Setting Purpose for Research: What Are Fair Working Conditions? | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M2A:U3:L1

Setting Purpose for Research: What Are Fair Working Conditions?

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can effectively engage in discussions with diverse partners about seventh-grade topics, texts, and issues. (SL.7.1)

Supporting Targets

  • I can explain some of the differences between working conditions in developing and developed countries.
  • I can participate in discussions that help me form my opinions about what constitutes fair working conditions.
  • I can articulate my beliefs about fair working conditions, considering my position as a future worker.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Setting a purpose for research in Researcher's Notebook


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

A.  Entry Task (10 minutes)

2.  Work Time

A.  Investigating Working Conditions at Wegmans (15 minutes)

B.  Discussing Fair Working Conditions (10 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

A.  Setting a Purpose for Research in Researcher's Notebook (10 minutes)

4.  Homework

A.  Begin reading your independent reading book for this unit.

  • This lesson launches Unit 3, an investigation of working conditions in the modern-day garment industry. In this research, students will refer to the Working Conditions anchor chart that they added to in Units 1 and 2. The questions they developed as they read Lyddie will be particularly useful now.
  • Students will also add to the Working Conditions anchor chart. In earlier units, they added examples of actual working conditions they encountered;  in this unit, they will add their ideas about what working conditions they consider fair. If the Examples of Fair Working Conditions column of the anchor chart is full, consider adding a "What we think is fair" column; otherwise, just add ideas in a different color.
  • To begin this unit, students engage in a short exploration of working conditions at Wegmans, a popular New York employer. If you would like, you can focus on working conditions at a different popular local employer.  The goal is to help students understand working conditions in a place where they could potentially be employees.

-   Throughout Unit 3, specific terms are used to describe elements of research:
Overarching research question is the broad research question that students investigate. More generally, this can be thought of as the topic of research.

-   Supporting research questions are more narrow in their scope and help guide students to specific pieces of information. In these lessons, students learn to craft these types of questions.

-   Source refers to a text (in any format: article, Web site, infographic, video, etc.) that gives the student information to help address a supporting research question (or the overarching research question).

  • This first lesson of Unit 3 orients students to a major issue in understanding current working conditions in a global economy: the difference between pay and other working conditions in developing and developed countries. Students begin to grapple with questions of what fair working conditions are and discuss the extent to which working conditions in the garment industry today are relevant to them.
  • Because the skills and texts that students will be engaging with in this unit are challenging, most of the research and writing happen in class so the students can be well supported. Therefore, homework for this unit is almost always independent reading. Consider how to encourage and support students in this. See two separate stand-alone documents on Importance of Increasing the Volume of Reading, and Launching Independent Reading in Grades 6-8: Sample Plan--which together provide the rationale and practical guidance for a robust independent reading program.
  • In advance: Students begin this lesson by investigating what working conditions they might encounter if they got a job at Wegmans. There are several options for how to structure this investigation, depending on computer access. Preview Work Time Part A and decide what will work best for your circumstances. Whether you are showing the Web site on your screen or having students explore it on their computers, spend time becoming familiar with the site and what you might find there.
  • Review: Four Corners strategy (Appendix).


developing, developed, constitute; compensation, benefits, leave (from Wegmans Web site), cost of living


  • Entry Task (one per student)
  • Working Conditions anchor chart (first seen in Unit 2; a blank chart is included in the supporting materials of this lesson; one per student for note-taking and one to display; see Work Time A)
  • Statements for the Four Corners Activity (for teacher reference; to post)
  • Researcher's Notebook (one per student)
  • Computers to research working conditions at Wegman's (one per student)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Entry Task (10 minutes)

  • Distribute the Entry Task. Ask students:

*   "When you get a job, what do you expect in terms of your working conditions? Refer to the Working Conditions anchor chart and discuss what you would hope to find in at least three of those categories."

  • Add students' answers to the Working Conditions anchor chart (from Unit 2) in the Examples of Fair Working Conditions category. If you already have ideas in this column, add a new column or use a separate color for the entries in this unit.
  • Explain to students that previously, they have been gathering examples from various industries and times; in this unit they will be adding ideas to this column that reflect their beliefs about what is fair. They can expect to find different and sometimes conflicting ideas in this column, as students may have different beliefs.
  • Direct students to the learning targets for today, and help them notice that today is about figuring out what they believe. Define constitute (to be considered to be something, to create or make up). As an example, say: "Careless drivers constitute the single biggest threat to the safety of pedestrians."
  • Assure students that you will explain developed and developing later in the lesson, as these are words they have heard before but have particular meanings in this context. needed has changed, but the workers are still young women.
  • Connecting abstract ideas (like working conditions) to the students themselves can help engage students' interest and empathy--this will support their thinking about working conditions in the garment industry, as they research and create the performance task.
  • Discussing and clarifying the language of learning targets helps build academic vocabulary.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Investigating Working Conditions at Wegmans (15 minutes)

