Fun Factory–NOT!

By Susan Malone, August 26, 2009

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Approximately 200 minutes for classroom activities (5 to 7 sessions)


The Industrial Revolution changed the American way of life, both positively and negatively.  This lesson challenges the students to investigate the historical system, identify the problems, choose a problem to focus on, investigate further, and generate possible solutions.  Periodic “road blocks” presented by the teacher (playing various roles) will require students to re-evaluate.  Student teams will present their solutions to two teachers, one playing the role of factory owner and the other playing the role of a child working within the factory system.  Students will present their design processes from beginning to end using support materials such as visual images, models, video, etc.  Solutions can be a system or a product.  Students will be assessed by the teachers and will also complete a self-assessment.

National Standards

Social Studies
Standard 2. Level III. Understands the historical perspective 2. Analyzes the influence specific ideas and beliefs had on a period of history 6. Knows different types of primary and secondary sources and the motives, interests, and bias expressed in them (e.g., eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos, magazine articles, newspaper accounts, hearsay) Standard 16. Level II. Understands how the rise of corporations, heavy industry, and mechanized farming transformed American society 1. Understands the impact of significant achievements and individuals of the late 19th century (e.g., the effects of major technological, transportation, and communication changes that occurred after 1870; careers of industrial and financial leaders of the late 19th century) 2. Understands the economic and social changes that occurred in late 19th century American cities (e.g., where industries and transportation expanded; geographic reasons for building factories, commercial centers, and transportation hubs; why different groups moved from the farms to the big cities and how they adjusted; living conditions in the growing cities)
Language Arts
Standard 6. Level III. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of literary passages and texts (e.g., fiction, nonfiction, myths, poems, fantasies, biographies, autobiographies, science fiction, drama) Standard 7. Level III. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., electronic texts; textbooks; biographical sketches; directions; essays; primary source historical documents, including letters and diaries; print media, including editorials, news stories, periodicals, and magazines; consumer, workplace, and public documents, including catalogs, technical directions, procedures, and bus routes) 2. Knows the defining characteristics of a variety of informational texts (e.g., electronic texts; textbooks; biographical sketches; letters; diaries; directions; procedures; magazines; essays; primary source historical documents; editorials; news stories; periodicals; bus routes; catalogs; technical directions; consumer, workplace, and public documents) 3. Summarizes and paraphrases information in texts (e.g., arranges information in chronological, logical, or sequential order; conveys main ideas, critical details, and underlying meaning; uses own words or quoted materials; preserves author’s perspective and voice) 4. Uses new information to adjust and extend personal knowledge base 5. Draws conclusions and makes inferences based on explicit and implicit information in texts 6. Differentiates between fact and opinion in informational texts      

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards Writing 

Grade 6-8

Production and Distribution of Writing:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.5 With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening

Grade 6-8

Comprehension and Collaboration:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.3 Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)

English Language Arts Standards: History/Social Studies

Grade 6-8

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.3 Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

Craft and Structure:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.5 Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6 Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

English Language Arts Standards: Reading Informational Text

Grade 6-8    

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.2 Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.3 Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.5 Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to the development of the ideas.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.6 Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.8 Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-7.9 Analyze how two or more authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information by emphasizing different evidence or advancing different interpretations of facts.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6-8.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 6-8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.


Students will:
  • gain a working knowledge of mid-nineteenth century industrialism and its consequences, both positive and negative
  • demonstrate a competent use of research skills
  • demonstrate an understanding of cause and effect relationships
  • demonstrate effective use of design process skills
  • apply problem-solving techniques relevant to the situation
  • apply decision-making techniques relevant to the situation
  • use reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
  • use viewing skills to understand and interpret visual media
  • demonstrate an ability to present their findings and solutions concisely and effectively
  • demonstrate their ability to work effectively as a team


Extension activity sites:


  • copies of appendices
  • paper
  • scissors
  • markers
  • cardboard
  • tape
  • construction paper
  • rulers
  • other art supplies as available or needed


