Industrial Revolution


Industrial Revolution teaches students about this period in American history, including what it was, when it happened, and its lasting impact on the world. Students will also learn related vocabulary and specific innovations that happened during those years.

The “Options for Lesson” section on the classroom procedure page offers additional options for this lesson. These include assigning students an invention or development to research and present during class or inviting a local artisan or farmer into class to talk about their work. The practice page can also be assigned as a homework assignment, and students can work in pairs for the lesson activity.

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What our Industrial Revolution lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Industrial Revolution teaches students about this time period, including what it was, when it happened, and the factors that brought it about. Students will be able to discuss the positive and negative effect this time period had on the United States. They will also be able to identify some important inventions from that time. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. Supplies you need for this lesson include sheets of paper, scissors, glue, colored pencils, tape, markers, and the handouts. To prepare for this lesson, you can gather all of the needed supplies, decide how many sheets of paper you’d like the students to use for their timelines, and copy all of the handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. For this lesson, some of these options include assigning each student a specific invention from the Industrial Revolution and asking them to research it and present what they learn to the class. You can also invite someone who hand-makes their clothing or runs a farm to speak to your class about how time consuming and difficult those activities are.

Teacher Notes

The Teacher Notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. It says to focus on the general concepts and main inventions rather than specific dates and in-depth background, as the topic of the Industrial Revolution is complex and could be taught for an entire quarter. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you prepare for this lesson.


The Industrial Revolution and How It Began

The Industrial Revolution lesson plan includes seven content pages. The first few pages provide an overview of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, describing how it started and where it came from. The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain, where they had the raw materials and resources necessary to power factories and industrial plants. At this time, Great Britain was sending its products to the United States, until the Embargo Act of 1807 and the War of 1812. These events caused the United States to rely on itself for the products it formerly received from Great Britain and other countries. Because of this war, transportation was expanded, the use of electricity became more efficient and more widely used, and the industrial processes to create goods improved in the United States.

Key Inventions and the Farm Industry

The next section of this lesson focuses on some key inventions and inventors from this time period. These include the cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney in 1794; the sewing machine, invented by Elias Howe in 1846; and the steel plow, invented by John Deere in 1837. Other inventions, like the spinning wheel, the reaper, and interchangeable parts, are described. This section also delves into the ways in which these inventions made life better or easier for the people of this time period.

An important aspect of this time period was the impact on the farm industry. Because of improved farming techniques, fewer people needed to grow their own food, and many people began moving from farmlands to cities and towns. This meant that the rise of farming aided in the increase in the number of factories and production of goods. However, this exodus of people moving into cities also caused problems, like overcrowding, disease, poverty, and unsafe working conditions in factories.

Communication, Transportation, Other Inventions

The next section of this lesson outlines the changes in communication and transportation, including steam engines, steamboats, and national railroads. Students will learn about important historical figures and their contributions to this progress. These figures include Robert Fulton, who invented the first steamboat in 1793; James Watt, who invented the steam engine used in steamboats in 1775; and Samuel Morse, who invented the telegraph in 1860, which dramatically improved communication.

Finally, the lesson describes some other crucial inventions of the time, like the lightbulb, invented by Thomas Edison in 1878; the telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1877, and the modern automobile, invented by Karl Benz in 1885. These are all inventions that you and your students likely use every single day!

Key Terms, Figures, Events

Here is a list of the vocabulary and key figures and events students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Industrial Revolution: the period of time that marked numerous inventions and innovations in the United States
  • Embargo Act of 1807: an act that ended the import and export of products from other countries
  • War of 1812: a war fought between the U.S. and Great Britain
  • Eli Whitney: the inventor of the cotton gin in 1794
  • Cotton gin: a machine that increased the speed of separating the cotton seeds from the fiber, which was normally done by hand using a spinning wheel
  • Spinning wheel: a tool used to separate cotton seeds from the fiber by hand
  • Elias Howe: the inventor of the sewing machine
  • Interchangeable parts: the standard parts that can be used on different types of machines, lowering the cost and increasing the efficiency or manufacturing
  • Reaper: a tool invented in 1831 that allowed the harvesting of grain to be both faster and cheaper
  • John Deere: the inventor of the steel plow
  • Steel plow: an invention that helped farmers become faster and more efficient in growing crops
  • Samuel Morse: the inventor of the telegraph in 1860, which allowed communication from the east coast to the Mississippi River
  • Cumberland Road: the first national road beginning in 1811
  • Robert Fulton: the inventor of the steamboat
  • Steamboat: a type of boat that improved river transportation
  • James Watt: the inventor of the steam engine
  • Steam engine: the type of engine used in a steamboat
  • Erie Canal: the route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, helping the economy of New York
  • Transcontinental railroad: a railroad that linked the most important Midwest cities with the entire Atlantic coast
  • Thomas Edison: the inventor most famous for inventing the lightbulb
  • Alexander Graham Bell: the inventor of the telephone
  • Karl Benz: the inventor of the modern automobile


The Industrial Revolution lesson plan includes two worksheets: an activity worksheet and a practice worksheet. Students will complete all of these worksheets on their own. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


For the activity, students will create a timeline of the Industrial Revolution. They will use year labels that they cut out and paste onto a separate piece of paper. Students will fill in the timeline with relevant inventions and significant events. They will then come up with a creative title for their timeline. Students may work in pairs for this activity if you would like them to do so.


Students will describe how 14 different developments during this time period made life easier for people. These developments include the cotton gin, the sewing machine, the reaper, and the steel plow. You can assign the practice worksheet as a homework assignment if you wish.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson includes answer keys for the activity worksheet and practice worksheet. The answers may vary for both of these worksheets. For the activity worksheet, students may have chosen to include slightly different events or different descriptions of the events on their timelines. For the practice worksheet, students may write different ways that each development made life easier. You can use your best judgement, in addition to the options provided on the answer key, to evaluate this worksheet. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Social Studies, Video

State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5, LB.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3, CSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.W.5.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.2

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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The Industrial Revolution

Great resources to supplement my unit on the industrial revolution.

Australia Australia

Awesome resource

I have a very mixed year group and this resource was great for them. Thank you

Kaj S.

Fantastic resource

This was a fantastic resource. I teach CLIL to secondary students in Japan and Clarendon resources have been invaluable in helping plan and deliver lessons.

Maria S.

This lesson includes a helpful timeline of the inventions that happened during the Industrial Revolution in US. It is more visual than most of the other lessons on the Industrial Revolution.

Donald H.

Clear and Easy to Follow

I haven't used this yet in my class, but it looks to be a solid introductory lesson. Thank you for providing free services like this to new teachers.