Teaching activities Industrial Revolution

The incredible sight of the smoke stacks bursting through England's green and pleasant land in the Olympics opening ceremony (pictured), followed by an Olympic ring smelted in the workshop of the world, will have prompted questions about the industrial revolution from many children. The Guardian Teacher Network has resources and ideas to help provide some answers at school next term or at home over the holidays.

A rich teaching resource, Who's got the answer to the problem? The story of the industrial revolution, is by Ian Dawson, the history teacher behind Originally designed as Saturday night entertainment for attendees of a School's History Project conference, the activity creates an overview of the industrial revolution based on a chain of problems and solutions – with students having to identify who has the solution to the new problem. The activity is designed to help children understand the more positive sides of the industrial revolution. Find a flow chart of ideas to go with the lesson here. You can also download accompanying character cards of all the main players in the industrial revolution from Isambard Kingdom Brunel (played by Kenneth Branagh in the Olympic ceremony) to George Stephenson to Joseph Bazalgette (the sewage-system genius) and on to lesser-known players such as Turnip Townshend (a man with ideas on how to feed this growing urban workforce), all of which can be used in a role play.

Making the industrial revolution more human through personal history gives ideas on how to get beyond images of vast machines and disease-ridden slums and back to the individual human beings children can relate to. The resource shows how to do this with ordinary families' personal histories and it cuts short the tendency for children to see any period of the past as "the olden days" and distant from their own lives.

The population revolution provides the basis for two activities on population movement during the industrial revolution. How much history did the industrial revolution overturn? will help key stage 3 students gain a sense of the enormity and pace of change during this period.

The first industrial revolution is an online history lesson exploring the period between 1750 and 1850 through case studies of textile, coal mining and iron production, showing how one invention or advance can lead to others. The resource includes first-hand witnesses, pictures, animations, maps and graphs as forms of historical evidence and also emphasises the importance of children using their own judgment when weighing up evidence written by people who lived at that time.

Huge chimneys symbolise the industrial revolution during the opening ceremony of the London Games
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