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G7:M2A:U3

Researching Working Conditions in the Modern-Day Garment Industry

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In this unit (which centers on research standards W.7.6 and W.7.7 and also addresses some aspects of W.7.8), students will explore how businesses can affect working conditions, both positively and negatively. First, students are introduced to the idea of current working conditions through a short case study on Wegmans, a popular New York employer. Then, using skills and concepts developed in Units 1 and 2, students will engage in a short research project on current working conditions in the garment industry. In particular, students will learn to gather relevant information, ask supporting research questions, and paraphrase information from sources. As students research, they will keep track of their notes in the researcher’s notebook.

In the Mid-Unit 3 Assessment, students will answer selected-response questions about a research text that the class has not yet discussed. In the End of Unit 3 Assessment, they will synthesize the information they gathered in their research into several paragraphs. Both assessments focus on W.7.7 and W.7.8, but the Mid-Unit 3 Assessment focuses more on gathering relevant information and asking questions, while the end of unit assessment focuses more on paraphrasing and synthesizing information to answer a research question. As a final performance task, students create a consumer’s guide (targeting a teenage audience) to buying clothing. This guide provides an overview of working conditions and explains how consumers might respond to this information. This task focuses on NYSP12 ELA Standards W.7.2, W.7.4, W.7.6, W.7.7, W.7.8, SL.7.1b, L.7.1, L.7.2, L.7.3, and L.7.6.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What are working conditions, and why do they matter?
  • How do workers, the government, businesses, and consumers bring about change in working conditions?
  • How can you tell the difference between a useful and not useful research question?
  • Working conditions include multiple factors and have significant impacts on the lives of workers.
  • Workers, the government, businesses, and consumers can all bring about change in working conditions.
  • Effective researchers ask relevant questions, gather information from several sources, keep track of their findings and sources, and synthesize their findings into coherent products.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies and science content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

Recommended Texts

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Child Labor Today: A Human Rights Issue
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A Shameful Business: The Case for Human Rights in the American Workplace
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Are Worker Rights Human Rights?
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Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
by Yvon Chouinard
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Clean Clothes: A Global Movement to End Sweatshops
by Clean Clothes: A Global Movement to End Sweatshops
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The Lowell Mill Girls: Life in the Factory
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Fair Trade
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Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade against Child Labor
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The Changing Role of Women Since 1900
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Cesar Chavez: A Photographic Essay
by Ilan Stavans
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Breaker Boys: How a Photograph Helped End Child Labor
by Michael Burgan
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Children at Work
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The Industrial Revolution
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The Industrial Revolution
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Elizabeth Bloomer: Child Labor Activist
by Jennifer Reed
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You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Victorian Mill Worker!: A Grueling Job You’d Rather Not Have
by John Malam
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Kids on Strike!
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
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Dolores Huerta: Voice for the Working Poor
by Alex Van Tol
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Immigration, Migration, and the Industrial Revolution
by Tracee Sioux
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Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories
by S. Beth Atkin
Literature 850
Factory Girl
by Barbara Greenwood
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Threads and Flames
by Esther Friesner
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Bread and Roses, Too
by Katherine Paterson
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Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez
by Kathleen Krull
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How Artists See Work: Farm, Factory, Home, Office
by Colleen Carroll
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Counting on Grace
by Elizabeth Winthrop
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The Industrial Revolution
by Debra J. Housel
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January 1905
by Katharine Boling
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The Breadwinner
by Deborah Ellis
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Cesar Chavez: Fighting for Farmworkers
by Eric Braun
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Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers
by Sarah E. Warren
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Assessments

Optional Activities

Experts

  • Invite graphic designers to work with students on their final products. These experts could teach students about the design elements they could incorporate into their final performance brochure and/or provide students with feedback on their work to help them revise it. A particularly effective format for this type of work is to have each expert meet with a group of three or four students and lead a group critique session of each piece of work.
  • Invite employees or business owners from a local business to discuss how they ensure fair working conditions in their company.

Fieldwork
Arrange for students to visit a local factory or place of business to observe and evaluate working conditions.

Service

  • Take the class to a local business and volunteer to work for a few hours. Ask the students to reflect on the working conditions they encounter.
  • Arrange for students to distribute their brochures to others, such as younger students, patrons at a local library, or members of a youth center.

Extentions

  • This unit lends itself to collaboration with the art teacher or media specialist. Consider expanding the work time to make the brochure a more involved project.
  • If time allows, consider studying “The Shirt” by Robert Pinsky (http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15479) with the students.