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Lesson Plan

Myth and Truth: The Gettysburg Address

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Myth and Truth: The Gettysburg Address

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two and Additional Sessions as Required

Session Three


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • develop strategies for critically examining the origin and characteristics of myth.

  • develop an awareness of the diversities, similarities, and values in various cultural and story traditions related to the Gettysburg Address.

  • develop strategies for examining messages for bias and missing information.

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Session One

  1. Students can complete the following prereading questions as homework, as an in-class freewrite before the reading, or in oral class discussion.

  2. What difference does it make who writes a story as long as they tell the truth?

  3. How can you tell when a story is true? What would indicate a story was fictional?

  4. Have you ever read something that was presented as nonfiction but that you knew was fiction?

  5. Spend ten to fifteen minutes going over students' responses to the prereading prompt. Write their answers on chart paper or an overhead. (You'll return to these answers later in this lesson, so save their responses.)

  6. Read the introduction to the Gettysburg Address that you have chosen. As students read along or read silently to themselves, ask them to pay particular attention to the historical details that the introduction includes.

  7. After reading, ask students to write two questions of their own for the class to consider: one question that is answered in the introduction text and an "I wonder why" question. Use a writer's notebook or response journal for this writing.

  8. In small groups, have students share their questions and discuss answers. Monitor student discussion by circulating among the groups.

  9. Pass out copies of "The Gettysburg Address" to students, and read the address as a class. Alternatively, several of the sites listed on the Gettysburg Address Web Resources include audio versions of the speech. Play one of these versions for students.

  10. Once you've read the address, go back through the text defining unfamiliar words for students. If desired, use the demo from Lexiteria to explore the meanings of the words in the speech. See the instructions about the speech for how to use the demo, which requires Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.

  11. Explain that the evaluation of historical speeches requires the reader to research the context. To understand the points, readers need to know more about the situation of the speech.

  12. If students need a review on purpose and audience, point to information from Define the Purpose, Consider the Audience, and Develop the Thesis.

  13. Emphasize the significance of purpose and audience in the Lincoln's speech. Explore how his awareness of the interests and needs of his audience (both listening and reading) influenced the address.

  14. For homework, ask students to complete the Speech Analysis Questions for the Gettysburg Address.

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Session Two and Additional Sessions as Required

  1. As a warm-up activity, ask students to think about their answers to the Speech Analysis Questions and the introduction to the speech that they discussed in the last session.

  2. Ask them to spend a few minutes freewriting in response to these questions:

    • What do you notice about the introduction that fits with your ideas about the Gettysburg Address now that you have explored it in detail?
    • What seems unusual or seems to have been left out?

    In full-class discussion, have students share their thoughts on the Gettysburg Address from their freewriting as well as the homework questions. Write their ideas on the board or on chart paper. The idea is simply to brainstorm a list for now.

  3. Pass out the Common Myths about the Gettysburg Address Handout, or show the list on an overhead projector. As you read through the list, encourage students to connect items from their brainstorming list with the myths on the sheet.

  4. Go over the activity that students will complete:

    1. Explain your myth answering these three questions:

      • What is a truth in this myth?

      • What are other truths behind this myth that might contradict it?

      • What does the myth reveal about those who believe it?
    2. As a group, you may use any of the materials available to help you understand and explain the myth.

    3. Prepare a five-minute presentation to the class that explains your understanding of the myth, using creative drama, visual aids such as posters, music, illustrations, or an oral presentation. If desired, you can use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to create posters and other displays for their presentations.
  5. Divide students into four to five groups, assigning each group a myth from the sheet or a topic from their own list of "I wonder why" questions from the first class session. More than one group can work on the same myth if class size requires.

  6. Give groups a variety of resources (books, reference materials, Internet sites, and so forth) that they can use to uncover truths about the Gettysburg Address.

  7. If resources allow, share the C-SPAN video resources on Lincoln as materials for students' research. Individual video clips are listed in the Web Resources (below).

  8. Pass out the Presentation Rubric for the activity, or show the list on an overhead projector, and discuss the requirements for the activity.

  9. As students work in their groups, circulate and monitor student progress. Let them know a few minutes before the work period will conclude so that they have time to wrap up their thoughts.

  10. Allow additional sessions for research as necessary for students to complete their research.

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Session Three

  1. Give students five to ten minutes to make last-minute preparations and to practice their presentations.

  2. Have groups present their myth to the entire class, sticking closely to the five-minutes-per-group guideline that you've established.

  3. Once all of the groups have presented, return to the original prereading questions:

    1. What difference does it make who writes a story as long as they tell the "truth"?

    2. How can you tell when a story is true? What would indicate a story wasn't true?
  4. Read through the student responses, and conclude the lesson with a discussion of their original perceptions of "truth." Which observations do they still agree with? Which would they change? What would they add?

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See the ReadWriteThink Calendar Entry: Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863 for additional lessons and activities to extend your study of the Gettysburg Address.

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  • Monitor student interaction and progress during group work to assess social skills and assist any students having problems with the project.

  • Use the Myths and Truths Presentation Rubric to assess group presentations.


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