Case Study: How Working Conditions Change: Chávez and the UFW | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M2A:U2

Case Study: How Working Conditions Change: Chávez and the UFW

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In this unit, which centers on informational text standards RI.7.2, RI.7.3, and RI.7.5, students will read and analyze a speech by Cesar Chavez. In response to the difficult working and living conditions faced by agricultural workers, Chavez helped found the United Farm Workers in the 1960s. In 1984, Chavez gave his Commonwealth Club Address, which argues that the UFW has been and will continue to be a powerful institution that improves the lives of farmworkers and empowers the Latino community.

This is primarily a reading unit, and it focuses on students' ability to determine the central ideas of a text and analyze how they are developed, understand how people and events interact in that text, and consider how an author organizes a text so that each section of the text relates to the central claim. As students read the speech, they will add to a new anchor chart about how consumers, workers, government, and businesses (the focus of Unit 3) affect working conditions. They also will analyze how Chavez uses specific tools of rhetoric to develop his central claim and will discuss the structure of the speech.

In the Mid-Unit 2 Assessment, students will answer selected-response questions for a section of Chavez's speech that the class has not yet discussed. In the End of Unit 2 Assessment, they will apply their understanding of text structure to analyze a new speech by Chavez. Both assessments focus on RI.7.2, RI.7.3, and RI.7.5, but the mid-unit assessment focuses more on RI.7.2 and RI.7.3 while the end of unit assessment focuses more on RI.7.5. The lessons in this unit are adapted from lessons developed by Odell Education (see stand-alone documents on

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do working conditions change?
  • What role do consumers, governments, business owners, and workers play in improving working conditions?
  • How does a speaker develop and organize his central claim?
  • Workers, the government, businesses, and consumers can all bring about change in working conditions.
  • Closely reading and discussing an excerpt of a longer text helps to deepen your understanding of the text as a whole.

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.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions

Invite a local union organizer to speak with your students about how unions work and how they affect working conditions.


  • For an online fieldwork experience, visit the website of the United Farm Workers at
  • If there are any food boycotts happening in your community, consider taking students to a store that carries this type of product to talk with the manager about the boycott and how that store in particular and the industry in general has decided to respond. For example, many stores are considering how to respond to consumer concerns about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), even though these are not federally regulated.



  • Consider partnering with the social studies teacher for a cross-disciplinary investigation of this time in history.
  • Consider partnering with the science teacher for an investigation of the impacts of different methods of agricultural production.

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