership, especially a political state

  • Corps - a large subdivision of an army made up of several divisions

  • Brigade - a military formation made up of several regiments

  • Regiment - a small unit of military under a brigade

Assessment Materials

Regiment Rubric

Teacher should walk around during group activities to answer questions and correct misunderstandings. Create a rubric for group work in order for regiments to gain points for excellent army preparation. This concept can be continued as you teach about the major battles in the Civil War.

Supports for Struggling Learners

The four activities in this lesson plan are great stand-alone tasks. However, they can also be grouped together as simultaneous center activities. In this manner, student regiments support each other as they complete each task to prepare for the Civil War. The whiteboard timeline activity would be a teacher-directed lesson. Then, the regiments would rotate through 3 centers: independent timeline activity, Civil War matching activity, and the motivational speech activity.

Related Lessons or Education Materials

Other lesson in this series from Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park:

War Has Been Declared: Middle School Lesson
A Nation Divided: Elementary Lesson
A Nation Divided: Middle School Lesson
A Nation Divided: High School Lesson

Other lessons about the Civil War from Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park:

Pack Like a Soldier Virtual Program
Civilian War Experience: Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
What Would You Do? Plotting and Planning Strategies of the Civil War

Contact Information

Email us about this lesson plan

Last updated: September 20, 2021