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        Looking for Lincoln Throughout His Life

        In this interdisciplinary lesson, students gather different facts about Lincoln through a variety of hands-on activities.  Students will tell a story about their own lives by using classroom items.  They will also create a timeline of Lincoln's life and their own.

        Lesson Summary


        In this interdisciplinary lesson, students gather different facts about Lincoln through a variety of hands-on activities. In the Introductory Activity, students match vocabulary words with pictures to piece together a timeline of Abraham Lincoln’s life. In the Learning Activities, students gather various facts about the life of Lincoln. Students learn about Abraham Lincoln’s work as a lawyer on the prairie and also gain insight into Lincoln through objects and artifacts of his life. Students then select classroom objects that best tell a story about them and/or their class. In the Culminating Activity, students reflect upon the life of Lincoln, revisit the timeline of Lincoln’s life and create their own personal timelines.


        Students will:

        • create and interpret their own timelines;
        • place events in chronological order;
        • identify at least 5 facts about Abraham Lincoln;
        • critically observe and describe objects;
        • describe different ways to learn about the past;
        • match words to corresponding images;
        • define key vocabulary terms.

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time

        2 (45 minute) periods

        Media Resources

        Abraham Lincoln, Attorney at Law Video

        All Things Lincoln Video


          • 1 black top hat (a real hat or one that you make)

        Note: See the “Prep for Teachers” section below for directions on how to make a simple black hat, using a can and construction paper or felt.

          • One large drawing of the outline of a top hat

        Note: See the “Prep for Teachers” section below for details.

        For each group of 3-4 students:

        Web Sites

        Students can use this “timeline generator” on the site to create their own timelines, including up to 6 events. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page to view the timeline generator.)

        Before The Lesson

        If you do not have a black top hat, you can create your own by following these steps:

        • Take a coffee can or other similarly-shaped container and place it upside down onto a piece of black construction paper or black felt.
        • Glue the coffee can to the paper.
        • Cut the black piece of paper or felt into a circle shape, leaving about two inches between the rim of the can and the edge of the paper or felt.
        • Wrap black construction paper or black felt around the sides and bottom of the hat.
        • Cut up the Abraham Lincoln Timeline Cards. (For beginning readers, keep each picture card joined to its adjoining text card.)
        • Print enough copies of the “Our Things” Student Organizer so that each group of 3-4 students has 5 copies.
        • Draw a large outline of a top hat on a large sheet of posterboard, a white board or a flip chart. This is intended to be a space where you can write in facts that your students learn about Lincoln during the lesson. Make the drawing large enough that you could write at least 20 short sentences inside the outline of the hat.

        The Lesson

        Introductory Activity: Jumbled Timeline

        Note: For variations of this activity for large classes, small classes and beginning readers, please see the end of the Introductory Activity.

          1. Hold up a hat that is similar in shape to the type of hat Lincoln wore. (See “Prep for Teachers” section for instructions on creating a coffee can hat.) Ask students why they think you might be holding the hat.
          2. Explain that this hat is similar to the type of hat that Abraham Lincoln wore. Tell them that today they are going to find out more about the life of Abraham Lincoln. Ask them to tell you some things that they know about Abraham Lincoln. Write those answers down on a board or flip chart for all to see. If they do not know anything about Abraham Lincoln, let them know that he was the 16th President of the United States.
          3. Dump all of the Abraham Lincoln Timeline Cards into the hat and jumble them. Tell students that Lincoln often kept letters or other papers in the hat he wore, just like you have put papers in this hat. Tell the students that you need their help. The pieces of paper in this hat contain pictures and information about Lincoln’s life, but they are all jumbled up. Ask: Can you help to unscramble this timeline with me?
          4. Tell each student, one at a time, to pick a piece of paper from the hat. Once all students have a piece of paper, ask them to look for a word that is bolded on their sheet of paper. Ask them to find another student with the same word bolded on their sheet.

        (Note: Some of the cards just have text and some have a photograph with one or more words. Each picture card has a corresponding text card. Students need to find the matching picture card for each text card.)

        1. Once the students have found a match (a text and image card that contain the same bolded word), ask each pair to read the text card, including the featured year, and look at the corresponding picture. Once the pairs have discovered their special fact and year, ask them to line up in the room in order of the dates—with the earliest year at the beginning of the timeline and the last year at the end.
        2. Once all the students are lined up, walk to the beginning of the line and have the students reveal their fact about Lincoln and the date. Then hang up their pieces of paper (on the wall, a board or taped to a large sheet of paper). If desired, draw a line or hang a string going from left to right (on the board or paper where you are hanging the timeline pieces). This drawn line or string can function as the line onto which the pieces of paper can be placed. You can also mark off years in increments of 5 years (using a marker or small pieces of paper with the years written on them), beginning with 1805 and ending with 1865. This can make it easier to space out the pieces of paper along the timeline.
        3. Continue walking toward the end of the line, asking each group to present its year and special fact. After all the pieces are hanging in order on the wall, quickly review the timeline with the students from the beginning to the end.


          • For a small class:

        Hand out one text card to each student. Then lay out the picture cards face up on a table. Ask each child to find the picture card that goes with his/her text card. If there are more text cards then students, ask students to find the matching picture card for their first text card and place the match face up on a table. Then tell the student to return to the hat to pick out another text card.