  • Tell students that in this unit, they will be researching working conditions in the world today. They will see to what extent the issues faced by the mill girls and the farmworkers have been resolved, and to what extent those issues continue. They will also think carefully about the role that American consumers and businesses play in shaping working conditions both in the United States and in other parts of the world.
  • Explain that before students start researching global working conditions, they will look at the working conditions they might encounter locally, so they will have a point of reference. Today the class will research working conditions at Wegmans, which many people in New York regard as a good place to work.
  • Depending on the technology setup in your class, either direct students to the Wegmans Web site ( "Careers" page; focus on the "Benefits," "Opportunities," and "Diversity" subpages) or print out the relevant Web pages and distribute them to students.
  • Explain to students that their task is to learn what working conditions at Wegmans are like: They will have 10 minutes to learn as much as they can about working conditions in each category of the anchor chart. Pass out a blank Working Conditions anchor chart on which students can record their findings.
  • Distribute a blank Working Conditions anchor chart to each student.  Tell them that this is where they can record their findings.
  • As students work, they may need the following help: The site does not provide data on how much workers are paid; a call to the hiring office suggests that the average 16-year-old with no experience looking for part-time work would start at about minimum wage ($7.25/hour in New York) and have the opportunity for raises over time.
  • Define relevant vocabulary as necessary: benefitscompensationleave.
  • After students have worked for 10 minutes, do a Think-Pair-Share:

*   "Given what you have learned about what it might be like to work at Wegmans, what can we add to the anchor chart under 'Examples of Fair Working Conditions'?"

  • As students share out, add their ideas to the class Working Conditions anchor chart and prompt them to offer evidence from the Web site:

*   "Did you see this offered?"

*   "Why is this fair?"

  • Listen for students to offer ideas that help define fair working conditions. Point out those ideas as students offer them and consider writing them on the board. They should understand that fair working conditions are ones in which the workers are paid appropriately, have reasonable workdays (8 hours or so) and workweeks (40 hours or so), and are safe and healthy.
  • Tell students that you want them to keep their expectations for a job in mind as they research working conditions in other places.
  • Some students may benefit from having the Web site printed out with key sections pre-highlighted in their texts. This will help them focus on small sections rather than scanning the whole text for answers.

B. Discussing Fair Working Conditions (10 minutes)

  • Explain to students that in this unit, they will research conditions in the garment industry today.
  • Define "garment" and ask them where they think their clothes are made. Consider bringing some clothes from home or from the lost and found and having the students check the labels. Students will notice that many of the clothes are made in developing countries, and some are made in the United States.
  • Briefly define developing and developed country. Consider drawing a spectrum on the board and placing a handful of countries on it to help students develop a frame of reference. The United States is a developed country--it is wealthy and has a lot of technology, industry, and infrastructure. Many countries--such as Bangladesh and Cambodia--are developing countries: They are relatively poor and don't have as much industry or technology, but they are changing and are gaining those things. Other countries, such as Mexico, China, and Thailand, are somewhere in between--less wealthy than the United States but with considerably more industry and technology than places like Bangladesh or Cambodia. While you don't have time for a whole lesson here on the nuances and politics of these labels, make sure students understand that there are both costs and benefits to development, and that there are often disagreements of the form development should take, because different types of development help different groups in the population more or less.
  • Also, consider pointing out that just because a country, like the United States, is wealthy, it does not mean that everyone in the country is wealthy. It means that, on average, a person's yearly income is much higher than in countries like Bangladesh or Cambodia.
  • Tell students that in developing countries, wages are often lower than they are in the United States, and that this is one reason many companies have their factories in these countries--when their labor costs are lower, they make more money. Many people in these countries are glad to have jobs at wages that seem low to us, because they pay more than some other jobs. In addition, the cost of living--how much you pay for food, a place to live, etc.--is lower. However, although many workers are willing to work longer hours for less pay than workers in the United States, they also want working conditions and pay that they consider fair.
  • Explain to students that in this unit, they will need to think a lot about what they think fair working conditions are. They will also need to think about what, if any, responsibility they think they have as consumers for the working conditions of garment workers in other countries.
  • Today they will do an activity to help them think about what it means for working conditions to be fair, and also to think about how working conditions in the garment industry are relevant to them.
  • Briefly review the Four Corners strategy with students. You will state and post a statement. Students will think for a minute, then go to the corner than best represents their opinion: strongly agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree, or strongly disagree. Groups will talk in their corners for a few minutes, and then you will call on one or two people from each corner to share out. Then you will state and post a new statement, and they will move again and repeat the process. Remind students that they should listen carefully; at the end of this activity they will be writing individually about their opinions.
  • Statements to post for the Four Corners Activity:

*   Because all wages and the cost of living are lower in Bangladesh, it is fair that the average hourly wage for a garment worker there is $0.24 while in the United States it is $8.25.

*   It is never fair to have children younger than 16 working in factories, even if their parents give permission.

*   It is the responsibility of the governments of other countries, not U.S. companies, to make sure the garment factories are safe. Governments in other countries should pass and enforce laws to protect their citizens. U.S. consumers have some responsibility for poor working conditions and low wages in garment factories in other countries, because they demand cheap clothes and don't demand that companies provide fair working conditions to the people who make those clothes.

  • Use of strategies like Four Corners allows for total participation of students. It encourages critical thinking, collaboration, and social construction of knowledge. It also helps students practice their speaking and listening skills.

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Setting a Purpose for Research in Researcher's Notebook (10 minutes)

  • Distribute the Researcher's Notebook to students. Read the overarching research question aloud:

*   "What are current working conditions like in the garment industry?"

  • Explain that they will use this question to guide their research. They will also come up with supporting research questions to find more specific pieces of information.
  • Ask students to reflect on their conversations today and write the purpose for research on page 1 of their notebooks. Briefly review the two questions in Part 1 of the Researcher's Notebook, defining vocabulary terms as necessary.
  • In students' discussion of what "fair working conditions" means, they should refer to the Working Conditions anchor chart and also specifically address the question of working conditions in developing countries. Assure students that they will have the opportunity to revisit these questions; it is possible that their research will change their answers.
  • Some students may benefit from having sentence starters as a scaffold for writing their purpose for research.



  • Begin reading your independent reading book for this unit.

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