Introducing Working Conditions in the Mills | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M2A:U1:L6

Introducing Working Conditions in the Mills

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can cite several pieces of text-based evidence to support an analysis of literary text. (RL.7.1)
  • I can analyze the interaction of literary elements of a story or drama. (RL.7.3)
  • I can use a variety of strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words or phrases. (L.7.4)
  • I can analyze figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. (L.7.5)
  • I can effectively engage in discussions with diverse partners about seventh-grade topics, texts, and issues. (SL7.1)

Supporting Targets

  • I can use context clues--both in the sentence and on the page--to determine the meaning of unknown words.
  • By engaging in a discussion with my partner, I can analyze one section of Lyddie to deepen my understanding of the plot, characters, and setting.
  • I can cite specific textual evidence to explain what working conditions were like in the mills and how they affected Lyddie.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Checking for Understanding entry task
  • Working Conditions anchor chart--student version


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Entry Task: Checking for Understanding 
(10 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Close Reading, Pages 62-66 in Lyddie 
(15 minutes)

B. Adding to Working Conditions Anchor Chart 
(15 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Reviewing Homework (3 minutes)

4. Homework

A. Read Chapters 9 and 10 of Lyddie and complete Reader's Notes for Chapters 9 and 10.

  • In Lessons 2-5, students focused on understanding Lyddie, the main character in the novel. In this lesson, students begin to focus on working conditions in the mill and how they affected Lyddie. This focus continues in Lessons 7 and 8 and is also the focus of the Mid-Unit 2 Assessment in Lesson 9. As a group, Lessons 6-9 center on RL.7.1 (gathering evidence from text) in the context of RL.7.3 (noticing how setting, character, and plot interact).
  • In these lessons, students add both evidence about working conditions in the mills and questions about working conditions in the garment industry today to the Working Conditions anchor chart. Encourage students to use their understanding of working conditions in Lyddie to ask questions about the modern world; this will make the conversation more relevant and engaging to them. Remind students that their developing understanding of working conditions will help them in the three case studies that make up this module.
  • In this lesson students focus on pages 62-66 of Lyddie. The routine of closely reading an excerpt of the text continues, and students' conversations about the excerpts in this lesson are practice for the Working Conditions in Lyddie: Textual Evidence note-catcher that they will complete in Lesson 8. The note-catcher will help them tie their understanding of working conditions to specific textual evidence (the focus of the assessment in Lesson 9) and will also be a resource when they write their essays about Lyddie later in the unit.
  • In this lesson, return the Reader's Notes for Chapters 1-7 (collected in Lesson 5) with feedback. As students continue with this routine, encourage them to use this feedback to strengthen their notes. Also use the opportunity to celebrate students' progress with taking notes and determining the meaning of words they encounter while reading.
  • In advance: Review the Reader's Notes for Chapters 1-7 and give feedback to students. Consider doing this by posting one or two exemplars for students to read. If many students are still struggling with this task, consider extending the Checking for Understanding time in this lesson and using it to model the Reader's Notes again, using a structure similar to that in the Opening of Lesson 3.
  • Find an image of a power loom to share with students. Power looms changed over the years, but a Google image search will yield a number of possibilities, including one at Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • Review: Lyddie Reader's Notes, Chapter 9 and Chapter 10, Teacher's Edition; Lyddie, Chapters 9 and 10.
  • Post: Learning targets.


foreboding, din, distress, conscientious, complex, imposing, broadside, vigilant, shuttle, goods, flaw, paled, dexterity


  • Pictures for Entry Task for Lesson 6 (for display)
  • Checking for Understanding Chapter 8 Entry Task (one per student)
  • Lyddie Reader's Notes, Chapters 1-7 (students' completed notes with teacher feedback after Lesson 5)
  • Image of a power loom to display (see Teaching Note above; find one in advance)
  • Sticky notes (5-6 per student)
  • Lyddie (book; one per student)
  • Document camera
  • Lyddie Reader's Notes, Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 (two separate supporting materials; one each per student)
  • Lyddie Reader's Notes, Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 (two separate supporting materials; for Teacher Reference)
  • Weaving Room Discussion Appointments handout (from Lesson 3)
  • Working Conditions anchor chart (begun in Lesson 1)
  • Working Conditions anchor chart, student version (begun in Lesson 1)
  • Three Quotes from Chapter 9 (one per pair of students and one to display)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Entry Task: Checking for Understanding (10 minutes)

