Working with Evidence: Working Conditions Then and Now | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M2A

Working with Evidence: Working Conditions Then and Now

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In this module, students explore the issue of working conditions, both historical and modern day. As they read and discuss both literary and informational text, students analyze how people, settings, and events interact in a text and how an author develops a central claim. Students strengthen their ability to discuss specific passages from a text with a partner, write extended text-based argument and informational pieces, and conduct a short research project. At the end of the module, students will have a better understanding of how working conditions affect workers and the role that workers, the government, consumers, and businesses play in improving working conditions.

The first unit focuses on Lyddie, a novel that tells the story of a young girl who goes to work in the Lowell mills, and explores the issue of working conditions in industrializing America. This unit builds students' background knowledge about working conditions and how they affect workers, and centers on the standard RL.7.3, which is about how plot, character, and setting interact in literature. As an end of unit assessment, students write an argument essay about Lyddie's choices regarding her participation in the protest over working conditions.

The second unit moves to more recent history and considers the role that workers, the government, and consumers all play in improving working conditions. The central text in Unit 2 is a speech by Cesar Chavez, in which he explains how the United Farm Workers empowered farmworkers. Unit 2 focuses on reading informational text, and students practice identifying central ideas in a text, analyzing how an author develops his claims, and identifying how the sections of the text combine to build those ideas. This unit intentionally builds on Odell Education's work, and if teachers have already used the Chavez speech and lessons, an alternate text is suggested with which to teach the same informational text standards. In the End of Unit 2 Assessment, students apply their understanding of text structure to a new speech.

Unit 3 focuses on the research standards (W.7.7 and W.7.8): through an investigation of working conditions in the modern day garment industry, students explore how businesses can affect working conditions, both positively and negatively. As a final performance task, students create a consumer's guide to working conditions in the garment industry. This teenage consumer's guide provides an overview of working conditions and offers advice to consumers who are interested in working conditions in the garment industry. This task focuses on  ELA standards W.7.2a, b, d, f, W.7.4, W.7.6, W.7.7, W.7.8, L.7.3, and L.7.6.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • What are working conditions, and why do they matter?
  • How do workers, the government, business, and consumers bring about change in working conditions?
  • How does reading one section of a text closely help me understand it better?
  • How can you tell the difference between a useful and a not useful research question?
  • How does a speaker develop and organize his central claim?
  • 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.
  • Closely reading and discussing one excerpt of a longer text helps to deepen your understanding of the text as a whole.
  • 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.

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum

Relevant Content Standards

  • Technological innovation led to industrialization and growth in production and trade throughout the United States.
  • Women joined the movements for abolition and temperance and organized to advocate for women's property rights, fair wages, education, and political equality.
  • Immigrant workers, low-wage earners, and women organized unions and political institutions to fight for safe and fair working conditions in industrialized areas.
  • The Industrial Revolution had significant consequences, including increasing urbanization, the need for a larger labor force, and the emergence of new business practices.
  • Various minority groups that won rights in the 1960s and 1970s struggled to exercise those rights in political and social realms.
  • At the start of the 21st century, the United States faced global and domestic challenges, including terrorism, increased economic interdependence and competition, and growing environmental concerns.
  • Geographic Reasoning: Characterize and analyze changing interconnections among places and regions.
  • Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence: Define and frame questions about events and the world in which we live and use evidence to answer these questions.
  • The Role of the Individual in Social and Political Participation: Participate in activities that focus on a classroom, school, community, state, or national issue or problem; fulfill social and political responsibilities associated with citizenship in a democratic society and interdependent global community by developing awareness and/or engaging in the political process.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
by Katherine Patterson
One per student
ISBN: 9780140373899


Each module is approximately 8 weeks of instruction broken into 3 units. The "week at a glance" chart in the curriculum map gives the big picture, breaking down the module into a detailed week-by-week view. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.

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