Seattle General Strike


Seattle General Strike


Labor movement -- Washington (State) -- Seattle -- History -- 20th century
General Strike, Seattle, Wash., 1919


Callie Birklid


Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State


[Grades 6-8]

In this focused inquiry, students investigate the question Can art be a reliable secondary source?

Students engage in deep reading of primary and secondary sources, analysis of the different perspectives of issues leading to and during the strike, annotation of sources, small and large group discussion, explanatory writing of summary of perspectives of the strike, and develop an argument about how well art represents historical events.

Lesson Objectives

  • Students will be able to use analytical reading skills to identify the different perspectives of the Seattle General Strike.
  • Students will collaborate with peers to understand the background of the different sides of the Seattle General Strike.
  • Students will develop a claim with evidence and reasoning to answer the compelling question.
  • Students will develop their own piece of art that represents the different perspectives of the Seattle General Strike.



Common Core English Language Arts Standards, History/Social Studies
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1.  Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2.  Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.9.  Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.
College, Career, and Civic Life Framework
(See C3 Framework to adjust to the grade level of the audience of this lesson)
  • D2.His.6.6-8.  Analyze how people’s perspectives influenced what information is available in the historical sources they created.


Focused Inquiry

Staging the Question

Compelling Question: How well does art represent what happened in history?

Students will create a timeline of major global, national, and local events that led to the Seattle General Strike.

This should include but is not limited to:
  • World War I
  • The end of World War I and troops returning looking for work
  • Increased need for shipbuilding during the war
  • Increased labor activity in Washington state
  • Increased immigration
  • Bolshevik Revolution in Russia

After the timeline, students do a visual analysis of a political cartoon from February 6th, 1919 (the first day of the strike) where they will answer the following questions: (see Materials)

  • What do you notice in the image?
  • What do you think it means?
  • Why do you know this?
  • Whose perspectives is this cartoon from?
  • What questions do you have?
Background to share with the students:  Students should have some working knowledge of the Seattle General Strike before addressing the supporting question. Most Washington State History textbooks (and some Modern United States History textbooks) have information about the strike. Teachers may want to share the essay Seattle General Strike, 1919 with students. This information could be given either before beginning the lesson or after Staging the Question.

Formative Performance Task

Supporting Question:  What were the different perspectives of the Seattle General Strike?
  • Students will annotate and take notes on the text. Teachers should have students annotating at least one document from each of the categories (Fuse album, Union Record a pro-union newspaper, and pro-business articles.
  • Annotations should include: confusions, understandings, important vocabulary, questions, and connections.
  • Teachers may want to edit or excerpt the sources to meet the needs of students in their classes.
  • Students should share their annotations and notes in a small group.
  • The teacher should allow for time to share out in a whole class discussion, the big ideas, a-ha moments, and/or questions that students had.
Taking Informed Action

Argument:  After students have completed their annotation and small group discussion, student should individually answer the compelling question. Their response should include a claim, evidence, and reasoning.
  • Have students develop an art piece that depicts the main conflicts of the Seattle General Strike of 1919. Students should include an artist statement that is a reflection on the work and lets the audience know what the symbols and meanings in the art are.
Seattle General Strike Lesson Plan with Activity Sheet.pdf
Fuse Lyrics.pdf
Seattle General Strike Newspaper Text Set.pdf
Focused Inquiry (Source Analysis) Activity Sheet.pdf