Adapted Gen Ed Unit The US civil war

United States History: Beginnings

Unit: Civil War Times - This unit teaches students about key components of the US Civil War, such as slavery, the formation of the Confederacy, major events and battles of the war, the Union road to victory, Reconstruction, and the South after the war. The unit uses primary, internet, and visual resources to teach students using a variety of styles.

  • Publisher: Harcourt Horizons
  • Grade Levels: 3rd - 6th grade
  • Overall Unit Goal: Students will be able to categorize, determine point of view, identify frame of reference, and compare maps using key components of the US Civil War.
  • Unit Outcomes: Describe Abraham Lincoln's political career, identify the states that made up the Confederate States of America, analyze the dynamics of the election of 1860, apply critical thinking skills to organize and use information from maps, use map scales to find distances on a map, analyze early battles of the Civil War, describe actions President Lincoln took during the Civil War, compare resources and battle strategies of the US and the Confederacy, explain ;the Emancipation Proclamation, and describe its effects, identify major battles of the Civil War and their results, analyze the Gettysburg Address and its impact on the Civil War, and describe the surrender of General Lee to General Grant at Appomattox (Harcourt Horizons, 2003).
  • Common Core State Standards: SS.IS.4.6-8.L.C. - Determine the value of sources by evaluating their relevance and intended use. SS.IS.8.6-8.MdC. - Assess individual and collective capacities to address problems and identify potential outcomes. SS.CV.3.6-8.MC. - Compare the means by which individuals and groups change societies, promote the common good, and protect rights. SS.EC.1.6-8.L.C. - Explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society. SS.G.2.6-8.MdC. - Compare and contrast the cultural and environmental characteristics of different places or regions. SS.H.1.6-8.L.C. - Classify series of historical events and developments as examples of change and/or continuity.

Description of Adapted Lessons

  1. Lesson 1: Slavery and Freedom: Summery - examines proslavery legislation and the work of abolitionists before the Civil War. Objectives - Describe the importance of slavery to the Southern economy, analyze laws pertaining to slavery, describe the purpose of the Underground Railroad, analyze the contributions of women to the antislavery movement, and identify important abolitionists and what they did to try to end slavery Harcourt Horizons, 2003).
  2. Lesson 2: Civil War: Summery - describes the major events in the US Civil War. Objectives - analyze battles of the Civil War, describe the actions President Lincoln took during the Civil War, compare the resources and battle strategies of the US and the Confederacy, explain the Emancipation Proclamation and describe its effects, and analyze how different groups of Americans contributed to the Civil War effort (Harcourt Horizons, 2003).
  3. Lesson 3: Reconstruction: Summery - describes President Lincoln's death and Reconstruction plans after the Civil War. Objectives - describe the events surrounding President Lincoln's death, analyze plans for the Reconstruction of the US, analyze the reactions of the both Southerners and Northerners to Reconstruction efforts, and identify problems with Reconstruction governments (Harcourt Horizons, 2003).

Unit Materials

  • Textbook - US history textbook with chapters, highlighted vocabulary words, main idea statements, purpose statements, atlases, and reference tools
  • Graphic Organizers - helps students organize content, compare and contrast, generalize, summarize major events, guide reading, identify main idea and supporting details, identify fact vs opinion, identify cause and effect, draw conclusions, and sequence events
  • Reading and vocabulary transparencies to add visuals to direct instruction
  • Videos and DvDs:¬†Civil War Journal: Commanders - profiles of Civil War commanders. Heroes of Today and Yesterday: Harriet Tubman - outlines the life of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
  • Harcourt's website: - multimedia biographies, primary sources, and virtual tours
  • Vocabulary index cards
  • Maps
  • Journal - writers journal to have students think deeper about concepts. They answer specific questions pertaining to each chapter
  • Assessment Book - collection of informal checklists, self-evaluations, performance assessments, portfolio assessments, formal assessments, and answer keys to use during each lesson
  • Activity Book - different worksheets and activities designed to reinforce the lesson objectives and content

Barriers Which Prevent Access for Students with Moderate-Severe Disabilities

  • Reading level and amount of text
  • Abstract concepts and vocabulary
  • Ratio of text to pictures
  • Lack of AT and instructional technology
  • Lack of differentiation and not individualized - one size fits all
  • Amount of content
  • Fast paced instruction
  • Lack of student choice
  • No hands-on or authentic experiences

Characteristics of Students

  • Non-verbal
  • Non-mobile
  • Autism, intellectual disabilities, and multiple disabilities
  • Deficits in gross and fine-motor skills
  • Short attention spans - need frequent movement breaks
  • Poor social skills
  • PreK - Kindergarten level reading ability
  • 1st grade-level mathematical abilities
  • Basic concepts of money

Rationale for Adapting Civil War Lessons

Social studies requires a variety of critical thinking skills, but students with moderate-severe disabilities may need to focus on only one critical thinking skill (Browder & Spooner, 2011). Additionally, students with moderate-severe disabilities need to be able to use and understand the social studies text, and they benefit from an adapted text summary which uses pictures and symbols to support main ideas and key vocabulary (Browder & Spooner, 2011). The students have kindergarten-level reading abilities, and will need an adapted text to understand the main ideas of the unit. Furthermore, graphic organizers can decrease the intellectual demands on students with moderate-severe disabilities. However, students with moderate-severe disabilities need multiple ways to express their learning, such as picture cards and AAC devices (Browder & Spooner, 2011). The students are non-verbal and have fine-motor deficits. Also, knowledge and concepts need to be linked to students daily lives verses abstract concepts (Browder & Spooner, 2011). Lastly, movement should be incorporated into lesson which builds in movement breaks and help maintain student attention (Downing & MacFarland, 2010). The students have difficulty maintaining attention, and need frequent movement breaks.

