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Please refer to the Pennsylvania Standards Aligned System website: (http://www.pdesas.org/module/sas/curriculumframework/SocialStudiesCF.aspx)

for information on the Pennsylvania Curriculum Framework for Social Studies. You will find much of the information about PA Academic Standards, essential questions, vocabulary, assessments, etc. by navigating through the various components of the Curriculum Framework.
LESSON / UNIT TITLE: Causes of the Civil War

Teacher Name(s): Chris Tibbits, Chris Collum

School District: Northern Tioga School District

Building: Cowanesque Valley Jr.- Sr. High School

Grade Level: 9th

Subject: American History

Time Required: 1 Week

Lesson/Unit Summary (2-3 sentence synopsis): The Civil War began as a reaction to several underlying factors. The lesson will primarily cover how expansion into the West was not only a cause of the Civil War, but also how it magnified the other underlying issues that led to war. This can be taught in a number of ways depending on students’ prior lessons. The students should have a general background of Westward expansion and Antebellum America. This lesson can serve as a link between Westward Expansion and the Civil War.

Essential Questions for Lesson/Unit

How did expansion into the West cause the Civil War?

How did expansion into the West magnify underlying factors that led to the Civil War?

What were the main causes of the Civil War?

Pennsylvania Academic Standards Addressed in Lesson/Unit

(Include standards numbers and standards statements.)
8.1.9. B: Compare the interpretation of historical events and sources, considering the use of fact versus opinion, multiple perspectives, and cause and effect relationships.
8.1.9. A: Compare patterns of continuity and change over time, applying context of events.
Lesson/Unit Objectives
Students will be able to list and explain the main causes of the Civil War.

Vocabulary/Key Terms for Lesson/Unit
Sectionalism Martial Law Uncle Tom’s Cabin

States Rights Border States Kansas-Nebraska Act

Popular Sovereignty Border Ruffians Dred Scott v. Sanford

Secede Missouri Compromise Republican Party

Treason Compromise of 1850

Arsenal Fugitive Slave Act

Historical Background for Teachers / Research Narrative

Introduction to the Civil War

Although many people point to the obvious causes of the Civil War as states’ rights, slavery, sectionalism, and cultural/economic differences between the North and the South, there was one other contributing factor that led to these differences. Expansion, or the idea of Manifest Destiny, began when people found the Cumberland Gap and began exploring the West. It wasn’t long before we believed, as a country, that it was our God given right to expand West to the Pacific Ocean.

It began with the land that we won from the British after the Revolutionary War which allowed us to expand to the Mississippi. Next we add the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which doubles the size of our country. Texas is annexed in 1845 and the following year a deal is made for the Oregon Territory. After the war with Mexico we receive more territory in the West by way of the Mexican Cession. And we finish off our “destiny” with the Gadsden Purchase in 1853.

With all this new territory in which to expand, the issues of states’ rights, slavery in the new territories, sectionalism, and cultural/economic differences are magnified as people head West. We will be looking at the more immediate causes of the Civil War, yet we understand that the underlying causes of the war began at the very beginning of our Country.

Instructional Prodedures and Activities

(List/describe the step-by-step sequence of procedures and learning activities.)

Day 1:

  1. Activating Strategy: Students complete a KWL at beginning of class on Causes of the Civil War.

  2. Mention to students that they have already learned about one of the major causes the Civil War. Discuss what they remember from Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny. Ask students how they feel that may have impacted and led to the Civil War.

  3. Students watch a video clip from America: The Story of Us on causes of the Civil War.

  4. Ticket Out (Based on what you have viewed in the video thus far, what is one way that Manifest Destiny can be considered a cause of the Civil War?)

Day 2:

  1. Bell ringer: Based on what you have seen in the video, what are two other causes of the Civil War besides Westward expansion?

  2. Finish Video

  3. Discuss Video

  4. Students complete Web Quest on Causes of the Civil War.

  5. Ticket Out: What are two compromises that led to the Civil War?

Day 3:

  1. Bell Ringer: Why was the Election of Abraham Lincoln a hot topic to Southern States?

  2. Handout Graphic Organizer: “Causes of the Civil War Stew”

  3. PowerPoint Notes: Have students takes notes on and fill out graphic organizer for the Power Point.

  4. Ticket Out: What are two ingredients in the Stew that Caused the Civil War and what do they stand for?

Day 4:

  1. Bell ringer: What ingredient in the Stew were associated with the anti-slavery movement and why?

  2. Hand out Ant-Fugitive Slave meeting primary source. Put students in pairs and have them complete SOAP on document. Tell students to be prepared to discuss the following questions: How does the document provide an idea of the Anti-Slavery view of the Fugitive Slave Act? How does this document explain the Fugitive Slave act’s part in causing the Civil War?

  3. Discuss document as a class.

  4. Ticket Out

Day 5:

  1. Writing Prompt: Imagine you are a reporter for a newspaper during the Civil War. Write an article on the causes of the Civil War. Your article must contain at least 5 causes of the Civil War that we have learned about. Part of your article should also consist of an interview with one of the major players in the cause of the Civil War that we have talked about. Some people to think about interviewing would be: Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Henry Clay, and John Brown. (Some of these people were dead before the start of the Civil War, but in this case just back date your interview). Your article must be at least two pages typed and include an introduction and conclusion.

Suggested Strategies for Differentiating Instruction


  • Graphic organizer filled in or partially filled in

  • Accommodated notes: heading filled in with outline

  • Writing Prompt reduced to 1 page or optional assignment of creating a labeled collage of causes of the Civil War.

Assessment of Student Learning (Formative and Summative)

  • Formative:

Teacher observation/ class discussion

Evaluation of graphic organizers

Student responses to Ticket out questions

  • Summative

Assessment of writing assignment (newspaper article on causes of the Civil War)

Materials and Resources

(Include text, supplementary resources, primary source documents, websites, handouts, charts, maps, etc.

Graphic Organizers

KWL Plus

Causes of the Civil War Stew

Video segments from America: The Story of Us


Power Point presentation on Causes of the Civil War:


Civil War Web quest
Primary source document: Anti-Fugitive Slave Law Meeting, 1851 (www.cicerohistory.com)

Author(s) of Unit/Lesson Plan

Chris Tibbits and Chris Collum, Northern Tioga School District, Cowanesque Valley Junior-Senior High School

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