Industrial Revolution Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

This lesson plan on the Industrial Revolution allows you to help students make connections between the first inventions of the 19th century and the great social changes that affected slavery and imperialism.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to do the following:

  • Identify the technological advances that made the Industrial Revolution possible
  • Analyze the changing conditions created by the Industrial Revolution in both Europe and the United States


30 minutes, plus 40 minutes for the activity

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


Begin by watching the lesson The Industrial Revolution in Europe and the U.S.: Events & Innovations, pausing at the following points to discuss:

  • 2:45 - First, compare and contrast the Industrial Revolution to other revolutions that your class has studied, like the French or American revolutions. From there, ask them why Slater was so reviled in the UK, but revered in the United States.
  • 5:48 - Some historians have described the early inventions of the Industrial Revolution as having a domino effect. What does that mean? Do you think it's true?
  • 8:32 - All of these textiles that were so important to the early Industrial Revolution had to come from somewhere. Where do you think that was? What effect did that have on slave states in the South or European colonies in places like India?


Divide your class into small groups of 3 students. Using the an informal debate format, assign each group an innovation or invention from the Industrial Revolution to discuss the importance of, stating why it was the most important advancement of the time. Each student will speak for 1-2 minutes on the following subjects:

  • Describing what their innovation or invention was.
  • Why their assigned innovation or invention was the most important.
  • The impact on society of their innovation. (note, this may not be completely apparent at first, but will require some critical thinking. These can be both positive and negative)

The student's job is to convince the class that their invention was the most important invention of the industrial revolution. You can even vote after the presentations to see which group the class believes had the most important invention.

Possible innovations and inventions are:

  • Steam Engine
  • Railroad
  • Interchangeable Parts
  • Steamboat
  • Spinning Jenny
  • High-quality iron

It may prove helpful to have students read the lesson Inventions of the Industrial Revolution: Examples and Summary as well as a transcript of the video lesson in preparation for their arguments.

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