  • revolution: a sudden, complete or marked change in something
  • industrialization: to introduce industry into (an area) on a large scale
  • Industrial Revolution: a rapid major change in an economy (as in America in the late 18th century) marked by the general introduction of power-driven machinery or by an important change in the prevailing types and methods of use of such machines
  • factory: a building or set of buildings with facilities for manufacturing
  • slums: a densely populated usually urban area marked by crowding, dirty run-down housing, poverty, and social disorganization
  • tenements: :  apartment building, especially one meeting minimum standards of sanitation, safety, and comfort and usually located in a city
  • oppressive: unreasonably burdensome or severe
  • child labor: the employment of children below an age determined by law or custom
  • subsistence: the minimum (as of food and shelter) necessary to support life


Students will have previously been introduced to the Industrial Revolution. Session 1: 1. Basic introduction to the concept of child labor during the era and the related vocabulary.  Briefly discuss the factory system, work schedules, and life in the tenements.  Do not go into detail, because the students need to discover and identify the more specific problems when in their teams.  (Note: I don’t tell them that they will be designing a system or a product that addresses one of the problems they identify.  This keeps them from moving directly to solution-based thinking.) Session 2: 1. Divide the class into teams of three to four students for research.  The students will conduct research using the Web sites in Appendix A.  Remind them that they are looking for problems within the child labor system. 2. Have the students take notes or have them copy and paste important research information into a word processing document, citing all sources. 3. Have students compile their information with their teammates. Session 3: 1. Using their research information, students will use brainstorming techniques and web the problems in the system that they were able to identify. Choose one area in which they have identified a problem, such as injuries/health, and then model brainstorming and webbing with the students. Encourage the students to list as many problems and be as specific as possible (Appendix B).  Remind the students that this is a team effort and everyone should participate.  Webbing should indicate their thought processes as a team.  Give each team approximately twenty minutes to brainstorm and web. 2. After twenty minutes, call time and discuss the findings as a class, allowing student teams to add to their webs.  Tell the students that they will choose one problem on which to focus during the next session. Sessions 4 and 5: 1. Student teams will review their webs and choose one focus problem.  Discuss the possibility of solving the problem with a system or a product. 2. Give the students the rest of the allotted time to brainstorm solutions and then to choose one.  Remind the student teams to be specific in choosing a problem to solve—they are not trying to solve all of the problems that were identified.  As teams begin to decide on their solutions, you can throw in a road block (for example: You the teacher are the factory owner, and there is no way that you are going to increase the length of the lunch hour or shorten the length of the work day).  Create a road block specific to the solution each group is heading toward.  Each group should reassess.  This will allow them to finesse their solutions and support them more specifically. 3. Each team will then write a rough draft, one-page description of their solution with details that support their decision.  Once teams have chosen a solution, they will choose a company name that represents their team’s efforts. Session 6: 1. Student teams will edit and proofread their written description and create a visual interpretation of their solution, such as a poster representing a system or a model of a product. 2. The teams will practice their presentation (five minute limit), with each member having an integral part in the presentation. Session 7: 1. Student teams will make their presentations of  five minutes each.  The class will then spend five minutes in discussion of the solution.  At the end of the period of time, each team will fill out a Fun Factory Scoring Rubric (Appendix C).  The teacher will also fill out a rubric for each team. 2. The teacher will meet with each team to compare assessments for final scoring.


The students will assess their own experiences and the teacher will do the same, using the scoring rubric. The presentation and the team conference with the teacher allow for determining the success of the lesson.   Remember to consider:
  • Did students remain on task?
  • Did students work together well as a team?
  • Did students follow instructions in a timely manner?
  • Did the students demonstrate an understanding of the design process?
  • Did their presentation demonstrate/document a logical flow of thought?
  • Was the team able to "sell" their solution to the factory owner (teacher)?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students and/or teams can expand the objectives by researching how the child labor laws that were enacted affect them today. They can create a time line that indicates a cause-and-effect chronology based on changes within the system, such as educational laws, the creation of playgrounds, etc.

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