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

Teaching Iowa History Logo

Home » Lesson Plans » What Tools Did People Use Past Help Them Work

What tools did people use in the past to help them with work?

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 1st Grade Class N/A Length of Lesson 45 Minutes
Lesson Title What tools did people use in the past to help them with work?
Unit Title People at Work
Unit Compelling Question How different are jobs in the past compared to jobs today?
Historical Context:

Tools are an essential part of work for people. As tools evolve, work gets easier to accomplish. Throughout history, many tools that are used for work have changed. There are similarities and differences between the tools of the past and present-day tools. These artifacts help to show what tools workers were using in the past and how they are different from today. 



This artifact is a picture of a lawnmower from 1948. The lawnmower shown in this picture does not have a motor and instead relies on a person to do the work to cut the grass. This artifact shows students a tool from the past where they could make a connection to the modern-day version. Depending on the location of the school and if the school has grass, students may already be familiar with the modern lawn mover. This artifact can connect to farming or landscaping as an occupation. 



This artifact shows a picture of corn husking gloves that were used in the 1920s and 1930s. These tools were used to help farmers husk corn faster. The corn husking gloves would use a hook on the gloves to help separate the husk (the green outer shell) from the corn. Now farmers can use machines to husk corn. This can be tied to farming as an occupation.



This artifact shows a picture of a microscope from the early 1900s. The microscope was used by doctors to look for different kinds of illnesses. Doctors could look under the microscope and be able to tell which illness was affecting the person. Now we have microscopes that can see many more things than this version of the microscope. This can be tied to the medical profession.



This artifact shows a picture of leg braces in 1896. This tool was used by doctors to help people who had issues walking. These tools were expensive to get for families. Today there are many different kinds of leg braces that can help people with specific problems they may have. This can be tied to the medical profession.



This artifact shows a picture of a hand-drawn hose cart from the early 1900s. This was used as a method of putting out fires before fire engines existed. The cart took about 10 people to move. It had a hose to spray the fire and also a bell attached to the wheels to alert people of a fire. This can be tied to modern-day firefighters.



This artifact shows a picture of an ice crusher that was used to crush ice for things like snowcones or other desserts. This tool was used before air conditioning and electric fridges were invented. Because of this, ice was a big part of people’s lives. This can be tied to modern-day versions of ice machines and how they are used by vendors. 



This artifact shows a picture of people working in a factory making buttons. In the factory, you can see them working with tools and handmaking the buttons which is a lengthy process. In this factory, they are making pearl buttons. This can be tied to modern-day methods of button making which are done using machines.



This artifact shows a picture of a camera from 1909. This camera could hold 100 shots before it would need to be sent to be developed. The idea behind this camera was to work better for the average person instead of heavy camera equipment of the past. This can be connected to modern-day cameras and the evolution of photography as a profession.




This artifact shows a picture of a typewriter that was used in the mid-1900s. This typewriter was meant to be portable so people could take it where they wanted. This specific typewriter also had Norwegian letters on it. This tool allowed people to type things up as they needed. This can be connected to modern-day computers and the evolutions of that. It also connects to jobs that require typing such as secretaries.  

Lesson Supporting Question What do jobs look like now and how are they different from previous years?
Lesson Overview

This lesson focuses on the different tools that have been used in the 1900s to today. Students will be asked to think about the time periods of the tools and also how the tools are the same or are different from today’s tools. It also helps students to recognize what types of things each job is doing by looking closely at what they are using to accomplish their job. This lesson is meant to support other parts of the unit by explaining how the tools needed for jobs have changed to help make jobs easier today. This can help students to understand why some jobs got easier or became less relevant; such as factory jobs with the introduction of machinery. In addition, it helps students to think about similarities and differences between two time periods. 

