The Muckrakers

Interdisciplinary Unit: The Progressive Era


Unit Advanced Organizer
Culminating Activity
Lesson Plans:

Performance Assessment-Time-period Newspaper

Back to Lesson Plans

Mike's Home Page


This unit is designed to meet the requirements of 8th grade Social Studies as designated by the New York State Board of Regents. An interdisciplinary approach will be used to teach this unit. This type of approach will encourage more permanent and meaningful learning because it enables the student to make connections between the subject areas. This interdisciplinary unit also focuses on skills, over content, which are necessary for the future success of our pupils, both as students and citizens.

Back To Contents

Unit Advanced Organizer

Interdisciplinary Objectives: Students will be able to...

1. Describe how life changed for the average American as a result of Industrialization.

2. Describe how Progressive Reformers changed America.

3. Identify a problem and propose a solution.

4. Interpret and analyze physical data.

5. Write an analytical newspaper article for a time period newspaper.

6.Evaluate whether or not technology had a positive or negative impact for Americans during the Progressive Era.

All subjects will focus of the following skills:

Writing skills

Reading skills

Analytical and critical thinking skills

Interpretive skills

Argumentative skills




The students will be introduced to the following concepts and terms in the unit:

Muckrakers, Spoils System, Thesis

Work, Force, x and y Coordinates

Pie Chart, Cartesian Graph, Gender Roles

Child Labor, Industrialization, Technology

Immigration, Temperance, Nativism

Symbolism, Realism, Mechanics

Trusts, Urbanization, The Industrialization of Agriculture

Civil Service, Conservationism Reform

Connective Theme: Muckrakers

The students will examine the Progressive Era from the perspective of the Muckraker. This requires students to be investigators, to analyze and interpret data and to identify a problem and propose a solution. This will be stressed in all the subject areas.

Back To Contents

Culminating Activity: Time-period Newspaper

The students will demonstrate their learning by creating and publishing a newspaper from a historical perspective. For a more in depth description go to:Performance Assessment-Time-period Newspaper

Field Trip: The team will visit a newspaper office to view the publishing process.

Back To Contents

Lesson 1:The Press and the Origins of Progressivism

Objectives: Students will be able to...

1. Describe the origins of the Progressive movement (the press).

2. Define muckraker.

3. Define spoils system.

4. Analyze and interpret the political cartoons of Thomas Nast.


1. Class Discussion: Students will come up with the definitions for muckraker and the spoils system.

2. Jigsaw: Students will be broken into groups to interpret and analyze a political cartoon by Thomas Nast. They will then report back to their home group to share their analysis and interpretation of the different cartoons.

3. Closure: Students will create generalizations about the origins of the progressive movement based on the activity and assigned reading.


1. Jigsaw activities will be collected in order to determine whether or not the students where able to use analytical and critical thinking in interpreting the political cartoons.

2. Students will be asked write a one page report about a muckraker they found interesting and how they influenced the progressive movement.

Back To Contents

Lesson 2: "The Jungle"

Objectives: Students will be able to...

1. Describe the unsanitary conditions in the meat packing plants during the 1880's.

2. Define thesis.

3. Identify theses and the components of an essay from editorials in the newspaper.

4. Write an argumentative essay based on the novel, "The Jungle," by Upton Sinclair.


1. Class Discussion: Students will be asked to read selected editorials from the newspaper. From the reading, the students will identify the author's thesis statement (argument) and their supporting evidence. Students will then develop a definition of what a thesis is and the components of an argumentative essay from the editorials.

2. Group Activity: Students will break into small groups (4-5) and read selections from "The Jungle." They will be asked to write an essay in which they develop an argument (i.e. the conditions in the Chicago meat packing plant were unsanitary) and cite evidence to support their argument.


2. Students will hand in their essay from which the teacher will be able to determine whether the students were able to apply the definitions they created in class and the components of an essay in their own writing.

Back To Contents

Lesson 3: Child Labor

Objectives: Students will be able to...

