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Lesson 5—Industrialization of America

Overview: The industrialization of America has had massive and continuing influence on our role in the world as a producer and consumer of goods, as well as political consequences. In order to access these concepts, students first have to spend time studying how the industrial revolution in this country changed how work is done and goods are produced. The focus of these assignments will provide students with a foundation for discussing industrialization in many different settings.

The content presented in this series of activities discuss the changing face of production, how resources decide where production takes place, and the importance of using primary source documents to back up what students are researching. First, students will be introduced to the difference between primary and secondary resources. Next, students will have the opportunity to put industrialization into perspective using primary resource materials. Finally, students will put it all together through a case study in industrialization focusing on the Boott Cotton Mill Massachusetts, one of the best preserved examples of early industrialization in the United States.

Curriculum Subject and Topic: Social Studies—Big Idea of Production
Estimated Duration: 180 minutes
Grade Level: 6

Curriculum Goals: Ohio Academic Content Standards

Lesson Objectives: Students will

National Educational Technology Standards for Students:



Motivational/Prepatory Activities

  1. Prepare 4x6 note cards for this activity by writing the names, finding images of, or otherwise describing primary and secondary sources. Place one resource on each card. You will need enough cards and examples to allow each group of students complete the activities below.
  2. Inform students that they will be learning about how production changed over time in a variety of industries. In order to do that, they will be reviewing primary and secondary sources of information, so they will first need to learn about the different types of sources they can use when learning or researching new things.
  3. Have students watch the following videos, either in their groups or projected on a whiteboard for the whole class. Tell them the videos will provide them with a background in how production has changed in a couple of industries.
This collection of videos describes the process of manufacturing goods. While you can watch all of the videos, the Assembly Line video presents an ideal opportunity to share with students how mechanized car production works. Mercedes Benz, like almost all car manufacturers, uses the assembly line to build their cars. By watching this video, teachers will have the opportunity to discuss how the assembly line changed the production of cars from one-by-one trade craft to mass production. Much like the Mercedez video above, this video provides an opportunity to look at how production happens on a farm, but on a Victorian era farm. Students should focus on what they see in the video that is different from some of the types of tools we would expect to see on a farm today.

Information Presentation/Processing Information Activities

Activity 1: Primary Sources versus Secondary Sources

  1. Start the activity by presenting the concepts of primary sources and secondary sources. Tell students they have most likely used both types of sources when researching in their classes, without knowing it. Use the lists of resources from the following site to help explain the difference between the two types. Name only a few of each.
    Primary versus Secondary Sources
  2. Once you have introduced students to the two types, have them suggest other possible examples. Record student responses on the whiteboard or on a piece of chart paper. Have each student explain why they think each source is a primary or secondary source.
  3. Tell students that they will be working in small groups to complete the next part of the activity.
  4. Show students the 4x6 cards with examples of sources. Tell them they will be sorting the cards into primary or secondary source piles.
  5. Have students break into groups and spend about five minutes separating the cards into primary and secondary source piles. Work with students as necessary to assist them during this time period.
  6. Direct groups to come to the board or chart paper and tape their cards in the appropriate column for primary and secondary sources.
  7. Call on each group to explain their decisions. Correct any mistakes.

Activity 2: Eyewitness to History—BIn the next activity, students will be reviewing primary accounts of the time around the true industrial revolution at the turn of the 19th century.

