Skip to Content

Decoding Lincoln: Vocabulary Coding with the Gettysburg Address

3 Favorites 1 Copy (view)
Social Studies +1 Age Levels Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Primary (5 to 8 years old)
This collection provides background knowledge for students while they analyze Abraham Lincoln's word choice in his speech the Gettysburg Address. Students will then participate in a vocabulary coding activity to build comprehension of the message in the speech.
Steps in Vocabulary Coding:
1. Start with a gateway question (a question to get students into the text in a non-threatening way that requires no prior knowledge or comprehension) Which word appears most often in The Gettysburg Address? Identify the word. Is it used in the same form or part of speech throughout the text? Present the text as a puzzle to solve.
2. Read aloud the Gettysburg address while students follow along.
3. Practice Coding: Directions: Code important words with a plus sign "+" above known words, and a minus sign"-" above unknown words.
Get with a partner and compare words, then list them in a T-chart.
4. After teams have selected words, the teacher briefly provides a 5 W’s and H background for the text using the slides in the collection: Who wrote it, What was it about, When was it written, Where was it set, Why was it written, and How was the text presented. For more rigor and if time allows, give teams of students one image from the collection to research and present as background knowledge for the class.
5. Group defines words: Partners whip around to share word choices, then chart words (tally repeated words.)
Choose at least six "minus" words to chart as a class and briefly define with synonyms or short phrases.
6. Teacher assigns one section of the text per group. Group finds and selects shortest definition for that word in the context of the text and summarizes the main idea of that section of text.
7. Teams share word definitions and summary while class annotates.
8. Finally, each team picks at least three of the important vocabulary words to write a group summary of the text in 1-2 sentences (starting with 5 W’s + H). Then each individual student writes a personal response to the text (how they feel, the historical impact, the meaning of the text today, etc.) using at least three new vocabulary words from the text. Highlight vocab words, and share writing with partner.



3c Gettysburg Address single

National Postal Museum

Lincoln at Gettysburg II

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Interactive Gettysburg Address

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access

The Gettysburg Address

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access

Exploring the Gettysburg Address

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access

Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, (sculpture)

Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums

Declaration of Independence

Archives of American Art

Declaration of Independence diorama

National Portrait Gallery

Plate 39. Gateway of Cemetary, Gettysburg

National Museum of American History

Mary Henry Diary, 1858-1863

Smithsonian Archives - History Div

Battle of Gettysburg Lithograph

National Museum of American History

32c Battle of Gettysburg single

National Postal Museum

Ulysses S. Grant and John Pemberton

National Portrait Gallery

A Letter From George Washington

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access

Lincoln, the Smithsonian, and Science Lecture Video

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access

Lincoln at Gettysburg III

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gettysburg Pennsylvania Day [program]

Archives Center, National Museum of American History

"Gettysburg as I Saw It." [sic] [broadside], 1886

Archives Center, National Museum of American History