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed
Lesson Target
  • Students will make predictions about how a tool helped someone do their job
  • Students will look at similarities and differences between the tools of the past and of the present.
  • Students will talk about how when tools changed, jobs also changed.
Lesson Themes No themes are assigned for this lesson.
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
Bell Ringer  To begin the lesson, students will start by taking a gallery walk around the room. Placed around the room will be 4 pictures of tools from long ago. Students will be asked to look at the tool and make predictions about what they think the tool was used for.  5 Min   
Teacher  Once the students have gotten back to their seats, the teacher will ask for the student’s predictions. The teacher will then explain what the tool was used for and how it helped people with their jobs 8 Min  
Student  The teacher will ask the students to talk to their partner about ways the tools are similar and different from what we use today. 2 Min  Differentiate for readiness: the teacher can assign partners based on students that seem to understand what is going on and students that may need more help with the material. The teacher can assign students based on prior knowledge of how the students do with comparing and contrasting or the teacher can listen to the answers the students give during the teacher-centered moment.
Transition  The teacher will tell the students that they will be getting into groups to talk about a tool in the past and in the present. The teacher will tell them what job the tool goes with and allow them to pick a group. 1 Min Differentiate for interest: In this section, the teacher is allowing the students to pick a tool based on the profession that seems most interesting to them. This allows students to become more excited about the topic they are choosing. 
Teacher Explain to the students that you want them to look at a picture and/or watch a video of the tool being used in the past and in the present. Explain the worksheet (first worksheet) that goes with the activity. 3 Min   
Student  As a group have the students look at a picture of the tool (there will be 4 groups each one will have one type of tool: fire hose, ice crusher, factory or camera) with a short description of the tool and then have them watch a video or look at a picture of the modern version of the tool being used (see resource section under group activity). On the worksheet (first worksheet listed), students will be asked to find ways the tool is the same and ways the tool is different. They will also be asked how it might have been harder to work using the tool from the past. 10 Min Differentiate for readiness: In this section, the teacher can walk around and listen to students’ answers to see how they are doing as a group. If a group is struggling, the teacher can ask questions such as, how do the tools look similar/different, is one tool easier to use than another? If the students are ahead, the teacher can ask questions such as, what would it be like if we used the older tool today? What would be difficult about that? How do you think (profession) changed when the tool changed?
Transition Have each group share one comparison and one difference of their tools, have them turn in the worksheet, then return to their seats. 3 Min   
Teacher Explain to the students that some tools change over time. Explain the “Then and Now” worksheet to the students.  2 Min   
Student  On the worksheet (second worksheet), students will be asked to glue on their paper three pictures; one of a typewriter, a computer from the 80s, then a computer from the present in order from oldest to newest. The students will then be asked to write a similarity and difference between each of the pictures. They will also answer a question on if they think it would be easier to be a secretary now or in the past and why. 8 MIn   
Closure Students will be given a reflective check out sheet (third worksheet). On the sheet, they will be asked to write one thing they learned and will have to circle how they feel about the topic (I got it, I have some questions, I’m very confused). They can then explain why they circled whichever option they circled.  3 Min  Differentiate for readiness: In this section, the teacher is determining which students might need more help and which students are doing well. The teacher can use this information to help plan a future lesson to help the students who need help or need to be given more in-depth work. The teacher can also look at the fact the student used to see if it is an accurate fact. If it isn’t, the teacher can use that information to help the student understand the topic better.
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • The teacher can walk around and listen to the students as they are talking about the ways tools are similar and different from today during the first student-centered moment. The teacher will collect the worksheet from the group activity to see what groups were understanding what was going on and which ones seemed to have a harder time understanding. The teacher can also walk around as they are talking to see what groups seem to be on the right track and which groups/students might need some additional help The reflective check out sheet can be used to see how individual students are feeling about the topic which can help for future lessons.
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • The last worksheet the students do will be collected to see how well students can compare different tools that are used for working in different time periods. It asks students to make comparisons between different tools and then asks them to think about how the tool has changed. The last question they answer asks them to argue if they would rather be working with a typewriter from the past or a computer from the present. This shows if the student understands that tools have gotten better which means jobs have gotten easier to do over time.
Author Information
Author Mackenzie Ritscher 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.