          • For a large class:

        Ask students to work in small groups to find the matches. Give each group a text card or picture card and ask the groups to find the group with the card that matches theirs.

          • For beginning readers:

        Do not separate the text cards from their corresponding picture card. Give each student a matching picture/text pair. Then ask students to line up in order of the year shown on their cards.

        Learning Activity 1: Gathering Facts about Lincoln: Lincoln, the Lawyer

        1. Tell students that before Lincoln became president, he did many things. Ask: What is one type of job that you think he had before becoming President? (Possible answers: congressman, lawyer.)
        2. Explain that one of the jobs Lincoln had before serving as our country’s 16th president was working as lawyer. Tell students that they are about to watch a video about Lincoln’s time working as a lawyer.
        3. Provide a media focus, asking students to see how many facts they can find out about Lincoln in the video. Challenge them to find at least 4 facts.
        4. Play Abraham Lincoln, Attorney at Law for the class.
        5. After the segment, bring out the drawn outline of the hat. Ask students to tell you some facts that they learned about Lincoln in the video. Write the facts (or ask students to write the facts) on the hat. (Some possible answers: Abraham Lincoln worked as a congressman in Washington for one term; he returned to Illinois in 1849 to practice law; he was a father; had 2 children; he needed to earn a living; he educated himself; he read; he taught himself Euclidian geometry; he traveled with other lawyers, judges and sheriffs to different county courthouses; made close friendships; his time working as a lawyer was an important time in his life; the courthouses that Lincoln worked in are now tourist attractions; he was involved in over 5,000 court cases; he took almost any case.)
        6. Now ask students to look back at the timeline of Lincoln’s life. Ask them if there is any new information that they can add. (Lincoln returned to Illinois in 1849 to practice law.) Write down any new information on a piece of paper and add it to the timeline so that it fits in chronological order.

        Learning Activity 2: Learning About Lincoln Through Objects

        1. Remind students that they have been talking about Abraham Lincoln and have learned some new facts about him. Ask them to look at the timeline and think about how they could find out more information about a featured event or period of time in Lincoln’s life. (Possible answers: through books, through the web, through Lincoln’s writings, through visiting the places where Lincoln lived and worked, such as the courthouse featured in the segment about Lincoln’s work as a prairie lawyer, etc.)Discuss some of the answers that students provided.
        2. Explain that one way to learn more about someone is by looking at what they wore and what they owned. Provide a media focus, asking students to try to see what type of information people can learn from studying objects from the past.
        3. Play All Things Lincoln. After the segment, repeat the focus question: What type of information can people learn from studying objects from the past?(What types of things were important to them, etc.)Ask students to discuss their thoughts about some of the objects that they saw in the video segment.
        4. Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students. Once students are in their groups, ask them to think about what objects in this room could help an outsider to understand this class better. Distribute the Our Things Student Organizer to each student.
        5. Ask students to think about and discuss the following question with their group: If someone wanted to learn about this class just by viewing 5 things in this classroom, what 5 things would you select for him or her to view? What could he/she learn about the class from each object? Once they have selected 5 objects, each group should complete one Our Things Student Organizer for each object. Students should write down the name and/or draw a picture of the object and write a brief description of what someone could learn from viewing that object. (For example, a dictionary- shows that they can read and like to find out about new words, etc.) As an alternative to this activity, students can describe 5 items from their home that tell a story about their family.

        Culminating Activity: Creating a Personal Timeline

        1. Review the Lincoln timeline that students assembled at the beginning of the lesson. Point out that each event has a date, as well as information and a picture about that date. Remind students that the timeline begins with the earliest date and goes until the most recent date.
        2. Explain to students that it is now their turn to make a timeline about their own lives. Ask them to think about two important things that have happened to them in their lives. Ask for some volunteers to share this information. (Some possible answers: the day they were born; going on a fun vacation; learning to play an instrument; getting a special gift; starting school; making a new friend; etc.)
        3. Hand out blank sheets of paper to each student. (Hand out 1 sheet of paper for each student creating a timeline online and distribute 3-4 sheets for each student creating a timeline by hand.). Ask each student to write down the two events that they thought of on a sheet of paper. Now ask them to think of 4 more important things that have happened to them in their lives and to write those down, as well.
        4. Ask students to create a timeline on which to put these events.
        • Creating timelines by hand: Ask students to draw a line from left to right across the middle of their paper. Then ask them to draw small vertical lines to indicate important years in their lives. To create a longer timeline, students can tape 2-3 pieces of paper end to end and then draw a horizontal line across all the sheets.
        • Creating online timelines: Direct students to the “Timeline Generator” at (Note: Instruct them to scroll to the bottom of the page to see the timeline tool.)
      • Ask students to put their 6 events in chronological order in their timelines, starting with the earliest event and ending with the most recent. If students are using the online timeline tool, ask them to print out their timelines once they have finished. Encourage all students (whether creating a timeline by hand or on the computer) to draw/paste images or photographs to go along with each event. After students have completed their individual timelines, ask for volunteers to explain/ present their timelines to the group.
      • Optional: Create a class timeline and hang it in the room. Mark off important events that have already happened in the school year and add on new events as they occur.
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