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Learning about Women's Roles in the Civil War

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/11/2012

While working in small groups, students will learn what females did to help the American Civil War efforts by participating in literature circles and making a PowerPoint.

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    Research Women in the Civil War

    These women in the Civil War lesson plans allow students to research and to present the many roles that females peformed. Ladies were cooks, nurses, spies, soldiers, vivandiers, sutlers, etc. However, many of their roles are unknown to some of your students.

    Literature Circles focus on Females and their Roles

    One way for students to learn is to assign them to read historical novels in literature circles. The Women of the American Civil War website showcases over twelve novels that are set during the the time period and focuses on females.

    Teachers can Organize Literature Circles split students into small groups of four to six students. Each small group should select a novel from the website or teacher list. Students should create a reading schedule for a specific assigned reading deadline. Then, each group should meet once a week to dis cuss the novel until the reading deadline. There are many ways to run a literature circle. Some teachers have students take on different roles during the literature circle discussions.

    After the groups have completed reading the books, each group should share with the class how the women in the books were involved in the Civil War. The presentation can be a formal presentation or just a book share with the class. The teacher can decide how he or she wants the presentations to be completed.

    PowerPoint Presentations Develop Group Skills

    Another way students can learn is to work in small groups of three to four students and create PowerPoint presentations. Students can find a variety of resources about the ladies involved in the war on the Internet or in reference books. Teachers will need to book the computer lab for a couple of weeks to complete this project.

    These cooperative learning groups will need direction on how to work together if they are not used to working in small groups. It is best if teachers ask groups to assign each person a specific task or a group role. This way, students will have a specific task to complete, and one person should not be "stuck" doing all of the work. Some group roles that can be assigned area as follows:

    • Leader and organizer -- This person will make sure that the group works together and the work is completed.
    • Researcher -- This person will organize all the research completed by the group members. Also, a works cited or reference page will need to be completed.
    • PowerPoint expert -- This person will be in charge of making sure the PowerPoint slide presentation is complete.
    • Graphic or picture organizer -- This person will search for the photos and/or graphics for the PowerPoint slides.

    Each group can decide the focus of its presentation. Each person should complete reserarch for the presentation. Once the slides are complete, the groups will need to present it to the class. The groups should all practice the presentation before presenting to the class.

    These activities allow students to learn about women's roles during the Civil War. In addition, students work together in a literature circles or cooperative learning groups, which can be fun.

    References and Resources:

    Women of the American Civil War website:

    Civil War website:

    Civil War Women website: Primary Sources on the Internet website:

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