Migrant Workers' Fight for Justice

While learning about the California migrant farm workers' fight for justice led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, students learn to make connections and think about cause and effect.

Unit Summary

In this unit students study the California migrant farm workers’ fight for justice. Lead by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, this time period is often referred to as the start of the Latino civil rights movement. Over the course of the unit students will explore what life was like for migrant farm workers in the 1960s and the barriers that prevented them from obtaining better wages and equitable working conditions. Students will then learn about how the farm workers were able to band together under the leadership of Larry Itliong, Cesar Chavez, and Dolores Huerta to launch a multi-year movement focused on using nonviolent tactics as a way of making meaningful, long-lasting change. In particular, students will analyze how different types of nonviolent protests (boycotts, pickets, marches, strikes, and fasting) helped educate the public and influence change. Understanding the history of migrant farm workers and their struggle for justice is important for helping students understand the world around them. It is important to note that this unit is based in history. Many of the ideas and concepts in this unit are connected to current events; however, the focus of the unit is on this period in history. 

In reading, this unit helps students continue to build their informational reading skills. Over the course of the unit students will be pushed to think about the connection between two or more historical events and people. Unlike previous units, this unit contains a variety of primary sources and videos that require students to use different reading and speaking and listening strategies in order to synthesize and summarize key ideas.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Assessment

These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills. Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What was life like for migrant farm workers in the 1960s? What barriers did they face in order to obtain better working conditions? Wages? 
  • What were some of the key moments in the migrant farm workers' fight for justice? 
  • Who were Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta? What strategies did they use to make meaningful, long-lasting change?
  • How did the farm workers use different types of nonviolent protest to educate the public and push for change? 

Vocabulary

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Below are all of the unit vocabulary words. Prior to teaching the unit, we recommend teachers decide which words to prioritize. We also recommend that teachers decide which affixes to prioritize. See our teacher tool Prepping Unit Vocabulary (below) for more guidance on which words to pick as priority words.

Text-based

activism agitator agony bargain boycott commitment committee crop dignity disband dispute dramatic dues dumbfounded equality exploitation grass-roots organization grievance growers grass-roots harvest hostile huelga injustice intimidation inventiveness inhumane labor unions latinx labor legitimize negotiate nonviolence nucleus opposition painstaking pesticides publicity relentless scuffle strike sympathetic tactic treasury treatment urge visibility vulnerable

Root/Affix

-ism -ment -or -tion in- non-

Content Knowledge and Connections

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Notes for Teachers

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  • The questions on this unit's Cold Read Assessment reference the article, "A Brief History of American Farm Labor" (930L) by Smithsonian Magazine, adapted by Newsela staff (see unit materials). Be sure to include this article with the assessment.

Lesson Map

1

  • César Chávez pp. 11 – 15

    RI.5.3

Explain why the study of Cesar Chavez and the farm workers movement is important.

2

  • La Causa pp. 1 – 10

    RI.5.3

Describe what life was like in Yuma and on the grape farm, particularly how the Chavez family was treated in each location.

3

  • La Causa pp. 11 – 18

    RI.5.3

Defend if from a young age, Dolores was able to connect with farm workers. 

4

Writing

  • La Causa

    RI.5.3

    W.5.2

    W.5.2.a

    W.5.2.b

    W.5.2.c

    W.5.9.b

    L.5.1.a

Write a paragraph explaining why Dolores was able to connect with farm workers.

5

  • “Farm Labor Organizing” pp. 8 – 10

    RI.5.6

Explain the impact the National Labor Relations Act had on farm workers and if it was positive or negative. 

6

  • “Chicano” — 00:00 - 5:56

  • “Bitter Harvest”

    RI.5.6

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.2

Describe the conditions for farm workers in California by paraphrasing and summarizing details from print and digital sources.

7

Writing

  • “Declaration of Human Rights” pp. 23 – 25

    RI.5.3

    W.5.2

    W.5.2.a

    W.5.2.b

    W.5.2.c

    W.5.9.b

    SL.5.1

    L.5.1.a

Defend if farm workers’ human rights are being protected. 

8

  • La Causa pp. 19 – 28

  • “Farm Worker Movement” — 0:00-6:10

    RI.5.2

    RI.5.3

Determine the main idea of the chapter “Viva La Causa”.

9

2 days

  • “A Union...” — Chapters 1 and 2

    RI.5.2

    W.5.8

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.2

    SL.5.4

    SL.5.5

    SL.5.6

Describe three or four of the strategies that Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta used in order to organize a strong movement and union. 

