Working 9 to 5?

Author: Sara Chavarria
Edited: Stephanie Nardei

Time: 7 class periods
Photocopy Handout 1 and Handout 2
Materials: Overhead 1 – Six part investigation template
Handout 1 – Photo Analysis Form
Handout 2 – Poster Analysis Form
List of Industries
Library visit
Computer Room


In this Explore lesson students learn what industries produced during the Industrial Revolution,unfriendly labor policies and the affects on the worker. Students will individually research industries.

Purpose - The lesson’s purpose is to challenge how conditions could be addressed by society.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify different industries of the Industrial Revolution in America through the following:

  • text
  • web research
  • image analysis

2. Evaluate a poster created by their classmates using a Poster Analysis Form.

National Social Studies Standards
Historical Thinking Standards

  • Standard 2D: Evidence historical perspectives.
  • Standard 3D: Consider multiple perspectives.
  • Standard 4B: Obtain historical data.
  • Standard 5A: Identify issues and problems in the past.

United States History Standards

  • Era 6 Standard1: How the rise of corporations, heavy industry, and mechanized farming transformed the American people.
  • Era 7 Standard 1: How Progressives and others addressed problems of industrial capitalism, urbanization, and political corruption.

Teacher Background

Resource Websites
American Memory Timeline:
Images of work and workers:
Millers, miners, factory workers, newsies, seafood workers, fruit pickers, salesmen:
Archival Research Catalog:
Documentation of child Labor
Photographs of Lewis Hine:
Jacob Riis images:
Photos of child laborers:
Timeline of inventions (Gilded Age):



Day 1
1. Display on overhead:

In 1860 there were 900,000 factory jobs.
By 1890 there were 3.2 million.
Factory workers were, often, unskilled laborers who ‘tended’ to machines.
Factory jobs were repetitive.

Average work hours were 10-14 hours a day 6-7 days a week. How many hours is this? (This equals 60-80 hours a week.) Depending on age and gender, pay would range from $3 to $12 dollars a week.

Average yearly wage for an adult would be $400 - $500 a year.
Minimum annual income to maintain a decent standard of living was $600 a year for a small family. The larger the family the more expensive to maintain a standard of living.

How would you and your parents deal with this dilemma? Discuss.. (Answer: more family members working including spouses and children)

2. Have students look through their textbooks and read the chapters pertaining to Industry before 1900 and after 1900. Search for the following information:

  • Wage information comparing men to women.
  • Wage and age information for children.

Students research information on a variety of jobs (including sweatshop rates) if that is mentioned.

  • Search for wage differences between black and white workers.
  • Search for rent information to see if that was different in cities between black and white families.
  • Search for wage or rent differences between immigrant groups.

Some statistics can be shared later if not in your textbook: 1 of 5 women earned $6 - $8 a week. By 1900 20% of the workers were female. In 1885, there were 340,000 school age children in New York City. Of this number 90,000 held full time jobs. By 1910 1 out of 5 children below the age of 15 worked. Sweatshop rates in 1910 for an average week of 100 hours was $5. Rent could cost a fifth the earnings of white workers, while it would cost a third to half the earnings of black workers.

Days 2-4
3. Have students share information they found to create a list of data on the board or using an overhead. Perhaps a student can lead the discussion (ask for a volunteer). List must be written in their notes.

4. When done with the list, pose the following question (to be written in their notes):
What are the implications of children working full time? Topics for discussion:

  • Health issues
  • No access to education
  • How can a child move ahead?

5. New question:
What are the implications of a society of employees working long hours for low wage, 6-7 days a week? Topics for discussion:

  • Discontent
  • Depression
  • Early death
  • Health issues

6. Final question:
What could be done to raise awareness to the problem of worker conditions and what could be done to change these conditions?

7. Class project: Students will conduct individual investigations into different industries of the time. A list is provided. The teacher must assign a topic for students to explore. Information to gather is displayed on Overhead 1. The student is to divide a sheet of paper into six parts to write down their notes. Images or photos collected must be on separate sheets of paper and will be individually analyzed (Handout 1).

8. Students will be given one day of library research and one day for internet research to look for images and additional information (see resources for image websites).

Days 5-6
9. Students will be paired with another person who investigated the same industry. They will create a poster combining their information and images. Allow them to arrange the data and images on their poster.

Day 7
10. Posters will be turned in and immediately displayed. Another pair of students will conduct a critical evaluation of a poster (other than their own) on a different industry.

11. They will fill out two identical versions of Handout 2. When done, this analysis will be turned in and given to the authors of the poster analyzed.

End by asking the question introduced in step 6:

What could be done to raise awareness to the problem of worker conditions and what could be done to change these conditions?

The following lesson will address these issues in depth.

More research if not completed in class or during library and computer time.

Embedded Assessment
Notes and research can be assessed. Image analysis and poster analysis forms can be assessed. Students can create an industry and regulation timeline from looking at posters.

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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