Industrial Revolution Social Studies

On Friday, our class wrapped up our lessons on the Industrial Revolution. We had covered the basics of what the Industrial Revolution was earlier in the week, but we hadn’t yet gotten to the Trash and Treasure connection that we’ve looked at with each era of U.S. history: what did people “treasure” at this point in history, what was not valued, and how was that different from other times?

We started with a drawing and writing activity that drew on our lessons earlier this week. Each student got a sheet of paper with three instructions:

  • Imagine that you just got a job in a factory during the Industrial Revolution, and draw the machine you’ll be working with.
  • Imagine that you’re moving to a city after living in the country all your life. Draw what a city street looks like to you.
  • Imagine that you are a news reporter in 1855. Write about an event related to the Industrial Revolution that is happening right now in your city!

The kids got going right away. There were big, conveyor belt machines and little tools; empty city streets and crowded ones; and headlines about factory openings, new goods for sale, the difficulty of feeding everyone in the city, and labor protests. After 15 minutes, we gathered at the carpet with our completed work, and used what each child had imagined to draw out some underlying ideas about the Industrial Revolution.


When we examined their drawings of machines, some were hand-powered, some were electrical, and some were steam-powered. We also noticed that a lot of the machines were metal. This led us to talk about the need for coal and iron and the growth of mining during the 19th century. Drawings of the city streets opened up a conversation about pollution, sanitation, and what it would have been like to move from the spacious countryside into a crowded city. We added sanitation and apartment buildings to our list of things people needed during the Industrial Revolution. When we discussed our news stories, we compared the excitement of new inventions with the confusion of changing work conditions and the need to eventually make rules to protect workers’ rights. 

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Renata McAdams

is our grade 3-4 classroom teacher. She has taught in a variety of public, charter, and independent schools, including a combined 3-5 classroom in Ann Arbor, Mich., for two years. Rentata graduated from Vassar College and received her M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania. She grew up in Oberlin, Ohio, and moved to Chicago from Philadelphia with her husband (then-fiancé) in August 2014.

In her free time, Renata enjoys singing, acting, dancing, and reading.

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