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Lesson 3
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by Angela Rossillo

Overview | Procedures for Teachers & Organizers for Students

Grade Levels: 9-12

Time Allotment: Four 40-minute class periods

Progressivism was not so much an organized movement as it was a general spirit of reform embraced by Americans with diverse goals and backgrounds during the early 20th century (1900-20). Progressives sought the advancement of humanity through the liberation of human energies and potential from both the fading restraints of past ages and the new restraints imposed by modern industrialism. Progressivism was thus both forward-looking and backward-looking.

The growth of industry and cities created problems. A small number of people held a large proportion of the nation's wealth while others fell into poverty. Workers faced long hours, dangerous conditions, poor pay, and an uncertain future. Big business became closely allied with government; and political machines, which offered services in return for votes, controlled some city governments. As the United States entered the 20th century, citizens came together to combat these ills.

This lesson will help students use the book THE JUNGLE, by Upton Sinclair, to study the progressive era of the United States. Using information from the book and what they know about their communities today, students will develop an understanding of life during this time period. They will compare and contrast the lives of immigrants then and now and examine the persuasive power of the Socialist Party on women and immigrants. From there they will explore the working conditions of the period and use a graphic organizer to help them write a policy statement to aid these workers. Lastly, they will research modern labor laws and decide which ones would have been beneficial to the people working during the progressive era.

This lesson should be used after reading THE JUNGLE, by Upton Sinclair. Background knowledge of the progressive era will be useful.

Subject Matter: History and Language Arts

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to:
  • compare and contrast immigrant life during the progressive era and today;
  • complete a chart depicting the way the Socialist Party influenced the lives of women and immigrants during the progressive era;
  • complete a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting working conditions for people during the progressive era and people in the United States today, and use this to create a policy statement and an action plan to improve the working conditions of the progressive era;
  • list the modern laws from which the families in THE JUNGLE would have benefited.
National Standards:

Social Studies:

I. Culture

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity, so that the learner can:

a. analyze and explain the ways groups, societies, and cultures address human needs and concerns;

d. compare and analyze societal patterns for preserving and transmitting culture while adapting to environmental or social change;

e. demonstrate the value of cultural diversity, as well as cohesion, within and across groups;

f. interpret patterns of behavior reflecting values and attitudes that contribute or pose obstacles to cross-cultural understanding;

g. construct reasoned judgments about specific cultural responses to persistent human issues;

h. explain and apply ideas, theories, and modes of inquiry drawn from anthropology and sociology in the examination of persistent issues and social problems.

II. Time, Continuity, and Change

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ways human beings view themselves in and over time, so that the learner can: b. apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity;

c. identify and describe significant historical periods and patterns of change within and across cultures, such as the development of ancient cultures and civilizations, the rise of nation-states, and social, economic, and political revolutions;

d. systematically employ processes of critical historical inquiry to reconstruct and reinterpret the past, such as using a variety of sources and checking their credibility, validating and weighing evidence for claims, and searching for causality;

e. investigate, interpret, and analyze multiple historical and contemporary viewpoints within and across cultures related to important events, recurring dilemmas, and persistent issues, while employing empathy, skepticism, and critical judgment;

f. apply ideas, theories, and modes of historical inquiry to analyze historical and contemporary developments, and to inform and evaluate actions concerning public policy issues.

IV. Individual Development and Identity

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of individual development and identity, so that the learner can:

b. identify, describe, and express appreciation for the influences of various historical and contemporary cultures on an individual's daily life;

c. describe the ways family, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, and other group and cultural influences contribute to the development of a sense of self;

e. examine the interactions of ethnic, national, or cultural influences in specific situations or events;

g. compare and evaluate the impact of stereotyping, conformity, acts of altruism, and other behaviors on individuals and groups.

VI. Power, Authority, and Governance

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people create and change structures of power, authority, and governance, so that the learner can:

a. examine persistent issues involving the rights, roles, and status of the individual in relation to the general welfare;

b. explain the purpose of government and analyze how its powers are acquired, used, and justified.

X. Civic Ideals and Practices

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic, so that the learner can:

f. analyze a variety of public policies and issues from the perspective of formal and informal political actors;

g. evaluate the effectiveness of public opinion in influencing and shaping public policy development and decision making;

i. construct a policy statement and an action plan to achieve one or more goals related to an issue of public concern.

Language Arts:

1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, and aesthetic) of human experience.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, and graphics).

4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, and vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, and people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, and video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

To find the standards specific to your state, visit:

Materials and Media Components: Prep for Teachers:

Before the start of this lesson, download, print, and copy the chart handouts for each student.

Next: Procedures for Teachers

The American Novel