Profiles: The Civil War Storia Teaching Guide
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Clara Barton, George McClellan, Robert E. Lee, Matthew Brady: they all played pivotal roles in the Civil War. Our nation would not have been the same without them.
This collection of six biographies tells the stories of these historical figures, from their childhoods to their change-making roles in American history. Lincoln served as one of America’s greatest presidents and is credited with saving the Union. Douglass overcame a childhood of deprivation to become a leading abolitionist to end slavery. Barton moved beyond the confines of a woman’s role to nurse soldiers on the battlefields and then founded the American Red Cross. McClellan developed the training for Union soldiers that influenced the military for decades. Lee, a brilliant military strategist, led the Confederate forces out of deep loyalty for his native Virginia. Brady captured the carnage and glory of the Civil War in photographs from the war’s bloodsoaked battlefields.
All these historical figures are woven together by their contributions and participation in the Civil War—a war that took more American lives than any war before or since. Each in his or her own way was an American hero who influenced the course of our nation’s history.
Teaching the Book
Profiles #1: The Civil War tells the stories of six people who played important roles during this troubled time in American history. From Abraham Lincoln to Clara Barton, the biographies in the book weave together the people and the events they influenced. The book provides an opportunity to teach students how to explain the relationship or interactions between individuals and historical events. Activities engage students in viewing animated battles of the war, taking a journey on the Underground Railroad, and doing a close reading of the Gettysburg Address.
Topic Focus: Civil War
Comprehension Focus: Relationships Between Individuals and Events
Language Focus: Word Families
Get Ready to Read
Civil War Background
Engage students in the book by providing background information about the Civil War. Begin by visiting the Scholastic website for an informative map about the War Between the States. Project the map on a whiteboard or screen and ask students to use the map key to identify Union states, Confederate states, and where their state stood in the conflict. You may also find it valuable to project and discuss the Fast Facts about the Civil War on the Kids Konnect website.
Preview and Predict
Explain that the book contains six biographies of important historical figures who played roles in the Civil War. Preview with students the opening pages for each of these people; for example, page 6 for Abraham Lincoln. Ask them to predict what they might learn about each person.
Introduce students to the words below that occur frequently in the biographies of Civil War heroes. Explain that each word belongs to a word family that includes other words with the same base word, but have different meanings due to their word endings or affixes. Model how word endings change the meanings of the words politician, politics, political. Remind students to look for clues in the text for word meanings as they read.
Use Resource #1: Vocabulary Cards and distribute copies to students.
- civil (p. 4)
- Confederate (p. 4)
- secede (p. 4)
- Union (p. 4)
- military (p. 11)
- politician (p. 11)
- slavery (p. 15)
- abolitionist (p. 96)
Words to Know
Give students the following meanings for the vocabulary words, one at a time. Then have them hold up the vocabulary card that matches each meaning. Next, discuss the other words that belong to that word family and have students use them in a sentence.
- relating to citizens; occurring between citizens of the same country (civil, civilian, civics)
- to withdraw from membership in a union (secede, secession)
- joined by an agreement; an ally (Confederate, confederacy)
- the state of being united as one (Union, united, unite, unison)
- a person active in or seeking public office (politician, politics, political)
- related to the army or soldiers (military, militant, militia)
- a condition of bondage or lack of freedom (slavery, slave, slaver)
- a person who supported the abolition of slavery (abolitionist, abolish, abolition)
As You Read
Reading the Book
Read aloud the two pages of the introduction on pages 4–5, projecting it on a whiteboard or screen, if possible. The text explains the author’s purpose of integrating the important people who played key roles in the Civil War. After reading, encourage students to discuss the author’s purpose and ask other questions to clarify their understanding of the book’s structure.
Guide students who can read the book independently to pace their reading to ensure comprehension. Chunk the book into six reading sessions, one for each person’s profile. At the end of a session, prompt students to work with partners to ask questions to clarify the text and to share reactions.
Big Question: Critical Thinking
Ask students to think about this question as they read. Write the question on chart paper or the whiteboard. Was fighting the Civil War worth the deaths it caused?
Explain Relationships Between Individuals and Events
Remind students that the author’s purpose is to present the Civil War through the perspectives of six different historical figures and to show how they related and interacted with each other. Understanding these relationships between individuals and events results in a deeper understanding of why the Civil War began and how it ended.
