Upton Sinclair Lesson Plan

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson plan will provide you with a mini-activity, a larger activity, key terms, and discussion topics and questions that will help students understand Upton Sinclair and his importance.

Learning Objectives

After students have finished this lesson, they should be able to:

  • briefly discuss Upton Sinclair's life as a whole (not just his writing)
  • name the various works Sinclair penned throughout his life
  • identify the impact Sinclair's works had on society


1-2 hours with activity


Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.1

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Key Vocabulary

  • Upton Sinclair
  • The Jungle
  • Yellow journalism
  • The Brass Check
  • Sylvia
  • Dragon's Teeth

Warm Up

  • Use the following questions to get the students thinking about the lesson, allow 3-5 minutes for discussion.
    • What or who do you think a muckracker is?
    • Take a guess as to what the definition of yellow journalism is.

Instructions & Discussion Questions

  • Pass out the lesson Upton Sinclair: Facts, Books & Accomplishments. Have the students read it quietly to themselves, highlighting the key vocab.
  • Read the lesson again as a class but pause after each of the following sections for the discussion topics and questions.
  • After reading 'A Man of Varied Interests':
    • Describe for students, with some examples, the working conditions of Sinclair's day in various industries.
    • Ensure students understand the concept of muckraking by providing some examples of this, including contemporary ones. Is this a disparaging term? Or, was it meant to be?
  • Mini activity: have students compare and contrast the working conditions of today to Sinclair's time. Draw a Venn-Diagram on the board and as a class list how thing were, how things are, and what's still the same with respect to this.
  • After reading the 'Stirring the Pot' section:
    • When and where was Sinclair born?
    • Call on students to describe various details of his family background and early life.
    • Where did Sinclair go to school? How did he pay for it?
    • Discuss the importance of The Jungle even to this day.
    • Describe for students the concept of yellow journalism.
    • What was the impact of The Brass Check?
  • After reading the 'Outspoken Renegade' section:
    • Describe for students Sylvia and Sylvia's Marriage.
    • Ask students if they know what the Pulitzer Prize is.
    • Explain why Sinclair received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Dragon's Teeth.
    • Quickly compare/contrast the basic tenets of capitalism, which Sinclair opposed, and socialism, which he supported.
  • Read the remainder of the lesson, answering any outstanding questions.
  • Now, have the students take the lesson quiz. Discuss the answers and questions afterwards for added information.


Each student will be a 'muckraker' for this activity. However, there's a twist.

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