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Progressive Reforms

Lesson Plan

Ohio Standards:

Grade 10, History 4

Duration of Lesson:

2 class periods

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will understand that the progressive movement was a combination of many political and social reform movements.
  • Through editorial cartoon analysis and internet research, students will be able to explain the various reform movements that combined to create the progressive  movement.
  • Students will also determine why the progressives focused on the issues they did.
  • Students will evaluate the challenges that the progressives faced by determining what groups might oppose reform and by concluding what consequences might result from reform.
  • Students will discover how the progressive movement influenced government policy.


This lesson requires students to analyze editorial cartoons focusing on progressive reform and further research the message of the cartoons. Questions accompany the editorial cartoons to guide student research. Students will compare their analysis and research before presenting the consequences of progressive reform. This lesson is designed to conclude with a discussion of the cost of reform leading to the creation of a national income tax through the passage of the 16th Amendment.


  • The following editorial cartoons:
  1. Jack and the Wall Street Giants
  2. Happy Childhood Days
  3. The Tenement - A Menace to All
  4. The Poor Little Rich Boy


Students individually brainstorm the reform movements/issues of the progressive movement. Students list the movements/issues on the board. Discuss as a class why each movement/issue was a concern of the Progressives.

Instructional Steps:

Day 1

  1. Complete pre-assessment activity
  2. Provide each student with one of the first three editorial cartoons (1. Jack and the Wall Street Giants; 2. Happy Childhood Days; 3. The Tenement - A Menace to All) and a "Cartoon Analysis/Research Worksheet."
  3. Allow students to research the issue portrayed in the cartoon in a computer lab or the media center and complete the "Analysis/Research Worksheet"

Day 2

  1. Have students form groups in which all members analyzed and researched the same cartoon. Students should discuss and compare their analysis and research. They should come to a consensus on answers to each of the questions on the "Analysis/Research Worksheet". This information should be added to their worksheets.
  2. Place students into groups of three so that each of the three cartoons is represented. In these groups students should explain/teach their individual cartoons to one another.
  3. Come back as a class and together discuss the consequences of progressive reform (question 6) and why progressive reform was difficult.


Show students the fourth political cartoon, "The Poor Little Rich Boy" and ask students to discuss how this cartoon represents an important consequence of progressive reform (the cost).

Extension Activities:

  • Have students research and present government policy created in response to the progressive movement.
  • Have students write about the lasting effects of the progressive movement and their influence on life today.


Jack and the Wall Street Giants

Jack and the Wall Street Giants

The Tenement - A Menace to All

The Tenement - A Menace to All

The Poor Little Rich Boy

The Poor Little Rich Boy

Happy Childhood Days

Happy Childhood Days