Use Resource #2: Relationships Between Individuals and Events to help students explain the relationship between two or more people and an event during the Civil War. Project the organizer on a whiteboard or screen and think aloud to explain to students the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass and the event that brought them together.
Model: What was the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass? Both were against slavery in the United States. Lincoln freed the slaves in the Confederate states with the Emancipation Proclamation. Douglass was the foremost African American speaking out against slavery. Their paths crossed when Douglass went to Lincoln to ask for better conditions for the 54th Regiment of African American soldiers fighting in the Civil War.
Ask students to choose two other people from the book, explain their relationship, and discuss an event that brought them or their beliefs together.
After You Read
Questions to Discuss
Lead students in a discussion of these focus story elements.
1. Civil War
What if the Confederacy won the Civil War? How would that have changed American history? What problems would have been created? (Sample answers: The United States wouldn’t be united; there would be two countries instead of one. African Americans would continue to be slaves. The country wouldn’t be as strong against outside enemies.)
2. Relationship Between Individuals and Events
Why did Abraham Lincoln say that Matthew Brady helped make him President? (Sample answer: Brady took a photograph of Lincoln at a famous speech in New York City. The photo made Lincoln known across the country.)
3. Word Families
What word in the same family as abolitionist would you use in this sentence: The school board voted to ___________ the rule that girls couldn’t play on boys’ teams. (Answer: abolish)
Questions to Share
Encourage students to share their responses with a partner or small group.
Which of the historical figures that you read about do you think showed the most courage? (Answers will vary.)
Describe the relationship between two political figures of today and an event that brought them together. (Answers will vary.)
How does this collection of biographies give you different perspectives on the Civil War? (Answers will vary.)
Content Area Connections
For students interested in the military aspects of the Civil War, there are several animations of battles that reveal military strategy and battlefield planning. For an animated map of the Battle of Antietam, visit the Civil War Trust website. Guide students to view animated maps for every major Civil War battle by visiting the History Animated website. Encourage interested students to learn about one of the battles and then present the animation and an explanation to a partner or the class.
Readers’ Theater Script
Engage students’ imaginations in the Civil War period by having them present a Readers’ Theater script. Visit the Scholastic website to print out copies of the play, The Country Torn Apart. Rehearse the play with students until they can read it fluently. Then have them present the play to the class, followed by a discussion of what they learned from acting out characters from both sides of the Civil War.
Encourage students to do a close reading of Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg, one of the most important speeches in our country’s history. Make copies of the address for each student by visiting the Scholastic website. To help students understand the text, go to the Visit Gettysburg website for a discussion of the meaning and impact of Lincoln’s Address.
Escape from Slavery
Focus on the plight of the slaves in the southern states who made the dangerous journey to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Project the interactive activity, “The Underground Railroad: Escape from Slavery” on a whiteboard or screen found at the Scholastic website. Have students click on the various stages of the journey made by Walter, a slave from Virginia to freedom in the North.
Tell students they are going to write a biography for an online website about the Civil War. They can choose one of the six people they read about in the book, or choose another person who played an important role in the Civil War. Ask students to include important facts about the person and explain how he or she contributed to the war. The length of their biography should be approximately 150 to 200 words. Have students write their biography on the computer and research a photograph of the person to include with the biography.
Don't Forget the Big Question
Give each student an opportunity to answer the big question. Encourage students to support their answers with details and evidence from the text. Tell the students there is more than one right answer. Was fighting the Civil War worth the deaths it caused?
A Dialogue About the War
Challenge students to write a short dialogue between two of the key players in the Civil War whom they read about. Ask them to choose a topic or event for the two people to talk about. Guide them to include dialogue that reflects each speaker’s beliefs about slavery, the war, or other issues. Distribute copies of the Big Activity: A Dialogue About the War for students to fill in with their dialogue.
To assess and enhance students’ comprehension, this Storia eBook contains a Reading Challenge Quiz, as well as the following enrichments:
- Word Scramble (2)
- Word Twister (2)
- Do You Know?
- Who Said It?
About the Author
Aaron Rosenberg has written role-playing games, educational books, magazine articles, short stories and novels for White Wolf and the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers series. He also runs his own role-playing game publishing company.
Rosenberg has also written the second in the biographical series, Profiles #2: World War II. He lives and works in New York City.
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