  • Display Pictures for Entry Task for Lesson 6. Distribute Checking for Understanding, Chapter 8 Entry Task to students as they enter.
  • Direct students to complete the entry task individually. As they do so, circulate to check the Lyddie Reader's Notes, Chapter 8 for completion.
  • When students are done, call on several to share their answers to the Checking for Understanding entry task. Prompt them: "How did your Reader's Notes help you answer that question?" In debriefing Question 1, listen for students to name both physical aspects of the setting (new stove, lots of food, crowded bedrooms, noisy) and psychological aspects (pressure to go to church, teasing about Vermont accent, many girls her age to socialize with). As a follow-up to Question 2, ask students how these pictures both confirmed and changed the images they had created of the setting as they read.
  • Post the correct definitions of the words in the Reader's Dictionary and prompt students to correct their Reader's Notes as necessary. Ask: "In Chapter 7, the buildings in the town were described as foreboding. In Chapter 8, the mill complex is referred to as imposing. What do the meanings of foreboding and imposing have in common? How are they different? How does the author's choice to use these two words help you understand how the setting affected Lyddie?"
  • Prompt students to look at their Reader's Dictionaries. Listen for them to notice that imposing means "large and impressive," and foreboding means "giving a feeling that something bad will happen." Foreboding always has negative connotations; imposing does not necessarily have negative connotations. However, they both refer to this new setting, which is much more crowded and has much bigger buildings than Lyddie is used to.
  • Finally, return students' Lyddie Reader's Notes, Chapters 1-7 (with teacher feedback). Give students time to review the feedback. As part of this process, consider posting a particularly strong entry and leading a brief discussion in which students name the characteristics that make it strong.
  • Providing specific and focused feedback helps students set concrete goals for reaching learning targets.
  • Providing models of expected work supports all learners, especially those who are challenged

B. Reviewing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

  • Direct students' attention to the learning targets for today, particularly: "I can cite specific textual evidence to explain what working conditions were like in the mills and how they affected Lyddie." Briefly review the definitions of textual evidence and cite, referring to work in Module 1.
  • Ask students: "What were the mills?" and listen for them to explain that the mills were factories where cloth was made. Tell them that this learning target is very closely related to the learning target about noticing how plot, character, and setting interact: One particular type of interaction is when one factor affects another. In this lesson and over the next few lessons, they will be paying particular attention to how the setting (working conditions) affects a character (Lyddie).
  • Frame the sequence of lessons for students: In Lessons 2-5, they focused on understanding the character of Lyddie. In Lessons 6-9, they will focus on understanding working conditions in the mill and how they affected Lyddie. Their mid-unit assessment, in Lesson 9, will focus on this. Finally, the essay they will write in the second part of the unit will ask them to combine their understanding of Lyddie and their understanding of her working conditions to make an argument about what she should do about a particular dilemma she faces.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Close Read of Pages 72-66 in Lyddie (15 minutes)

  • Ask students to focus on pages 62-66 of Lyddie.
  • Set a purpose for the reading session today: Students will learn what working conditions were like in the mill and how that affected Lyddie. Ask:

*     "What happened at the very end of Chapter 8?"

  • Give them a minute to review their books and ask them to raise their hands when they know.
  • When most of the class has a hand up, ask a student to share out. Listen for: "Mrs. Bedlow has just brought Lyddie to the weaving room in the factory for her first day at work."
  • Tell students that before they read this next part of the book, you are going to help them develop a clearer mental picture of the setting. Project an image of a power loom and ask:

*     What is this? How does it connect to the part we are about to read?"

*     "Based on the video you saw in Lesson 5, what words might be used to describe the different parts of the loom?"

*     Listen for: terms such as warp, weft, thread, shuttle, frame.

  • Begin by asking students to read silently as you read the text aloud. Ask them to note words they do not know as you read. Read the text aloud with expression and drama from the beginning of Chapter 9 to the end of the first paragraph on page 66.
  • After the first read, ask students to talk with a partner to figure out the important points about setting, character, and plot. They should also share any words that are unfamiliar to them. Encourage them to write their ideas on the text itself (or on sticky notes if they are not allowed to mark in their texts).
  • Distribute Lyddie Reader's Notes, Chapter 9 and Chapter 10.
  • Ask several students to share out their answers. Listen for them to explain the setting (the weaving room of the mill, where mechanized looms are producing cloth), the characters (Lyddie, Mr. Mardsen, and Diana), and the plot (Diana is showing Lyddie how to tend the looms). As students share, script their answers on a copy of the Reader's Notes and prompt the class to add the information to their own Reader's Notes.
  • Ask students how looking at the picture of the loom and watching the video (in Lesson 5) helped them make meaning of this text. Listen for them to notice that texts that have a lot of technical words place particular demands on readers; readers need to slow down and find the resources they need to make sense of these sections.
  • Ask students to share words whose definitions they determined from context or by using word parts. Point them especially to the following words and prompt them to use the Reader's Dictionary for the words that appear there:
  • vigilant, din (62), shuttle (63), goods, flaw, paled, dexterity (65). Also consider briefly sharing words related to
  • vigilant (vigil, vigilante) and dexterity (dexterous).
  • Ask:

*     "How is the process you just went through similar to the process you use when reading for homework and completing the Reader's Notes?"

