Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is nothing new to students...most of them probably memorized and recited it at some point in elementary school, but that's where my student's knowledge stopped...they could say the words, but had little idea why Lincoln wrote them or what his message was. Begin this lesson using media - there are great renditions of the speech online for students to listen to and thousands of videos to use as an introduction. Background knowledge of the Civil War and slavery is vital to their understanding before attempting to analyze the piece.
This Close Read begins with vocabulary - definitions of important terms are provided for students to aid their understanding as they read the speech independently for the first time. After the First Read, students will respond to 6 questions, such as: What are the central ideas within Lincoln’s speech? What do you notice about the structure and style of the speech? What words are most often repeated? In this section, students will summarize Lincoln's main ideas, discuss the structure, and poetic techniques throughout.
The final 19 questions should be answered after a second and third reading of the speech. Students must go back into the text and re-read to respond to questions such as: What event does Lincoln allude to when he says, “four score and seven years ago”? What does the phrase “conceived in Liberty” mean? What is the purpose of the first and final sentences? Lincoln never mentions the words slavery, North, South, or blood over the course of his speech. What is the effect of those words not being mentioned?
A classic, must read for all American's; the Gettysburg Address remains one of the most recognized speeches of all time - containing ideas that are still relevant today. Lincoln discusses the unfinished work facing our country...and 200 years later there is still work left to be done. Students find this piece challenging to comprehend and analyze, but their familiarity with it motivates them to put forth the effort.