The Progressive Movement: Life as a Muckraker

Students will closely examine the social problems that emerged in American society as a result of industrialization. Throughout this lesson, students will be interpreting, comparing, and evaluating primary sources from the early 20th century. They will understand how photojournalism exposed desperate social conditions and political corruption on many different levels. Throughout this lesson, students will engage in visual and informational literacy experiences that will enhance their investigative and analytical skills. 

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Determine an author's point of view and/or purpose in a text, analyzing how style and content contribute to its effectiveness.
Analyze and evaluate a variety of thematically-related texts of historical and literary significance for their topics, facts, purposes, and rhetorical...
Analyze what a text says explicitly and draw inferences; support an interpretation of a text by citing and synthesizing relevant textual evidence from...
Determine multiple central ideas of a text or texts and analyze their development; provide a critical summary.
Analyze how an author's choices regarding the ordering of ideas and events, the introduction and development of ideas, and connections among ideas...
Assess the causes of American imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the desire for raw materials and new markets, yellow journalism, and the...
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Learning objectives: 

Students will be able to:

  • Identify the major muckraking journalists  during the Progressive Era.
  • Explain the fundamental goals and beliefs of the Progressives.
  • Interpret primary sources from 1890 - 1920 using various analysis tools and techniques.
  • Distinguish between yellow journalists and muckrakers.
  • Design a dynamic visual presentation that identifies reforms made during the Progressive Era that can still be seen in today’s society.
  • Evaluate the limits of Progressivism.
  • Sequence and understand major events during the Progressive Era.
Essential and guiding questions: 

How did the Progressive Movement impact American society? How can this impact still be seen today?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Students can engage in an expository writing exercise in which they take on the role of a newspaper editor during Woodrow Wilson’s administration. Each student will write an article about the failure of progressive reformers to address African American issues. 

Helpful Hints


  • Magazine
  • Glue Sticks
  • Chart Paper
  • Colored Pencils
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Rulers
  • Construction Paper
  • Spiral Notebook
  • Internet Access
  • 2-pocket folders