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Lesson 3
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by Angela Rossillo

Overview | Procedures for Teachers

Introductory Activity:

1) Ask students if they know anyone who is an immigrant to this country. Create a list on the board with information from the students about their responses: From what country did the person come? How many years has he or she been in the United States? What were his or her reasons for immigrating to the United States? Why did this person settle in this area of the country? Is the family of the immigrant different from the student's family? If so, how? (Students' answers will vary based on the community and their own backgrounds.) Use the information on the board to compare the different answers given by the students.

2) Tell your students that life can be very difficult for people who are immigrating to a different country. Ask if they have heard stories from members of their families about the difficulties they faced when they first arrived in the United States. Have students tell you about the difficulties they know their families or friends have experienced after immigrating to the United States.

3) Ask students if they are aware of any services that are available to assist people who have just entered the country. Possible answers will be English as a second language (ESL) and bilingual classes, multilingual pamphlets offered by various government agencies, civic associations that assist immigrants with legal matters, etc.

4) Have students estimate how long they think these services have been in place. Ask them what they think life would be like for immigrants if those services were not in place. Have them imagine life for immigrants during the early 1900s. Ask them what services there were to assist people immigrating into the United States at that time. Possible answers will be vaccinations at Ellis Island, etc. These can also be considered negative services. For example, families were split after being examined by immigration doctors, with some members being allowed into the United States and others being either quarantined for unfounded reasons or worse, being sent back to their native country. Have them compare the services from the two time periods.

5) Explain to students that in the first part of this lesson, they will be thinking about the characters in THE JUNGLE. Tell them they will be listing the hardships that these people endured. Then explain that they will use the Internet to research the Socialist Party and find out the party's position on these issues. Show them the chart they will fill out with this information, and then distribute one per student.

6) Ask the students to begin by brainstorming for five minutes and writing down the different hardships faced by the characters in the novel. Tell them to use the chart to record this information.

7) This step requires that students use computers with Internet access. Have the students log on to to research the Socialist Party and its activism during the progressive era. Remind them that they are looking for the party's position on each of the hardships endured by the characters in the novel. Allow students 15 to 20 minutes to complete this activity.

8) After each student has filled in her or his chart, ask for volunteers to read aloud their list of hardships and the accompanying information on the Socialist Party. Answers may include poor working conditions, the right for women to vote, low immigrant status, real estate scams, lack of government assistance, etc.

9) Ask your students how they would feel if they were subjected to those kinds of hardships. Ask them if they know of any stories of their ancestors dealing with similar issues upon entering the United States.

10) Tell your students that in the next activity, they will be focusing on one of the aforementioned hardships: working conditions.

Learning Activity:

1) Explain to your students that the Progressive Era was so called because of the amount of Progress the United States was supposedly making in terms of industrialization and production. But at what cost? Have students think back to the lists they made. How was progress achieved during this time? Who suffered? Who gained?

2) After students have answered and discussed those questions, instruct them to log onto the website This website takes students on an "adventure" with characters of different ethnic backgrounds. The importance of labor laws, current child labor conditions, forced labor in countries around the world, discrimination in the workplace, and safe working conditions are the topics of this "adventure". Included are stories, quizzes, challenges, and adventures that show students how the world of work affects everyone.

3) Hand out a blank Venn diagram to each student. Give them five minutes to compare and contrast working conditions during the Progressive Era to working conditions today. What were the similarities? What were the differences? What do the two time periods share?

4) When students have completed their graphic organizers, explain to them that they will be using this as a reference sheet. Hand out a Blank Action Plan to each student, which can be downloaded from:, and a sample policy statement, which can be found at

Tell them to imagine that they are policy makers during the Progressive Era. Explain to them that they are to use their Venn Diagrams to write a policy statement (three paragraphs) and an action plan (use blank template) on improving the working conditions for the masses.

5) Hand out a sample action plan to each student, which can be downloaded from, Discuss the components of the action plan, telling students that it should include a list of goals or objectives, a suggestion on what needs to be done, who would be responsible for implementing the goals, the resources that would be needed. Students may handwrite this assignment using the blank template, or they may create their own using a word processor.

6) Hand out a sample policy statement, which can be found at The policy statement should briefly describe the generalities of the topic, past events and experiences relating to the topic, and any other relevant information on the topic. The policy statement should also discuss the current circumstances concerning the topic. Lastly, it should outline how you would like to address the topic and seek to resolve any problems, concerns, or conflicts related to that topic.

