6 Ways to Teach About The Titanic Disaster

Learning about the Titanic disaster can get your pupils thinking about science, social issues, and history.

By Cathy Neushul

titanic lesson plan

No matter how many times I read accounts of the Titanic disaster, I still find myself thinking of ways it could have been averted. What if there were more lifeboats? What would have happened if the California had answered the distress calls? Or, what if the Titanic's captain had managed to avoid the icebergs? The Titanic, which was said to be practically invincible, sank on April 15, 1912 in the freezing cold Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg. More than 700 people survived, but over 1,500 people died. Even close to a century later, the specifics of the disaster are fascinating. Use the disaster's details to help your class learn about a variety of subjects including history, the social structure of the time, shipbuilding, and chemistry. The Titanic's plunge to the ocean floor is one of those timeless topics that will always get students thinking.


Connect to the Classroom

  • Titanic Disasters: Have your kids learn about one of the worst man-made disasters in history, focusing particularly on the sinking of the Titanic. They will read and discuss an article titled "The Titanic’s Mystique in Digital Packages." They then create a scavenger hunt on the Internet, using information collected from their research. You will find that this provides a great overview of the disaster. There are links to plenty more information about the tragedy and the people involved.
  • First Class First? Using Data to Explore the Tragedy: Pupils use and interpret data from the Titanic disaster to reach conclusions about the social structure of the time. They take a close look at who was lost and who was saved; paying particular attention to social status. By the end of their investigation, students will learn how social standing can affect the treatment of individuals. The lesson comes with a terrific set of worksheets and links that will make it easy to find the facts and figures you need to make this inquiry truly memorable.
  • The Ship of Dreams: Learners read personal accounts of the Titanic tragedy, and then create a scrapbook of information. Reading personal accounts of an event really bring the details and emotions of that event to life for the reader. This website also includes links to newspaper articles and stories about the shipwreck and the survivors. There is a site for Titanic artifacts as well. This resource is a great way to acquaint your class with this slice of history.
  • Galvanic vs. Titanic: Here is a great plan that leads your pupils to explore the decomposition of the famous boat, and come up with a hypothesis for it's sinking. Young scientists conduct experiments to simulate galvanic exchange. Additionally, they experiment with putting two different types of metal in a salt solution and predicting which will more quickly deteriorate.  
  • Voices from the Titanic: The Titanic disaster is a clever way to teach about immigration and class issues. This particular lesson has teachers assign students the name of a real Titanic survivor who was immigrating aboard the ship. They research their passenger's reasons for immigrating to America, and find out about their lives after the tragedy. Next, they create a collage and a personal account regarding immigration to America. This is a great idea. However, this particular resource does not link to any survivor lists. Use this site, Encyclopedia Titanica, for a list of the surviving passengers and their background information.
  • Summing Up the Disaster: Acting as a reporter, kids write a news story telling the who, what, when, where, and why of the Titanic disaster. In order to write an accurate newspaper account, pupils research the disaster and then organize the information they discovered. The lesson comes with some great resources including a booklist and graphic organizers. It also has some good suggestions for extension activities.  

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about how you can cleverly educate your pupils as they are mulling over the terrible combination of natural phenomena and human error. If you have had some effective teaching moments and/or lessons when discussing the Titanic, please share them with the Lesson Planet community using the comment section below.