Lesson details

7, 8

Social Studies


English Language Arts



Inquiry-Based Literacy

Ratios and percentages using proportional reasoning

The New Nation


Cotton Becomes King

Explore, collaborate, analyze

Formulate questions

Language, Craft and Structure-Employ craft techniques

Language, Craft and Structure-Select/employ craft techniques

Meaning and Context-Actively participate in discussions

Meaning and Context-Gather relevant information from diverse sources

Meaning and Context-Quote/paraphrase data/conclusions

Meaning and Context-Quote/paraphrase information without plagiarizing

Synthesize information

Transact with text

Recommended Technology: 

Computers/tablets with internet access
Create presentations using Prezi

Cotton Becomes King - Cotton Gin

Multiple days
Lesson type: 
Project Based Lesson
Lesson overview: 

Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin and in turn changed the path of America and its fortune. 

Read this excerpt from his obituary:  Judge Johnson, of South Carolina, speaking of this invention, in 1807, says, “The whole interior of the southern states was languishing. and its inhabitants emigrating for want of some object to engage their attention and employ their industry, when the invention of this machine at once opened views to them which set the whole country in motion. From childhood to age, it has presented to us a lucrative employment.  Individuals, who were depressed with poverty and sunk in idleness, have suddenly risen to wealth and respectability. Our debts have been paid, our capitals increased, and our lands trebled in value.  We cannot express the weight of obligations which the country owes to this invention: the extent of it cannot now be seen.”

Statistics can tell a great deal about how a society deals with change. In the South, the invention of the Cotton Gin was a technological advancement that changed the production of a major cash crop. But what did it really mean and how did this invention change society? Can this one invention be blamed for the problems the nation faced after its invention? Students will be asked to become statisticians and crunch the numbers. Their challenge will be to use their findings to answer the essential question. 

Essential Question: 

Can an invention, like the cotton gin by Eli Whitney, be seen as the root cause for perpetuating the plantation system in the South, promoting sectionalism, and feeding a growing abolitionist movement in the North? 

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Lesson created by:
Lori Powers
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