7) When they have completed the policy statement and action plan, ask students to once again think back to the novel. Have them think back to the hardships endured by the characters in the workplace.

8) Next, separate students into groups based on which character they chose to focus on. Give the groups ten minutes to explain how their policy statements and action plans would have been beneficial for specific characters in THE JUNGLE.

9) After the ten minutes have expired, give each student a sticky note. Have them use the sticky notes to write one way the character would have benefited from their policy statements and action plans. If the group has come up with several examples, they may use more sticky notes, as needed.

10) Ask students to read their sticky notes aloud. Once the entire class has read their information, instruct students, one group at a time, to place the sticky notes on the poster board with their characterÕs name on it. This can be used as a visual aid to show students how they could have impacted the lives of workers during the progressive era.

Culminating Activity:

1) Ask students to research modern labor laws by logging on to Have them create a list of the modern laws that would have been beneficial to workers in the early 20th century. When their lists are complete, have them pair up and compare their lists while you walk around and moderate the discussions.

2) Next, have your students log on to Have them read the "Illinois Factory Inspection, 1893-1897" and write a five-sentence reaction to this page.


1) Ask for a few volunteers to read their reaction paragraphs aloud. These will be collected at the end of the period, along with their policy and action statements, in order to assess the students' understanding of the subject matter.

2) As an additional assessment, you may ask your students to prepare for a debate on the topic of the position of management on working conditions during the progressive era. Assign half of the class the position of management and the other half that of the blue-collar worker. Have them use issues brought up during the unit to bolster their arguments (i.e., better working conditions, cheap labor, longer or shorter work weeks, etc.). When the students are ready, have them set up the room as a panel discussion. Have the teams face each other and take turns debating their positions. You may want to bring in another teacher or group of students to watch the debate and to judge which group made a better argument.

Cross-Curricular Extensions:


Have students research the immigrant demographics in their community. Using this information, students will create a bar graph depicting the various groups and the percentage of their representation in the community.

Have students use the numbers collected in their data to create and solve an algebraic word problem.


Give students a list of the common diseases that infected people during the progressive era. Have students research each disease using the Internet and decide whether or not it was preventable and whether or not it is prevalent in today's society.


Have students research the establishment of labor unions in the United States.

Have students research the different political parties of the time (progressive era) and describe the political agenda of each.


Read PROGRESS AND POVERTY, by Henry George; see online resources.

Community Connections:

  • Interview someone in your community who is not originally from the United States. Create a present-tense pamphlet including the difficulties they face and listing resources available in the community that may be of assistance to that person.
  • Visit the local library and use historical documents to learn the demographics and immigrant population in the community during the progressive era.
  • Interview a member of the community who has lived there for at least two decades. Ask them to describe the demographic change in the community as they have experienced it.
Online Resources:

NARA: Progressive Reform -- Speaker Cannon This National Archives site gives an overview of progressive political reform, highlighting a 1910 revolt against the Speaker of the House.

Graphic Organizers This is a free site where teachers can download and print copies of graphic organizers.

NARA: National Archives Experience Check here to read the three amendments passed during the progressive era, the 16th, 17th, and 18th amendments.

Illinois Factory Inspection, 1893-1897 This page contains primary source articles that describe Florence Kelley's fight for state labor laws to protect women and children workers during the progressive era.

A Biography of America: TR and Wilson This is a site that allows you to scan an animated time line, view period maps of the United States, and read an interview with a historian who discusses America under the leadership of progressive Presidents Roosevelt and Wilson.

PROGRESS AND POVERTY by Henry George Open this page for links to the full text of Henry George's PROGRESS AND POVERTY, which became popular during the American progressive era.

Social Security Online History Pages: Upton Sinclair Read this short biography of muckraking writer Upton Sinclair, whose influential novel THE JUNGLE was not his only claim to fame.

U.S. Department of Labor -- Compliance Assistance Home Page This site lists and describes current labor laws, categorized by topic and audience.

THE JUNGLE, by Upton Sinclair Project Gutenberg is a Web site that offers free versions of books for download.

PBS Teachers

About the Author:

Angela Rossillo is a fifth-grade teacher in Union City, New Jersey. She acquired her Master's in Education Administration from Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, New Jersey, and will acquire her Master's in Urban Education from New Jersey City University, Jersey City, New Jersey, in May 2008. She has been teaching since 2002.

The American Novel