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Lesson Plan: Experiencing Change

Subjects: Civics, US Government, US History

Grade Level(s): 10-12th grades

Time Frame [Based on 50-minute periods (e.g., 4, 50-minute periods)]: 2-3, 50-minute class periods

Objectives [What the student should know and be able to do at the end of the lesson]:

1.0 Overall: After successful completion of this lesson, students will be able to understand civil service reform under President Rutherford B. Hayes.  They will be able to explain why President James Garfield was assassinated and to describe how President Chester Arthur ended the spoils system.  Students will be able to recall the main points concerning the presidential election of 1884 and describe Coxey’s “army” marching on Washington in 1894.

Bloom’s Taxonomy: CongressLink lesson plans are built around Bloom's taxonomy. The purpose of the taxonomy is to provide a coherent format for lessons and to make it easier for teachers to design them according to CongressLink's standards. If you are preparing a lesson, be sure to read the detailed information about the taxonomy -- it will be a big help.

2.0 Knowledge: Students will be able to understand civil service reform under President Hayes. 

3.0 Understanding: Students will be able to explain why President Garfield was assassinated.

4.0 Application: Students will work in small groups to create a segment for the evening news.  They will report on civil service reform, Garfield’s assassination, the end of the spoils system, Grover Cleveland’s victory in the presidential election of 1884, and Coxey’s march on Washington.

5.0 Analysis: Students will recall the main points concerning the presidential election of 1884.

6.0 Synthesis: Students will describe how Chester Arthur ended the spoils system and describe Coxey’s “army” marching on Washington.

7.0 Evaluation: Students should be able to identify and present the key issues related to their group’s political event.

Outline of Content:

  1. Politics in the Gilded Age
    1. Students will work in small groups to create a segment for the evening news.  The students will report on:
      • Civil service reform
      • Garfield’s assassination
      • End of spoils system
      • Cleveland’s victory
      • Coxey’s march on Washington



  1. Bellringer concerning the “Gilded Age” to be answered in a notebook.
  2. Focus tying bellringer to unit.
  3. Divide class into pre-assigned groups.  Explain the activity.
  4. Show news clip from to refresh interviewing skills.


  1. Group work preparing news reports on “Politics of the Gilded Age.”


  1. Group presentation.
  2. Oral review of main concepts learned.

Group Activity:

Accommodation for Individual Differences:

  1. Heterogeneous grouping
  2. Peer tutoring
  3. Individual and group work
  4. Visual, print, and auditory elements

Each group will have 2.5 minutes to present a portion of an evening news broadcast dealing with one political event described below:

  1. Hayes and civil service reform
  2. Garfield’s assassination
  3. Arthur ending the spoils system
  4. Presidential election of 1884
  5. Coxey’s “army” marches on Washington

Student Goal: Identify and present the key issues related to your group’s political event.  While you are working: Ask…Who, What, When, Where, and Why?

Example: Radical Reconstruction-Reconstruction Act of 1867

Who?: Influential Republicans (Congress) and the South

When?: 1867

What?: The “Radical Republicans” did  not agree with President Andrew Johnson’s plan.  They were angry with Johnson for many reasons, especially Johnson opposing the 14th Amendment.  Many “Radical Republicans” were voted into Congress where they could pass legislation.  Congress passed the Reconstruction Act. These are the key provisions:

  1. It put the South under military control, dividing it into five districts, each governed by a northern general.
  2. It ordered southern states to hold new elections for delegates to create new state constitutions.
  3. It required states to allow all qualified male voters, including African Americans, to vote in elections.
  4. It temporarily barred southerners who had supported the Confederacy from voting.
  5. It required southern states to guarantee equal rights to all citizens.
  6. It required the states to ratify the 14th Amendment.

Where?  The decision was made in Washington, but it affected Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Why? The southern states were not treating African Americans fairly and most Republicans were sick of wealthy southerners wielding the power in ways contrary to Republicans’ expectations.  The Republicans also wanted to pass the 14th Amendment.

You could have two news anchors reporting on the Reconstruction Act of 1867, a reporter reporting live from Washington, a reporter reporting live from Montgomery, and a reporter in San Francisco.

The anchors can tell about who, what, where, and why.

The reporters can interview people in the cities.  The people in Washington will most probably be happy about the Act, the people in Montgomery will be angry and/or happy, and the people in San Francisco will not care too much.


Dry erase board with markers.
Xeroxed copies of directions.

Technology Integration:

News clip from

National Standards Addressed by Lesson [based on National Standards for Civics and Government, Center for Civic Education,]:

I B.  What are the essential characteristics of limited and unlimited government?

III A.  How are power and responsibility distributed, shared, and limited in the government established by the United States Constitution?

III E.  How does the American political system provide for choice and opportunities for participation?

Evaluation/Assessment: Grading presentations and group participation checklist.

Marcie Adam McBride
Saint Michael High School
Baton Rouge, LA 70817

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