A statewide project equipping K-12 educators to teach Iowa history using primary sources

Teaching Iowa History Logo

Home » Lesson Plans » Seeing Things Way Back Then

Seeing things way back then

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 4th Grade Class N/A Length of Lesson 45 Min
Lesson Title Seeing things way back then
Unit Title The Importance of The Industrial Revolution
Unit Compelling Question How did the Industrial Revolution impact people and the environment?
Historical Context:

This was a time of technological and agricultural reform. During the time of the industrial Revolution (1760-1840) there were several advancements that made goods made by hand possible to be mass produced. This was seen in agricultural realms  as well as fields dealing with transportation, communication, and the production of marketable goods. Largely due to the invention of the steam engine huge advancements were possible in the textiles, iron making, and other industires.Farmland in Iowa was largely changed due to the modifications made to the plow and inventions such as the corn hook.     

~ Alex Alberts
Lesson Supporting Question How did the Industrial Revolution pave the way to our world today?
Lesson Overview

This Lesson will give students a chance to explore the past during a time of great technological and agricultural advancement. We will be looking at several primary documents of inventions that at the time were quite revolutionary. Today we have much more modern examples of all of these inventions so the inventions as they were in their early stages seem humorous and irrelevant but hold a significance in how we live today.

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed
Lesson Target
  • I can answer compelling questions with supporting details
  • I can identify challenges and opportunities when taking action to address problems
  • I can describe how society has changed in the past and in the present
  • I can explain cause and effects of events and developments
  • I can understand and analyze the impact of technological changes in Iowa across time
  • I can explain how time has affected Iowa’s agriculture
Lesson Themes No themes are assigned for this lesson.
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
Bell ringer 

Intro/Anticipatory Set:

As students walk into class the tables are set into groups and there are several pictures of inventions that came from the advancements made during the industrial revolution presented on the board behind the teacher. Attention will be toward the board and the teacher will ask “Turn to a partner and discuss what these images remind you of”. A telegraph image will be highlighted and presented after asking who here has ever used Mom or Dad’s cell phone? Does it look anything like this?


This will ignite our conversation on inventions that were created during the time of the industrial revolution and how they evolved into the modern counterparts. 

5 Min  We will be seated into small groups  to assist students that are not as readily able to work independently.This will allow students to access a variety of viewpoints and uncover different ideas they will not come up with alone. We will make connections to tools that are commonly used in students daily lives to make personal connections to the activity to follow.  

Teacher has provided each table group with several photographs of technology that was present during the Industrial Revolution. Teacher launches the activity with the camera (primary source # 3). We will focus on asking good questions by thinking like a historian. Teachers will not inform students about what the photos are rather they will infer what the inventions they are looking at actually are.
As a whole group teachers will lead discussion on the camera primary document.

Ask questions about what we see and what this could have been used for
Will eventually come to the conclusion that this is a very old camera almost unrecognizable from what we see today (digital cameras)

Begin group work doing the same with all remaining primary documents. 
 Teachers will navigate through the classroom listening to the ideas that each group develops.

Leaning in and spark conversation

Minor details in photos may be missed

Groups discussion will be led in front of the room. By this time students have explored all of the images in their packet. Teachers have listened in and identified who has made crucial observations about each object.

Using the whiteboard we will list all of the qualities we uncovered that helped us determine what each object was. 
Once this is done we will reveal what each of inventions was and how it changed the world at that time
We will also look at what other inventions were sparked from each of the inventions. 

10 Min 

Students are strategically grouped together by their competence level. No student that typically struggles will not be in a group without a stronger student to lead the conversation. 


The conversation starter cards are present on the table. These have starter questions like: 

I’m curious about…
I think this is showing us….
Maybe this was used to…..


Good Question examples: 

What is happening in this photo?
When did this photo take place?
Who was impacted in this photo?
Where was this photo taken?
Why should we care about this photo/time?



Primary Sources: 


Primary Source #1: Automobile

1901- Frazee, The first registered gas-powered vehicle in Iowa. No steering wheel, driven by a lever and a series of sprockets and chains. 


Primary Source #2: Hog Oiler

Ad for hog oilers which provided hogs with skin protections and protection from insects. This decrease in insects on livestock kept them healthy and became common on farms during the early 1900’s


Primary Source #3: Camera

Camera of William Baylis who was most famously recognized for his landscape photographs and commonly took shots of parades, circuses, street scenes, and industrial disasters. 


Primary Source #4: Steam Engine

Steam engines similar to this were used to power threshing machines used to remove seeds from grain by beating the crop. This process was traditionally done by hand but this made the process much quicker and more efficient. 


Primary Source #5: Corn Hook

Another farming tool that made cultivating crops much quicker and safer. The glove and hook were used to gold and shuck the corn. 

Students witnessed how the questioning process worked for the camera example. They now will go through the remaining primary documents (not limited to the 5 provided). 

Discussions will include

Characteristics of the invention that helps us identify it
What this device would be used for
What it resembles or paved the way for in our modern time

Conversation starters are to be utilized if there are ever pauses in the conversation. Teachers will also be moving between groups to guide conversations and ensuring proper observations have been made. 
Students' goals should be to make connections to how the technology has changed from this time to our present. 
After the 10-15 minute investigation groups will pick one of the inventions to research a little more on using provided laptops. 

Present to the whole class in the form of a poster/gallery walk the following day!
25 Min   
Closure  We will use a 3-2-1 closing slip that students will hand in at the end of class. (seen below). We will also put poster boards aside for presentation tomorrow. We save the last 2 minutes of class for any questions! 5 Min   
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • We will be doing a 3-2-1 sheet at the end of class. We will do 3 interesting facts that they had learned during our conversations on the Industrial Revolution, 2 things that surprised them (technology that was born during this time), and 1 question they still have that we can discuss further in upcoming classes. The 3-2-1 will let me assess if they were actually understanding what we were discussing with the innovations of this time period. This will also let students practice writing good questions as historians do. Hope to see questions like “who benefited from the invention of ……”
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • Our project at the end of this unit will be the presentation of their homes from now transformed to a view of back then. This project will require students to provide images of all of the possible inventions they have at home that were spawned from the Industrial Revolution. A poster board presentation will be created that has images of the invention both as it was during the time of the Industrial Revolution and also as they are today. Next to each photo comparison, students will have a brief description of the invention and the changes that have been noted to that invention from when it was first created to its more modern version we see today. Several household items can be included in this poster. Possibilities include: Telephone/telegraph, Car/Locomotive, Sewing machine/Spinning Jenny, Camera, Farming equipment if applicable to their home, typewriter/computer.
Author Information
Author Alex Alberts Reviewer Dr. Chad Timm, Simpson College Created 06/18/2020 Last Edited 06/18/2020
Lesson Plan Development Notes: Social Studies Methods, Simpson College, Spring 2020

Objects Large for Lesson Plans

No objects were found.