Education:The Bessemer Process



ENGLISH 9/Special Education

Time Required for Completed Lesson

(2) 80 minute periods


  • 6.2.8.C.2.a
  • 6.2.8.C.2.b
  • 6.2.8.D.2.a

Common Core State Standards

Grades 9-10

Cross content standards 3.4.12.D.2

All students write clear concise organized language that varies in content and form for different audiences and purposes


White board, projector, background reading, markers, crayons, computer paper, large construction paper, glue, cardboard, marshmallows popsicle sticks, index cards.

Anticipatory Set

  1. Ask: Why was it impossible to build a skyscraper in the late 1700’s-early 1800’s?
  2. What were the social circumstances that led to a need for skyscrapers?
  3. Essential Question: How did the invention of steel make a difference in building?
  4. Read the biography Of Henry Bessemer and how his invention led to building skyscrapers.
  5. Show You tube clip: Henry Bessemer and From Iron to Steel.
  6. Discuss the difference between building with brick and building with steel.


  1. WARM-UP/DO-NOW: Prior to class, use the following: Print four photographs of workers on the Empire State Building. Display the photographs on the board. Ask students to choose one of the photographs and allow five minutes for them to respond to the following in their journals: "The four photographs in front of you depict laborers working on what was to be the tallest building in the world, the Empire State Building. Create a caption that summarizes what you see in the photograph you have chosen. Then write what you think it must have been like to work under the conditions depicted here. Why would workers risk their lives to work under these conditions?"

After students have written in their journals, call on several of them to share their thoughts with the class. Record all descriptive words on the board. Urge students to consider what living and working conditions must have been like during the Great Depression when the Empire State Building was being constructed. What technology was used for this construction?

  1. Have the class discuss the following, recording class members' responses on the board: "What types of jobs are needed to build a skyscraper?" After a few minutes, hand out the list of jobs. Read through the job titles, noting ones the class suggested (including those which fit under different titles), as well as those that were not suggested.
  2. Divide the class into five groups. Each group will be assigned one of the following professions:
    1. Ironworker
    2. Mason
    3. Carpenter
    4. Electrician
  3. Plumber

The groups are to research the answers to the following:

  1. In what type of work does your group of laborers specialize?
  2. What type of technology was used for each profession to build the Empire State Building?
  3. Show you tube clip documentary Building the Empire State Building: New York Documentary Part 1


Teacher guided discussion for anticipatory questions

Teacher guided instruction for research material

Modified reading selection: Google biography

Henry Bessemer - The Steel Man:

Englishmen, Sir Henry Bessemer (1813-1898) invented the first process for mass-producing steel inexpensively, essential to the development of skyscrapers. An American, William Kelly, had held a patent for "a system of air blowing the carbon out of pig iron" a method of steel production known as the pneumatic process of steelmaking. Air is blown through molten pig iron to oxidize and remove unwanted impurities.

Bankruptcy forced Kelly to sell his patent to Bessemer, who had been working on a similar process for making steel. Bessemer patented "a decarbonization process, utilizing a blast of air" in 1855.

Modern steel is made using technology based on Bessemer's process. Bessemer was knighted in 1879 for his contribution to science. The "Bessemer Process" for mass-producing steel, was named after Bessemer.


Class discussion and summary questions

Empire State Building profession research

Group project: blueprint and summary


Each group will research the effects of technology in their profession and write a 1 page summary to explain.


Students will be divided into two groups. The activity is based on the TV show Iron Chef of America in which one team will win a prize for building the best skyscraper in an allotted time frame. (a Timer will be Used)

  1. Each team will be given a large box with materials to build their skyscraper.
  2. The teams will have 40 mins to draw a blueprint and construct.
  3. The final 20 mins will be given for final decorations and a written summary on the process of their construction.
  4. Evaluation: Blueprint matches construction; building is sturdy and free standing, appearance, and construction summary.