I Knew Him When

Language Arts Activity

Students read about the life of Abraham Lincoln and write a first-person account by someone who might have known him at a particular stage of his life.



  1. With student help, prepare a timeline of Lincoln's life, showing the major events in his life from childhood through the presidency. Indicate various points along the timeline and ask volunteers to figure out how old Lincoln was at each time. Have them recall or look up where he lived then and what he was doing.

  2. Assign, or have students choose, one period in Lincoln's life. Tell them to research that period and then assume the character of someone (real or fictional) who lived at that time and knew Lincoln. Have students write a first-person account that tells when and how they knew Lincoln. Writers might use actual anecdotes about Lincoln to make their stories more realistic. The stories should reveal something about his character. They should also include information about the narrator.

  3. Have students sort the accounts into chronological order and bind them to make a fictional biography of Lincoln's life.


You may wish to set aside time for students to share their accounts as oral presentations. Another possibility is to assemble the characters, real or fictional, who "knew" Lincoln and have them swap tales about their experiences.

Make available on the library table biographies and historical fiction involving historical figures. Discuss the two genres with students. Encourage them to read the books and then form reading circles in which they discuss and compare the different forms.

Have students assume that one of their classmates will grow up to be president or famous in some way. They then write a first-person account of what she or he was like as a child including noting signs of future greatness.

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