  1. Tell students now that they know the difference between primary and secondary sources they will be reviewing primary sources discussing the way work changed in America at the end of the 1800s and beginning of the 1900s.
  2. Ask students if they know what the industrial revolution is. If students struggle, define the concept for them. Focus on the idea that with the rise of factories and assembly lines, mass production built on the back of large labor forces had immense impact on production capabilities by moving production from hand production to large factory floors. Labor unions, child labor, urban growth, lower-priced goods, and other developments were all driven by this move away from a mainly agrarian society to an industrial society. The Dust Bowl and Great Depression hastened the move even more in the 1930s and 40s.
  3. In order to build student background knowledge, have them view the Changing World of Work document available here: The Changing World of Work.
  4. Have students peruse the America at Work resources for 1894-1915 from the Library of Congress. Direct students to note specifically how the videos demonstrate the growth of industry.
  5. Next, have students review how Henry Ford and his Model T introduced the assembly line to the world, and how that introduction changed the face of production as we knew it.
  6. Finally, have students review these famous photos of children at work in the factories and mines of America at the turn of the 19th century.
    Children in the Workplace
  7. Discuss with students some of the ways the world changed based on the industrialization of America. Why did more people move to the cities? What affect did that have on the people who lived in the city? How did industrialization affect prices of and access to goods produced?
  8. Engage students in a compare and contrast activity based on the photos Hines took of children in the workplace. What was the same? What was different? What would happen to their futures if they had to quit school and go to work to support themselves or their families?
  9. Have students think about how school and assembly lines are similar.
    • Discuss with students how at Ford’s factory, each worker adds a part or two and the car moved to the next worker. Compare that to how schools changed from one-room school houses to larger schools with one teacher teaching one grade, and the student move down the “line” to the next teacher.
    • Focus on how quality management looks to catch defects at the end of the line. Compare that to how exit exams in high school, as well as proficiency tests, measure the quality of the education that each student receives.
    • Ask students how they think schools might change as production changes. Can education become globalized, like production? How does the availability of online instruction affect education?

Application Activities

Activity 3: A Case Study in the Industrialization of America—This assignment takes students through a variety of primary sources to show in a microcosm how industrialization affected an industry, its workers, and the local community. The Boott Cotton Mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, demonstrates how production changed along with improvements in technology over time. Additionally, students will gain insight into why the mill was built in Lowell. Finally, students will hear from first-hand accounts what it was like to work in the mill and the importance of the mill on the local population. This is a scene that has played out across the United States throughout the past century.

Students will complete the Web quest below. They should work through all steps, except for "Putting It All Together."
Building America's Industrial Revolution: The Boott Cotton Mills of Lowell, Massachusetts

Closure Activity

Activity 4: Our Community

  1. For this closure activity, students will have to think about their local community and the Web quest they just completed. Discuss with students that, although they may not have had a major textile mill in their community, their town or city very likely has seen important industries change over time.
  2. Have students work in teams to research their town or city (or a specific local city of your or their choosing). Specifically, what production activities happened when the town or city was founded? What are the most important production activities now?
  3. Tell students to write one paragraph about when and who founded the town or city. They should include a second paragraph describing the most important products from the time of founding. Finally, have them suggest what production has been lost and what are some new products.
  4. Have students turn in their paragraphs when they finish the activity.

Rubric—Lesson 5

Category 4 3 2 1 Points
Activity 3 Required Elements The eBooks includes all required elements as well as additional information. All required elements are included on the eBook. Most of the required elements are included on the eBook. Several required elements were missing.  
Activity 4 Paragraph Construction Sentences and paragraphs are complete, well-constructed and of varied structure. All sentences are complete and well-constructed (no fragments, no run-ons). Paragraphing is generally done well. Most sentences are complete and well-constructed. Paragraphing needs some work. Many sentence fragments or run-on sentences OR paragraphing needs lots of work.  
Activity 4 Content Accuracy Paragraphs contain at least 4 accurate facts about the topic. Paragraphs contain at least 3 accurate facts about the topic. Paragraphs contain 1-2 accurate facts about the topic. Paragraphs contain no accurate facts about the topic.  
Collaboration with Peers Almost always listens to, shares with, and supports the efforts of others in the group. Tries to keep people working well together. Usually listens to, shares with, and supports the efforts of others in the group. Does not cause "waves" in the group. Often listens to, shares with, and supports the efforts of others in the group but sometimes is not a good team member. Rarely listens to, shares with, and supports the efforts of others in the group. Often  is not a good team member.  

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