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BLAST Elementary
Steel Town

Steel Town
Written by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Terry Widener

In Steel Town, it's always raining, freight trains come and go, the big furnace roars, and the steel mill never sleeps.


Open-Ended Questions

These questions can be used during an interactive read aloud to engage student interest.

  • What's another name for Pittsburgh? Why is it called the Steel City? (page 2)
  • What does it mean that "the mills never sleep?" (page 4)
  • What do you notice about the water? Why is everything so dark and black? (page 6)
  • How would you describe this kind of job? Why did people do this job then? (page 16)
  • Does that seem like a fair amount of money for the work they do? Why or why not? (page 29)
  • On this page we see different families making different meals. Does your family have a special meal that you really like? (page 34)

Vocabulary Words

  • Molten
  • Vat


Pittsburgh: Then and Now

In Steel Town, Jonah Winter describes the pollution caused by the mills and its effect on the quality of the air and river water. Review Planting the Trees of Kenya with your students and discuss environmentalism. Have them think about Wangari Maathai and what she might do if she lived in Pittsburgh during the time of the steel mills. Then, have your students write a plan for reducing pollution in the city. What are some ways to make it a greener, cleaner place to live? Have some of those things already been done? What are they?



Journal Questions

  • How is our Pittsburgh different from the city described in the book?

What are some things that the people of Steel Town did after working hard all day in the mills? What are some things you like to do after school?



Extending Books

Other books by Jonah Winter

Written by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by A.G. Ford

A picture book biography of African-American senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama.


You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!
Written by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Andre Carrilho

Learn about Sandy Koufax the greatest lefty who ever pitched in the game of baseball.


Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates
Written by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Raul Colon

Presents the life of the legendary athlete from Puerto Rico who became one of the most respected baseball players of all time and the first Latino inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude
Written by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Calef Brown

A brief introduction to the adult life of writer Gertrude Stein and some of the artists and writers who visited her salon.