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Monday, 12 October 2009 01:06

Lesson 1: Craft and Factory Production

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(The following simulation is taken from the lesson "Workers on the Line," offered by the Tsongas Industrial History Center or EDSITEment)


  1. Students will learn about the differences between craft/piece work production before the Industrial Revolution compared to assembly line/machine production after the Industrial Revolution.
  2. Students will understand why the factory method  was more attractive from a profit standpoint.
  3. Students will understand how workers’ and consumers’ lives were affected by this new method of production.

Procedure: (This lesson will take approximately 1 – 2 class periods)

Step 1:

1. Introduce the simulation with the question, “How great was the change from the craft system to the factory?” Before the Industrial Revolution, most goods were created by hand by craftsmen classified into three categories: apprentice, journeyman, and master craftsman. A master craftsman was a person who had mastered all the techniques and skills of a given craft. After many years of practice, he was regarded as an expert who then passed along his knowledge and skills to apprentices, young boys who spent many years under his direction. A journeyman was a craftsman who had completed apprenticeship but did not yet have the experience or skill to be designated a master. A craftsman knew the whole process of creating an object; for example, each woodcrafter knew how to create a chair from start to finish. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the job of creating an object became broken down into many steps, each of which was done by a different person. In the case of the wooden chair, one person might lathe the legs, another would create the seat, another would make the arms and back, and all the parts would then go to yet other people who would assemble them. The advantages were that single tasks could usually be done over and over faster than when one person did everything start to finish.
To demonstrate the differences we will engage in a simulation that shows how goods were made before and after the Industrial Revolution.

Step 2:

Before class download, copy, and then distribute to students the—"Workers on the Line", p. 9 (NOTE: This is a PDF document.) handout. This is a template of what they will be making.  Before you begin the Craft Simulation Activity, below, have students set standards for what is an acceptable finished product.

For example: Can you establish a margin of error for the cutting-out process? What are the minimum coloring standards? When establishing the "standard time," only count the time involved in making skates that met the standards.

Step 3: Craft Simulation:

Explain that they are each a craftsperson who will assemble the skates start to finish. They must be cut out, blades glued on, and colored to the best of their ability. Each will be asked to track the amount of time it takes to complete the task. After everyone has completed the skates, compile and average the different times it took all the students to complete the task. This will be the "standard" time it takes to produce in-line skates by hand. Point out the differences in "quality" among the hand-created skates. Are there some who have apparently mastered the craft of making in-line skates and some who still need some time as apprentices?

Step 4: Factory Simulation Activity.

Divide the class into three to five efficient groups to create five production lines. Assign tasks to different students on the line:

  1. Cutting out the right blade
  2. Cutting out the left blade
  3. Cutting out the right boot
  4. Cutting out the left boot
  5. Gluing the blade to the right boot
  6. Gluing the blade to the left boot
  7. Coloring the boots
  8. Inspecting the final product, putting aside rejects, keeping the line moving

(NOTE: Depending on the size of your group, combine the following tasks: 1+2, 3+4, 5+6.)

Using the "standard" of time determined during the craft lesson, see how many skates can be created during the same amount of time. (Optional) Do the same activity again and see which of the production lines can produce even more skates after allowing the groups to meet briefly to discuss improving efficiency.

Step 5:

Now, have each student complete the “Craft and Factory Simulation Questions” (Student Handout 5.1.1) then discuss the results and the personal feelings students had about the two methods.


Observe student involvement during the simulations and discussion. Collect their responses on Student Handout 5.1.1.


Preparing to Teach This Lesson

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 06:19

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