The Industrial Revolution

By Georgia Flynn, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Summer Design Institute

Subject Area

  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

45 minutes


After spending 2 ½ days learning about the Industrial Revolution, I wanted to make sure that students understood and could explain the impact that the IR had on life in the US.  The design challenge was to represent life pre and post Industrial Revolution.  Students had to brainstorm what they knew about the subject and then create a prototype illustrating their knowledge.

National Standards

4.3.1 Explain how inventions and new processes affected the lives of people, migration, and the economy of regions of the United States


Students will be able to demonstrate how life and jobs changed in the United States after the Industrial Revolution.


There are ready-made resources on the Internet about the Industrial Revolution – videos, articles, worksheets.  I found and paid for resources on Teachers Pay Teachers


Two regular sheets of construction paper and four smaller squares of construction paper.  Any color is fine.


Industrial Revolution: a rapid major change in an economy (as in England 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 Cotton gin: a machine that separates the seeds, hulls, and foreign material from cotton Assembly line: an arrangement of machines, equipment, and workers in which work passes from operation to operation in direct line until the product is assembled  


Identifying the problem: After several days of teaching the students about the Industrial Revolution, present them with the “How Might We” question: How might we show what life was like in the United States before the Industrial Revolution and after it?   Brainstorming: While at their tables, students brainstorm a list of everything they remember about the IR from the previous days’ lessons.  After a few minutes of brainstorming, each table group chooses what things they want to represent from their lists. They are then given their construction paper and must  build their prototype out of it.   Prototyping:  The color of the construction paper is not a factor. Students may tear, fold, stack, and manipulate the paper in any way but they may not use any other materials.  No glue, no scissors, no markers, no tape are allowed. Students have six minutes to build their prototypes. As they work, groups should decide what they want to say about what their designs represen.   Presentations: At the end of six minutes and after a brief clean up,gather the students for a gallery walk around the classroom.  As the group passes by each table, students explain  what their designs represent.  First they explain what aspects of pre Industrial Revolution life their creations depict.  Next they explain their post IR prototype.


The lesson is a success if students can articulate any or all of the following: - That post IR the US moved to a more urban and less rural way of life - Machines were invented that made life easier for people - More jobs were created - The middle class was created because with those new jobs, people finally had a way of earning money; they didn’t have to be born with it

Enrichment Extension Activities

An extension might be to have students evaluate which time period – pre or post – they think is better. To facilitate this, students could create a pro and con list of attributes for both periods and then choose which one they would have wanted to live in.

Teacher Reflection

This lesson worked very well because I spent so much time on the front end teaching them about the time period.  They read articles, ranked inventions, and watched several videos.

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