Features of Adapted Unit

Lesson 1: Freedom and Slavery

  1. Functional Skills - Students work in small groups and learn beginning and school-related skills, such as following directions, listening, and basic communiction (Browder & Spooner, 2011). Students learn to make and read charts which can help with schedules. Lastly, students learn to get out of their seat and return when finished doing a task which is appropriate classroom behavior. Functional skills should be embedded into academic lessons and help students gain independence (Browder & Spooner, 2011).
  2. High Tech Solution for UDL - Educreations iPad app used during independent practice. High interest items help students maintain attention (Downing & MacFarland, 2010).
  3. Self-Determination Skills - Choice making - students can choose which type of sorts to complete by making a choice between two options. Self-regulation - students self-assess what they want to learn and have learned in the lesson in the form of a K-W-L chart. Self-awareness - students use their knowledge of their own strengths and weaknesses to choose which assessment will work best for them. Self-determination skills should be embedded in academic instruction, and self-determination skills enable students with moderate-severe disabilities to have control over their own lives (Browder & Spooner, 2011).
  4. Adapted Materials - Picture cards, K-W-L chart, bar graph templates, AAC device, programmed switch, Educreations app, and examples of bar graphs.

Lesson 2: Civil War

  1. Functional Skills - Identifying major events in their own life and how they impacted their life helps students understand future milestones. Sequencing will help students make their own schedules or routines for their own independent living. Reading a map will help students to get around independently. Functional skills are those needed for daily living at home, in the community, or on the job (Browder & Spooner, 2011). Students set behavior goals and self-monitor their own behavior. Appropriate behavior needs to be reinforced both internally and externally (Ormrod, 2012).
  2. High Tech Solution for UDL - Students will use the Educreations app to draw or look up pictures of the major events of the Civil War and sequence them in the correct order. Multiple means of expression allow students to demonstrate what they have learned in different ways (Browder & Spooner, 2011).
  3. Self-Determination Skills - Decision making gives students the skills needed to choose between more than two things (Browder & Spooner, 2011). Students choose between a field of three to sequence the major events of the Civil War. Self-efficacy is the belief that one can do the behavior required of them, and students learn they have control over their actions (National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center, N.D.). The students complete a self-assessment drawing attention to their ability to complete the independent practice activities. Goal setting and attainment - The students set a behavior goal, monitor their own behavior, and then determine if they met their goal. Setting goals helps students with moderate-severe disabilities achieve positive adult outcomes (National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center, N.D.).
  4. Modified Materials - adapted text, picture cards, graphic organizers, behavioral checklist, self-assessment, and major events sorts.

Lesson 3: Reconstruction

  1. Functional Skills - Students determine appropriate behavior for a field trip and monitor their behavior. This teaches students that appropriate behavior is different depending on the location. Students determine what items in the community are needed for daily living. Functional skills help with independence across multiple contexts, and these skills will help students in their home, community, and on the job (Browder & Spooner, 2011). Students vote for which Reconstruction plan they think is best, and learn that opinions may be different. Students with moderate-severe disabilities may have difficulty with theory of mind, and it is important to allow these students the opportunities to understand other's opinions (Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2009).
  2. High Tech Solutions for UDL - Students make a video advertisement for each Reconstruction plan. High interest materials help students maintain attention and retain information (Downing & MacFarland, 2010).
  3. Self-Determination Skills - Choice making - students vote for which plan they think is best. Choice making allows students to have control over their own life (National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center, N.D.). Problem solving - students brainstorm appropriate behavior for a school field trip. Self-regulation - students monitor their own behavior on the field trip. Self-determination skills elicit positive school experiences (National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center, N.D.).
  4. Modified Materials: adapted text, anchor chart for photo walk, picture cards, and picture sorts


  1. Ducksters Education Website - multiple resources for different learning activities and videos.
  2. Brainpop - paid site with lessons, videos, and activities related to the Civil War.
  3. The Civil War - an adapted book about the Civil War.
  4. Civil War by Kids Discovery app for iPad - different games and activities about the Civil War. Text-to-speech capability.
  5. Free online Civil War games -


  • Browder, D., & Spooner, F. (2011). Teaching students with moderate and severe disabilities. New York, Ny: The Guilford Press.
  • Downing, J., & MacFarland, S. (2010). Education and individuals with severe disabilites: Promising practices.¬†International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation.
  • Hallahan, D., Kauffman, J., & Pullen, P. (2009). Exceptional learners: An introduction to special education. Boston, Ma: Pearson.
  • Harcourt Horizons. (2003). United States history: Beginnings. Chicago, IL: Harcourt.
  • National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center. (N.D.). Teaching self-determination skills to students with disabilities. Retrieved from:
  • Ormrod, J. (2010). Essentials of educational psychology: Big ideas to guide effective teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson.

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