1. Define and identify x and y coordinates in a Cartesian plane.

2. Analyze and interpret data to create a Cartesian graph.

3. Define and calculate percentages.

4. Identify the components of a pie graph.

5. Analyze and interpret data to create a pie graph.

6. Interpret graphs and form conclusions about child labor in the Progressive Era.


1. Group Activity: Students will be broken into groups (4-5) and will examine linear graphs and pie graphs. From the activity, students will be asked to identify the components of the graphs, and do some calculations. Answers will be shared with the class, and the teacher will elaborate on definitions and equations.

2. In the same groups, students will be given data on the numbers of child laborers by year compared with the total workforce, and the number of accidental deaths of children in factories. Students will create pie graphs and Cartesian graphs from the data.

3. Class discussion: Students will share graphs and create generalizations about the development and the nature of child labor in the Unites States during the Progressive Era.


1. Graphs will be handed in to assess if the students were able to interpret the data and apply the definitions and equations in their graphs.

2. From the conclusions in the class discussion, the teacher will be able to evaluate if the students were able to interpret the graphs (i.e. between 1860-1880, children represented a significant percentage of the American workforce).

Back To Contents

Lesson 4: The Mechanics of Industry

Objectives: Students will be able to...

1. Define and apply the equation for force to solve problems; f=ma.

2. Define and apply the equation for work to solve problems; W=fd.

3. Describe how factories harnessed the power of steam, water, and coal to do work to move a turbine.

4. Describe how the use of machines, powered by steam, revolutionized the way Americans work.


1. Demonstration: Boiling water from a tea kettle will be used to inflate a balloon. A class discussion will take place after the demonstration to illustrate the principles of force and work.

2. Group Activity: Students will form groups (4-5) and will solve problems using the equations for force and work. The teacher will provide an example to start the activity.

3. Class discussion: Students will be asked to compare and contrast the way Americans worked before and after the Industrial Revolution (i.e. What skills are needed to weave a rug by hand versus using a machine in a factory to produce a rug? Are there any dangers working in a factory versus working at home?). The teacher will write the generalizations on the board.


1. The work and force worksheet will be collected to evaluate the students application of the formulas and assess their problem solving skills.

2. Ask the students at the end of class to define force and work in equation form.

Back To Contents

Lesson 5: The Rights of Women and The 19th Amendment

Objectives: Students will be able to...

1. Create a list of the rights of women after the Civil War.

2. Describe the role of women in the Progressive movement.

3. Write an essay arguing for or against the 19th Amendment from a historical perspective.


1. Class discussion: Students will discuss the status of women during the Progressive movement and their demand for equality. From this discussion, students will identify the concerns of women during this time period and how they actively addressed these issues.

2. Group Activity: The class will be broken into 5 groups. 2 groups will write an essay for the right of women to vote and two groups will argue against the right of women to vote (from a historical perspective). At the end of class each group will read their essays to the class. The fifth group will create a list of criteria that will be used to judge which group wrote the most convincing essay. They will evaluate each group's essay and will provide them with feedback about the effectiveness of their essay.


1. Each groups essays will be used to determine if they were able to successfully integrate the components of an argument into their essay.

2. The list of criteria will be used to assess the groups overall ability to use data to support a persuasive essay as well as the fifth group's knowledge of the structure of an argumentative essay.

Back To Contents

Performance Assessment: Time-period Newspaper

The culminating activity for this unit is a time-period newspaper. Individual classes will be assigned to write about a topic that we have covered in the unit that they found particularly interesting. All subject areas will participate in this project. The students will then research that topic and write a newspaper article that has a thesis and uses supporting evidence to back up their argument. We will encourage the students to play the role of the "muckraker," when investigating their topics. The students should focus on a problem or dilemma and propose a solution.

The students will also be responsible for organizing the layout of the newspaper and for the publishing of the newspaper. The finished product will be assessed according to a rubric that will assess each individual class's article and the project as a whole. The team will print the newspaper and distribute it to the rest of the school. The teachers will arrange for a parent's night so that they students may show their newspaper to their families.

Back To Contents

Back to Lesson Plans

Mike's Home Page

Michael Fantauzzo/