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In this lesson plan, students will learn how to annotate historical speeches for deeper understanding.

Students will learn to annotate a historical speech (Lincoln’s first and second inaugural addresses) to identify and articulate the author’s point of view, purpose, historical context and intended audience. Activity will culminate in an AP Short Answer Comparison question on the two speeches.

Common Core Standards


Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.


Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Learning Objectives:
  • Students will analyze primary source speeches for historical context, intended audience, purpose and point of view. Students will utilize outside evidence and historical thinking skills to compare the two speeches. 
Guiding Questions:
  • How does Lincoln’s tone differ from his first inaugural address to his second?
  • How does the changing status of the Civil War shape Lincoln’s two messages?
Supplies Needed:
  • Pencils, Pens, and Highlighters. 
Prepared by Grade Length
Cathryn R. Goble-Smith, Davenport, FL AP History Two Class Period's

Lesson Activity One:

Lincoln’s First Inaugural 

(~45 Minutes)

  • Give each student a copy of Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address.  
  • Set the context with MAP (Media, Author, Place and Time)
  • Ask students what is going on in the U.S. and the world when Lincoln gives this speech. Build background knowledge.  
  • Teacher will start by reading the first line and students will go round robin reading the document.  Teacher will assist students when and if they struggle.  
  • After reading teacher and students will go back through the document line by line and break down what Lincoln is saying.  
  • Teacher will assist students with annotating the document using HAPPY (Historical Context, Audience, Purpose, Point of View, and Why is this important)

Lesson Activity Two

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural
  • Give each student a copy of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.  
  • Students will be divided into groups of 4. This may be adjusted based on class size. Students will read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural in their group.  
  • Students will use tools learned in yesterday’s reading to analyze and annotate Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. (Give students 20-25 minutes to complete.)
  • MAP HAPPY (Media, Author, Place/Time – Historical Context, Audience, Purpose, Point of View, Why is this important?)
  • Teacher will call on groups to explain their answers to the MAP HAPPY questions and to explain their reasoning.
  • Teacher will facilitate a brief, summative discussion about how Lincoln’s first and second inaugural addresses are different and why.