  • Listen for them to notice that even in this exercise, they reread: They first listened to you read, and then reread with their partners to take their notes. Encourage them to reread just as much and take as much care with the work they do at home. Urge them to consider which of the things they just did in class could help them address the feedback they received on the Reader's Notes for Chapters 1-7.
  • This reading lesson mirrors the structure of students' homework, so it does not have a Close Reading Guide. Rather than rereading text that they already read for homework, in this lesson students are encountering this section of the text for the first time.
  • Providing visual illustrations of the context of the reading will support all readers, but especially struggling readers.
  • Hearing a complex text read slowly, fluently, and without interruption or explanation promotes fluency for students. They are hearing a strong reader read the text aloud with accuracy and expression and are simultaneously looking at and thinking about the words on the printed page. Be sure to set clear expectations that students read along silently in their heads as you read the text aloud.
  • Providing opportunities for students to move and partner with different classmates increases engagement and focus.

B. Adding to Working Conditions Anchor Chart (8 minutes)

  • Remind students of the protocol for using Discussion Appointments and direct them to move to sit with the next Discussion Appointment (Warp Threads) on their Weaving Room Discussion Appointment handout.
  • Once students are settled, explain that as they learn about Lyddie's working conditions, they will add to the Working Conditions anchor chart. Direct students to get out their Working Conditions anchor chart, student version from Lesson 1, which is a replica of the Working Conditions anchor chart that is posted.
  • Tell students that today they will add to the chart anything they learned from these pages about working conditions in the mill, as well as what the chart made them wonder about working conditions in the garment industry today.
  • Post the three quotes from Chapter 9 and invite students to analyze the quotes. Emphasize that analyzing often involves explaining what a quote means or the significance of the quote. They had practice with this when reading A Long Walk to Water.
  • Read and post this quote and tell students you will model analyzing it: 

"She [Lyddie] took pride in her strength, but it took all of her might to yank the metal lever into place.... Still, the physical strength the work required paled beside the dexterity needed to rethread a shuttle quickly or, heaven help her, tie one of those infernal weaver's knots" (p. 65).

  • Begin to model. Point out to students that first they will need to carefully reread this passage and make sure they understand what it means. Model paraphrasing one sentence at a time. Say something like:
  • "When I reread, I can see that the first sentence means that Lyddie was proud of how strong she was, but it still took all of her strength to move the lever. The next sentence is a little confusing, as some of the words are hard. It is comparing the amount of strength the job requires to dexterity, which means how coordinated your fine motor skills are. When it says the strength required 'paled beside the dexterity,' I think that means that the strength is like a more pale color--not as strong. So I think this sentence is a comparison; it is saying that even though pulling the lever requires a lot of strength, it is even harder to thread the shuttle or tie a knot.
  • "Now that I know what this sentence is saying, I can enter the information on my Working Conditions anchor chart. Since it is about what muscles the work requires, I am going to put it under Health, Safety, and Environment. I imagine that pulling a lever hard many times a day or doing small motions with your hands could make you really tired or create some muscle problems. So I am going to write: 'hard to pull lever (takes strength) and thread shuttle/tie knots.'
  • "This makes me wonder about garment workers today. I wonder if they are tired at the end of the day, or if their hands or arms hurt. I am going to write: 'Is their work physically demanding?' in the Questions column of the Health, Safety, and Environment part of my chart."
  • Direct students to work with their partners to analyze and evaluate the other two posted quotes and to add their ideas to their Working Conditions chart. Tell them that after they do those quotes, they can add any other information or questions about working conditions to the chart from pages 62-66.
  • After students have worked on this, refocus whole class and call on several pairs to share out. As students share, prompt them to explain what in the text supports their ideas and add their ideas to the class's Working Conditions anchor chart. Listen for students to add "noisy," "dusty air," and "badly lit" to the Health, Safety, and Environment row of the anchor chart.
  • Prompt students to revise their own charts as necessary. Highlight especially interesting questions about working conditions today, as these questions will improve students' engagement with Lyddie. Point out that they will keep collecting questions and will have the opportunity to explore them in Unit 3.
  • Ask students to put away their copies of the Working Conditions anchor chart and tell them they will use it over the next few lessons.

Closing & Assessments


A. Reviewing Homework (3 minutes)

  • Remind students that for homework, they are finishing Chapter 9, reading Chapter 10, and doing Reader's Notes for those chapters.
  • Remind them of how rereading helped them in class today and encourage them to take similar care with their work at home, making sure to take the feedback they received for Chapters 1-7 into account.


  • Read Chapters 9 and 10 of Lyddie and complete Reader's Notes for Chapters 9 and 10. 

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