Causes of the Civil War
To learn about the Civil War for fourth grade, students will need to understand some of the major causes of the war. One lesson plan you can do is use a Civil War website on a Smartboard or print off the information and copy it for students. (You can also use a textbook or library book). In small groups, students should read the information and create a poster or PowerPoint presentation on the causes of the Civil War. They can present this poster or electronic presentation to another class or grade at your school since all students in your class will be creating a project on the same information.
One of the best ways for students to learn about the Civil War for fourth grade and understand slavery and some of its issues is to read an historical fiction or a nonfiction book about the time period and discuss the issues in small literature groups. You can read a book to the class or assign the entire class one book. You can also find various books about slavery on different reading levels and assign them to students based on reading ability. Some books to consider are Trouble Don't Last by Shelley Pearsall, A Picture of Freedom by Patricia McKissack, or Go Free or Die: A Story About Harriet Tubman by Jeri Ferris. When children can connect with characters and real figures during this period of history, it is easier for them to learn and remember concepts.
When students learn about the Civil War for fourth grade, your lesson plans will most likely include several important historical figures. However, do students really need to memorize whom everybody is and the roll they played in the war? Most likely not. Choose four important figures from both sides (such as Jefferson Davis, Abraham Lincoln, General Grant, and General Lee) and teach students about these figures. Then students can choose one other figure to study more in-depth and create a project to showcase what they learned.
Strengths and Weaknesses
One way to learn about the Civil War for fourth grade is to include a Venn diagram lesson into your Civil War lesson plans. You can do this by comparing and contrasting the North and the South. Once you have completed your Venn diagram as a class (or students can fill them out individually), discuss the results and point out strengths and weaknesses of both sides. For example, on the South side, your students could write that slavery was legal. On the North side, you could write that the Union army was offering freedom to any slaves who signed up and fought against the South. Then talk with students about whether or not these issues were strengths or weaknesses for both sides. This discussion should lead to the reason why the North, or Union, won the war.