Getting students to create their own industrial town – a cross curricular project

Teaching in a comprehensive school in the south east just north of London, it can be a challenge teaching the topic on the Industrial Revolution. So many teaching materials use examples from the north of England and the Midlands – rightly so as that is where the most important developments took place – but this can make the topic even more distant to my students who have only lived in the south. This is despite having the little known world’s first paper making factory in the town where my school is located.

Industrial town planning worksheet

This creative task was inspired by Folens wonderful text book Industry, Reform and Empire by Aaron Wiles and encourages students to create their own industrial town which is built around a factory, just like towns like Saltaire and Manchester. This cleverly uses the diagram/cartoon which first appeared in the classic text book series History Alive by Peter Moss. I have taken this diagram as the centrepoint of the task – all the other material from the text book can be used as supplementary material for the able to stretch and challenge these students. The diagram contains everything you need to explain how industrial towns developed around factories. If you need film material to give students a visual representation, I use the opening credits of Coronation Street from the late 1970s and early 1980s [the one with the ginger cat] to get across the type of housing that would be found in an industrial town and its proximity between each other to the students. This clip is readily available from You Tube. If you have time the Industrial Revelations series has an excellent episode called Pants For All which covers this topic very well and its running time is 22 minutes and is available on DVD.

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Setting the task in pairs and handing over almost the entire lesson to this gives the students the opportunity to not only be creative and apply the content of the lesson but also work independently and be able to present their work in front of their peers. Some of my students really went to town in planning their industrial town and used extensive maps and keys. The brief asked the students to present their work in a variety of ways – therefore not only differentiating the task but also giving students the opportunity to choose how to present their knowledge.

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I was hugely impressed with how many students added aspects to the original diagram they were presented with. Linking to a previous Home Learning task where students had to research football team nicknames that linked with the town’s industry [for example Northampton Town – Cobblers], one student even created a football and rugby team in the tone of an industrial heartand.

The task also lent itself neatly to cross-curricular links – geography is the most obvious with its town planning focus which is great for us as we are aiming to promote links between Humanities subjects, but also literacy and numeracy in the different ways that the task can be presented.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

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