Triangle Factory Fire

In this lesson plan students are introduced to the tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory on March 25, 1911, in New York City. Students read a short background piece, then analyze not only primary sources covering the fire itself, but also sources on factory conditions for workers before the fire, and the social and political aftermath of the disaster. Groups of students prepare presentations on their assigned topic for the class, contributing to a class-wide understanding and allowing students to develop questions to direct further research. 

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Evaluate the topic or subject in multiple diverse formats and media.
Analyze what a text says explicitly and draw inferences; support an interpretation of a text by citing and synthesizing relevant textual evidence from...
Analyze how an author's choices regarding the ordering of ideas and events, the introduction and development of ideas, and connections among ideas...
Analyze how similarities and differences in the points of view of the audience and the characters create effects such as suspense, humor, or dramatic irony.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative...
Analyze a variety of thematically related texts of historical and literary significance for the way they address related topics, facts, and concepts.
Describe working conditions in industries, including the use of labor by women and children.
Describe the difference between "old" and "new" immigrants and analyze the assimilation process and consequences for the "new" immigrants and their impact on American...
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Learning objectives: 

Learners will:

  • Analyze a number of primary sources related to the Triangle fire
  • Help create a presentation for the class based on their group’s assigned sources
Essential and guiding questions: 

What is important about the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire and how does that event fit within the larger context of immigrant and labor history? 

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Have students select one or two of the research question from class—or develop their own—as the first step in writing research paper on some aspect of the Triangle fire or a related topic. They should use the source lists and contextual resources from this lesson as a foundation. The papers should use a number of primary sources as evidence for the student’s argument. 

Helpful Hints


  • Computer access for students
  • Before the Fire source list
  • The Fire source list
  • After the Fire source list
  • Interactive Primary Source Analysis Tool