10Essential Task

  • La Causa pp. 29 – 36

    RI.5.2

    RI.5.3

Explain why Cesar was hesitant to join the Filipinos and how the final decision was made to join their strike.

11

  • “Delano Manongs” — 00:00 - 19:00

    RI.5.2

    W.5.8

    SL.5.2

Explain what role Filipino-Americans and Larry Itliong played in the farm worker labor movement. 

12

2 days

Writing

  • All unit texts

    RI.5.3

    W.5.2.a

    W.5.2.b

    W.5.2.c

    W.5.9.b

    L.5.1.a

    L.5.1.d

    L.5.2.a

    L.5.3.a

Describe the characteristics of an influential leader. 

13

  • La Causa pp. 37 – 47

  • “Rules for Pickets”

    RI.5.3

Analyze the impact Cesar Chavez’s push for nonviolence had on Dolores and what might have been different if Dolores had used violence.

14

  • La Causa pp. 48 – 58

    RI.5.2

    RI.5.3

    SL.5.1

Defend if the strike was successful or not. 

15

  • “Boycott Instructions”

  • “Chicano” — 6:15 - 22:33

    SL.5.2

    SL.5.4

Describe the values that were at the heart of the farm workers movement and how those values influenced their actions. 

16

  • Boycott Flyers — Flyers 01-10

    RI.5.3

Explain how Cesar Chavez used flyers to help educate the public to participate in the boycott.

17

2 days

Discussion & Writing

  • All unit texts

    RI.5.3

    W.5.2.a

    W.5.2.b

    W.5.2.c

    W.5.9.b

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.6

    L.5.1.a

Analyze the pros and cons of using strikes and boycotts as forms of nonviolent protest. 

18Essential Task

  • La Causa pp. 59 – 70

    RI.5.2

    RI.5.3

Defend if the farm workers’ actions are finally moving things in the right direction. 

19

  • La Causa pp. 71 – 81

    RI.5.2

    RI.5.3

Summarize what happened on the march to Sacramento and if it was effective.

20

  • “Farm Worker Movement” — 9:10 - 16:20

  • “Chicano” — 22:00 - 31:15

    SL.5.2

    SL.5.4

Describe times when courage, unity, and hope were shown by the farm workers. 

21

  • “Chicano” — 31:20 - end

    W.5.8

    W.5.9.b

    SL.5.2

    SL.5.4

Describe how the farm workers movement left a lasting legacy of change. 

22

2 days

Discussion & Writing

  • All unit texts

    RI.5.3

    W.5.2.a

    W.5.2.b

    W.5.2.c

    SL.5.1

    L.5.1.a

Analyze how the core values of courage, unity, and hope fueled the farm workers movement and justify which value was the most important by stating a claim and drawing on information from multiple print and digital sources to examine a topic.

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Assessment

  • “A Brief History...” — 930L

24

5 days

Informative Writing

    W.5.2

    W.5.2.a

    W.5.2.b

    W.5.2.c

    W.5.7

    W.5.8

    L.5.1.b

    L.5.1.d

Conduct a short research project that uses several sources to build knowledge of different aspects of a topic.

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.5.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.5.1.a — Explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections in general and their function in particular sentences.

  • L.5.1.b — Form and use the perfect (e.g., I had walked; I have walked; I will have walked) verb tenses.

  • L.5.1.d — Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense.

  • L.5.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.5.2.a — Use punctuation to separate items in a series.

  • L.5.2.b — Use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence.

  • L.5.3.a — Expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.5.2 — Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

  • RI.5.3 — Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

  • RI.5.6 — Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.5.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.5.2 — Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

  • SL.5.4 — Report on a topic or text or present an opinion, sequencing ideas logically and using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

  • SL.5.5 — Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, sound) and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.

  • SL.5.6 — Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to task and situation.

Writing Standards
  • W.5.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

  • W.5.2.a — Introduce a topic clearly, provide a general observation and focus, and group related information logically; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

  • W.5.2.b — Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.

  • W.5.2.c — Link ideas within and across categories of information using words, phrases, and clauses (e.g., in contrast, especially).

  • W.5.7 — Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

  • W.5.8 — Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; summarize or paraphrase information in notes and finished work, and provide a list of sources.

  • W.5.9.b — Apply grade 5 Reading standards to informational texts (e.g., "Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, identifying which reasons and evidence support which point[s]").

Spiral Standards

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L.5.1

L.5.2

L.5.4

L.5.4.b

L.5.6

RF.5.3

RF.5.4

RI.5.1

RI.5.10

RI.5.4

RI.5.7

RI.5.9

SL.5.1

W.5.10

W.5.4

W.5.5

W.5.6

W.5.9