Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan which is adaptable for grades 5-12, students use BrainPOP resources to explore the political events that occurred after slavery ended and how Reconstruction laws affected families and the economy.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explain the political events that occurred after slavery was abolished.
  2. Compare and contrast the economic opportunities of slaves before and after slavery was abolished.
  3. Identify 3 major political, social, and economic aspects of Reconstruction, and describe one goal, obstacle, and achievement within each.


  • Computers with internet access for BrainPOP
  • Class set of photocopies of the Worksheet

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Build background knowledge by telling students you're going to show them an actual work agreement between a former slave owner and his former slave after the Civil War. Project the First Primary Source Document for the class to see.
  2. Assist students in reading and comprehending the source, and talk about any student misconceptions around the results of ending slavery. Explain that the abolition of slavery often left former slaves unemployed and homeless.
  3. Guide students to understand that former slaves had extremely limited options after slavery ended. What could be done to support them in finding jobs and homes? Encourage students to make suggestions based on both historical fact and their own opinions.
  4. Play the Reconstruction Movie for the class, instructing students to listen for various ways the government intervened through passing new laws.
  5. Distribute copies of the Worksheet and have students choose three laws they heard during the movie and write them in the blanks.
  6. Play the movie through a second time, and provide an opportunity for students to fill in their charts to describe the law as fair or foul.
  7. For homework, have students conduct further research on each law, and add to their chart in defense of their opinion of the law.
  8. The next day, activate students' prior knowledge by displaying the Review Quiz for the class to see. As you click through each question, have students use hand signals, devices, or individual dry erase boards to indicate their answer choices. You may want to discuss the answers as a whole class, or have students do this in teams.
  9. Pass out copies of the Graphic Organizer. Challenge students to work collaboratively to consider the political, social, and economic aspects of Reconstruction, and describe one goal, obstacle, and achievement within each. Allow students to replay the Reconstruction Movie or consult with other resources as needed.
  10. Have students work with a partner to share the Worksheet page they completed for homework. Is there any disagreement over whether a law is fair? What criteria did students use to decide?