Child Labor: Through their Eyes

Lesson Plan

Created by Leslie Marshall.
Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker of Pennsylvania Coal Co.

Source Analysis Focus: 

Photos, Poems, Cartoons, Posters


Growing the Nation:  Technology, Industrialization, and Expansion



Lesson duration: 

55 min.

Content Statement:

The Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed the means of production as a result of improvements in technology, use of new power resources, the advent of interchangeable parts and the shift from craftwork to factory work.

Primary Sources:

Images from the Library of Congress on child labor, especially, the National Child Labor Committee Collection and Lewis Hines photographs.
The primary sources can be found 

Summary of lesson:

Students will work in groups to examine photos, cartoons, poems, posters as primary sources providing them background on the Industrial Revolution and the use of child labor.  They will be using source worksheets to analyze each image.  Students will be looking at the images using the “Through their Eyes” method.

Instructional steps to implement the lesson:

List objective and the question of the day on the projector:  Question of the Day:  How young is too young to work?  What classifies as “work”?
Important Vocabulary:  textile, doffer, child labor, industrial revolution hulling, shucking, spinner, trapper, newsboy
Students will work in pairs.  Distribute one entire packet of images to the pair.  
Pass out the copies of each analysis worksheet for the pair to work with:  and .
Have students take out a sheet of notebook paper to record their individual thoughts on.  Students will examine images on their own, writing a caption for each image that they think best summarizes what the photo, cartoon, poem, or poster is showing or saying.  
Students will share their ideas with their partner. 
In groups, the student partners will each fill out the analysis sheets – with either one person writing and the other speaking, or with them sharing the workload.  
When all groups are done, have a class discussion about the photos, posters, poems, and cartoons.  
Have the class decide which image from each category does the best job of showing them how difficult or unfair child labor was. 
Students would have homework to research a famous child labor activist or actual child labor laws.  They would fill out an ENTRANCE ticket for the next day with one fact and the correct CITATION for their source of information.