The Coming of the Civil War in Virginia

Lesson 1: Introduction: Differences Between North and South

Time Estimated: 1 days



Students will:

  1. Connect what they have learned about the new nation to infer how, by the mid 1800s, differences could be occurring between Northern and Southern states.
  2. Examine, compare, and contrast photographs or drawings of Northern and Southern sections of the United States to identify differences in the two.
  3. Identify agriculture as the base of the economy in the South.
  4. Identify industry as the base of the economy in the North.
  5. Determine that the need for slaves was important in the South, but not in the North.
  6. Define agricultural, industrial, free state, and slave states.




  • Classroom set, transparency of, and enlarged (2’x3’) map of the U.S. as of 1850. Enlarged map should be marked with Northern states in blue and Southern states in gray.
  • A bulletin board (or large poster) divided into two sections with blue background on top section and gray background on lower section. Leave room in middle to place enlarged map.
  • Vocabulary words written on cards to go in pocket chart or on strips with magnets to go on board: agricultural, industrial, free states, slaves states.
  • Card stock cut into various sizes; markers.
  • Class set and transparency of standard Venn diagram graphic organizer.
  • Talking points for teacher reference on differences between the North and the South.
  • Overhead projector and markers.
  • Vocabulary sheets.
  • Alternate assignment.
  • Picture sheet contrasting southern plantation and northern factory




  1. Hook: Place picture sheet of southern plantation (lower half) and northern factory (upper half) on overhead and project.
  2. Ask students to
    • pair (with regular partners) and share what they see in the two scenes;
    • report to class what is shown in lower half (plantation) and upper half (factory);
    • predict with partners where each would be found in the United States in 1860;
    • report answers to class to draw a consensus as to where each would be found (try to draw from them that there is more agricultural land in the South (put agricultural vocabulary word in pocket or place on board), so plantations would be there, and there were more big cities in the North so they would be industrial (factories) (put industrial vocabulary up).
  3. Distribute maps. Ask students to take 5 minutes to predict which states would be agricultural and which would be industrial by putting “a” in each state where they think there would be more agriculture (plantations or farms) and “i” in each state where they think there would be more factories.
    • After 5 minutes, take possible answers and record correctly on map on transparency.
    • Explain that land and the climate in the South was better for growing things.
    • Ask students if one could conclude that states in the South were more agricultural and states in the North were more industrial.
  4. Draw a two-column chart on board or transparency with North on one column and South on other.
    • Ask students to brainstorm words that could go with the way life would be in each area. Accept and record all responses.
    • When finished circle key words if there or add them (agricultural, industrial, have or need slaves, paid to work so no slaves). Even if slavery does not come up, connect to prior knowledge that slaves were necessary to work the plantations and farms.
    • Question if slaves would be needed in industrial areas, explaining that like today industrial workers were paid for their work.
    • Explain that the states with slaves became known as “slave states” and put up vocabulary word, and the states without slaves became known as “free states” and put up that vocabulary word.
  5. Place enlarged map on bulletin board. Explain that you used the different colors to show the North and South and you will explain why later. They can use the same colors to show their “a” and “I” states.
  6. Have various students write the key words on card stock and have others place (staple, tape, pin) on bulletin board in the North or South sections.
  7. Hand out Venn diagrams. Ask students to write North on left side, South on right side. Assign to be completed with at least two ways the sections of the U.S. were different and two ways they were alike. (If students have not had experience with Venn diagrams, explain the concept.) Ask them to draw on prior knowledge to find ways all the states were alike.
  8. Assess understanding by watching students complete the worksheet.
    • Help struggling students as needed, pointing out that they can use the vocabulary words and words on the cards on the bulletin board.
    • Ask advanced students to add at least one additional thing in each area.
  9. After about 5 minutes, let students share their responses. Record the correct ones on the Venn transparency and let students correct their diagrams if needed.
  10. If you don’t already have student social studies folders, create them. Ask students to save their maps and Venn diagrams in a social studies folder for use later.
  11. Homework: using glossary in text or dictionary, write definitions on vocabulary sheet for first 4 words.
  12. Wrap up: Project map again, showing agricultural and industrial states.
    • Review what they learned today about the North and South and how there are differences between the two areas.
    • Point to the territories. Assign students to think about those areas. Would they be more like the North or the South? Would they become free states or slave states?
    • Write in big letters over the territories: “Mystery to be solved tomorrow!”




When possible in partner work, pair weak and strong students or students with different learning styles. The lesson has visual, oral, and written aspects, with visual learning being created on the bulletin board as continued learning/reminder. Let students with kinesthetic needs place the key point cards on the bulletin board. On Venn diagram work, show weaker students the “clues” (vocabulary words and bulletin board). Give advanced students the challenge to add extra items in each area of the Venn diagram.