Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

The Life of a Muckraker

Key Figures in the Progressive Movement

Roger Jackson, Laura Halstied, Cody Sivertsen | Published: September 15th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 11th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 100 minutes
  • Duration More 2 class periods


In this lesson, students will closely examine the social problems that emerged in American society as a result of industrialization. Students will interpret and evaluate primary sources from the early 20th Century to understand how photography and journalism exposed desperate social conditions and political corruption. Students will engage in visual and informational literacy experiences that will enhance their investigative and analytical skills.

Essential Question(s)

How does the media influence social justice?



Students examine photographs from the Progressive Era using the Painting a Picture strategy while engaging in a Gallery Walk.


Students analyze a quote by Teddy Roosevelt and work with a partner to infer the definition of the term "muckraker."


Students jigsaw primary source readings from prominent muckrakers.


Students select an assignment from a choice board to reflect on a social issue of the present day.


Students engage in a quick write by responding to the question, "How did muckrakers of the 20th century influence the Progressive Movement?"


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Painting a Picture Images (attached)

  • Painting a Picture Chart handout (attached, one per student)

  • Jigsaw Readings (attached, one per group)

  • Jigsaw Graphic Organizer (attached, one per student)

  • Choice Board handout (attached, one half-sheet per student)

  • Choice Board Rubric (attached; one per student)

  • Pens/pencils

  • Copy paper

  • Markers or colored pencils

  • Poster board (optional)

  • Student personal devices with internet access (optional)


15 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Navigate through introductory slides, presenting the essential question on slide 3 and the lesson objective on slide 4.

On slide 5, explain the Painting A Picture strategy to students. Divide the class by numbering students from one to four, then pass out the attached Painting a Picture handout.

While students begin their examination of the photo that corresponds to their number, instruct them to take notes on the handout. They should make observations about the photograph they are viewing, and use those observations to infer what is happening.

Have students repeat this process with the rest of the four images. After they have made it through all four, have students return to their desks. Lead a class discussion where students hypothesize the significance of the photos in relation to what they are studying.


10 Minute(s)

Present the Theodore Roosevelt quote on slide 6. You may choose to read the quote aloud as the students read it silently.

Move to slide 7. With an Elbow Partner, have students predict what they think the term "muckraker" means. After partners are given sufficient time, discuss this as a class.

Explain to students that the first time the term "muckraking" was used was during this time period. Ask students if they can think of any problems revealed through the photos that would need "muckraking" during that time period. Lead students in a discussion of the purpose of muckrakers by reviewing the events and themes of the Gilded Age and Industrial Revolution, and give examples of social issues addressed at the time.


25 Minute(s)

Place students in groups of four. Display slide 8 and pass out one of each primary source document from the attached Jigsaw Readings handout to each group. In each group, number students from one to four to identify which text each student will be assigned. Transition to slide 9, and explain the Jigsaw strategy to students.

Explain that students will have about ten minutes to read their text and to Stop and Jot main ideas discovered in the margins. After students have finished reading and jotting down main ideas, ask them to share with their group what they summarized in the margins. At this time, distribute the attached Jigsaw Graphic Organizer handout to each student and have groups collectively record a summary of each reading.

When each group has completed all four documents, hold a class discussion about what they found. Use this time to answer any questions students have so far regarding the social issues brought to light through the muckrakers' publications.


40 Minute(s)

Go to slide 10 to present the options for a Choice Board. Pass out the attached Choice Board handout if desired. Explain to students that using a Choice Board allows them to choose how to demonstrate learning. In their assignment, students illuminate a major social issue of today using a comic strip, Flipgrid video, poster, or original political cartoon.

Give students plenty of time to complete their chosen activities. If desired, you may allow students to work in pairs. Brainstorm with the class a list of social problems that exist today for students to consider before choosing an item from the Choice Board.

Pass out the attached Choice Board Rubric handout and review with students so they have a clear understanding of their task.


10 Minute(s)

Transition to slide 11. Introduce students to the Quick Write strategy. Tell students when engaging in a Quick Write, punctuation and spelling is not the focus, writing what they have learned about the content is the priority.

Have students respond to the question, "How did muckrakers of the 20th Century influence the Progressive Movement?" on a piece of notebook paper. Encourage students to use their Jigsaw Graphic Organizer and review the Muckrakers that have been studied if needed.

Collect student’s responses, the choice board products, and the Jigsaw Graphic Organizer to assess student understanding of the lesson content.