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Ford's Revolution
(Differentiated by Ability)
by David Reddick
Boise State University

Grade: 10-12
Time Allotment: 1 class period of one hour
Subject Matter: Economics (specialization, financing, wage theory)

The lesson will be used as a case study in economics. Students will learn about the effects of Ford's use of the assembly line, auto financing, and increased wages to make his fortune early in the 20th century. The depression of the late 1920's and 30's and competition prompted Ford to change the way he managed the company's resources, both human and capital. For a culminating activity Students will complete a worksheet using the internet.

Learning Objectives:
All Students (Including students on Individual Education Plans, Students in General Education, and Gifted Students) will learn:

  • That specialization Increases efficiency
  • How automobile financing works
  • The Wage Theory
  • How to use the internet for research (sites supplied)

Additionally, Most Students (General Education and Gifted Students) will learn:

  • How specialization affects quality and workers satisfaction.
  • Relative interest rates for cars and other purchases.
  • How paying higher wages helped Ford Motors grow.

Some Students (Gifted Students)may learn:

  • Alternatives to specialization in production.
  • Why interest rates may be different for cars and homes.
  • Whether higher than normal wages can be sustained.
  • How to independently use the internet for research.

National Standards (National Council on Economic Education)

  • Standard 4: Role of incentives
  • Standard 6: Specialization of trade
  • Standard 9: Role of Competition
  • Standard 12: Role of Interest Rates
  • Standard 14: Profit and the Entrepreneur

Idaho State Standards (Idaho State Board of Education) :

  • 510.01.c. Identify the incentives that determine what is produced and distributed in a competitive market system.
  • Specialization not addressed in Idaho Standards.
  • 510.01.b. Know ways in which the interaction of all buyers and sellers influence prices.
  • 510.01.c. Define credit and debt and explain their effects.
  • 513.01.b. Identify the business characteristics of an entrepreneur.

Media Components :
The Great Depression, A Job at Ford's, 1993 Produced by Blackside, Inc. Distributed by PBS, GDEDEX1

Web Sites:

  • Listed in "Prep for Teachers"
  • Found independently by Gifted Students

Per Class:

  • Video: (1)The Great Depression, A Job at Ford's, 1993 Produced by Blackside, Inc. Distributed by PBS, GDEDEX1
  • VCR: VHS format
  • Television
  • Worksheets for internet search Solutions
    Form A
    Form B
    Form C

Per Student or Group :

Prep For Teachers

Introductory Activities
(10 Minutes)

  1. Anticipatory Set: (3 minutes) Ask for a show of hands of how many students either have, or would like to, buy a car. Ask individual students what make of car they might buy. When the company "Ford" is brought up, tell them that we are going to study how Henry Ford revolutionized the car industry.
  2. Process (2 minutes): Explain to the students the steps the class will be going through
    a. Watch a video on Henry Ford.
    b. In class and for homework tonight: Complete a worksheet using the internet to find solutions.
  3. Introduce the terms and concepts (3 minutes):
    a. Incentives
    b. Specialization
    c. Competition
    d. Interest Rate
    e. Unemployment
  4. Introduce Objectives (2 minutes):
    a. To understand how specialization in manufacturing works, and what contribution Henry Ford made in this area
    b. To understand how automobile financing works
    c. To understand how wages are set.

Learning Activities
To provide students with a specific task to complete while viewing, give them a Focus for Media Interaction.

Focus For Media Interaction: Have students listen for the use of assembly lines, what rewards Ford workers had, and the size of Ford.

  • 4:57 (See "Prep for Teachers"), push PLAY ("A JOB AT FORD'S" should be on the screen).
  • 12:20 push STOP (just after narrator says, "the real estate boom in far away Florida"). Discuss for 5 minutes:
    Ford's use of the assembly line and how it relates to the economic term "specialization".
    Discuss the use of increased wages (incentive) to increase production. ("Security and high wages in exchange for hard work")
    Tangible rewards workers at Ford had (company housing, could buy a car, prestige in community).
    Discuss the size of Ford (half of all cars in the world were Model T's), and why (simple, cheap, and sturdy).
  • Focus For Media Interaction: Listen for the disadvantages of assembly line work. What Ford did to increase profits. How did Ford insure needed materials were available for his products?
  • Push PLAY (12:20):
  • Push STOP at 18:35 (just after narrator says, "and half a million employees around the world"). Discuss for 5 minutes:
    Some of the disadvantages of assembly line work (dehumanizing, couldn't take breaks, "a human machine", boredom).
    What Ford did to increase profits, but which caused friction with his workers (paid lower wages, speeded up assembly line).
    What Ford did to make sure his factories would have the material they needed (purchased rubber plantation in Brazil, coal mines in Kentucky, Iron mines in Michigan).
  • Focus For Media Interaction: What was the effect of speeding up the assembly line. What effect did Chevrolet have on Ford? Two reasons a job at Ford wasn't as attractive as it had once been.
  • Push FAST FORWARD, and then push PLAY at 23:20 (just after an African-American man says, "you were on the streets" and the scene cuts to a wheel and a man on a scooter.
  • Push STOP at 25:45 (after narrator says, "and so did Wall Street) and Discuss for 5 minutes:
    The effect of speeding up the assembly line. (More production with the same labor cost).
    Reasons why, by 1927, a job at Ford was no longer as attractive as it once was (More work, lower wages)
    How Chevrolet may have contributed to Ford shutting its plant down. (More Chevys sold instead of Fords).

Culminating Activity
(20 Minutes): "Now let's explore more on Ford"

  • Worksheets (attached), to be filled out during an internet activity.

    Worksheets are differentiated for:
    Students on Individual Education Plans (Form A)
    Students in General Education (Form B)
    Students who are Gifted (Form C)
  • If incomplete, the worksheets can be finished as homework or in class the next day.
  • Teacher will evaluate student responses the following day for understanding, achievement, and the need to change or adapt future lesson.


  • Students on Individual Educational Plans: Write a paper for English on what kind of work appeals to them.
  • Students in General Education: Could be combined with a thematic unit on the Depression with history and writing classes.
  • Gifted Students: Could write an essay for English, using further research, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the assembly line..


  • Students could visit a local manufacturer and write a report detailing how specialization is used.
  • Students could visit a local Ford dealership and interview the sales manager concerning financing.
  • Students could interview an official at the local Job Service office and write a newspaper article discussing wages for different jobs in the community.

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