Fighting Injustice: Uprising & Flesh and Blood So Cheap

Students explore the American experience through close study of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and the social history of the early 20th century.

Unit Summary

On March 25, 1911, in New York City, 146 factory workers perished in a fire. Only a year earlier, many of these workers—overwhelmingly young, immigrant women—had walked the picket lines to protest unjust treatment and unsafe conditions in that very factory. After many months of impassioned but unsuccessful negotiations, many of these women (who had few other options for employment) returned to work. And on that fateful day in 1911, the true plight of factory workers was revealed to the world. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was one of the greatest tragedies of the early 20th century, and yet the details of this event are largely unknown to many Americans today. This unit provides 7th-grade students an opportunity to study this significant moment in US history in depth, discovering the complex social and political forces that preceded the fire and analyzing the far-reaching implications of that terrible day.

Students will read two texts in this unit. The first, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin, a National Book Award Finalist, is a nonfiction text that provides a detailed historical account of the fire. Students will begin the unit by reading the first several chapters of this text, grounding themselves in the historical context of the early 20th century, with a particular focus on the history of immigration and the experience of immigrants in New York City during this time period. They will also study the history of garment making in the United States and the development of the garment factory. With this schema, students will dive into the second text: Uprising, by Margaret Peterson Haddix. This historical fiction novel tells the story of three young women whose lives intersect at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. This text brings the historical facts students learn in Flesh and Blood So Cheap to life through engaging, complex, diverse characters.

Students will move back and forth between these two texts as the unit progresses, beginning with nonfiction and then applying that schema to Uprising. This structure provides students with many opportunities to authentically apply standard RL.7.9 for the first time, where they must closely analyze the ways that authors of historical fiction draw from history to develop their narratives. Additionally, students will look at both texts as they interrogate how authors develop point of view and closely study the interaction between setting, characters, events, and ideas in nonfiction and fiction texts.

Through the lens of this tragic event, students will continue their year-long interrogation of the factors that have shaped American history and identity, and further develop their understanding of what it means to be American.

In this unit, students will begin to work on two new genres of writing: narrative writing and persuasive writing. The first writing task continues our study of the way that Haddix uses literary point of view to develop characters and meaning in the text. Students will have to rewrite a scene originally focused on Bella’s thoughts and feelings and instead focus on Signora Luciano’s. The rigor of this task is twofold: students must maintain a third-person limited point of view while providing insight into a different character, which is more challenging than writing from a first-person perspective; secondly, students will need to think about ways of making a truly unsympathetic character more sympathetic. Using their knowledge of the experiences of immigrant women during this time period, students must provide convincing context for this character’s behavior. Students will communicate this insight through the use of descriptive, precise language. 

The second writing task of the unit will give students the opportunity to reflect on the impact of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and its continued historical significance.  Although literary analysis is considered “argumentative” writing because students must make a claim and support that claim, persuasive writing requires the development of several new skills. Students must write a persuasive speech in which they try to convince parents of schoolchildren that attending a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the fire is a meaningful and worthwhile educational experience. They must draw from their own detailed knowledge of the fire that they have developed over the course of the unit and then apply several new skills: the use of rhetorical persuasion techniques in the creation of a strong introduction and conclusion. Additionally, this task is the first opportunity that students will have in 7th grade to practice presenting their own writing to a larger audience through the public performance of their speeches. 

Texts and Materials

Core Materials

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

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Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 2 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • How does meaningful social change come about?
  • How do gender, religion, class, and nationality shape a person’s experience of the world?
  • How do authors of historical fiction draw from history to create compelling stories that are relevant to modern readers?

Reading Enduring Understandings

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  • The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire remains one of the most significant workplace disasters in American history; the impact of this event has been far-reaching and can still be seen today.
  • Conditions in factories were horrifying in the early 20th century, and workers had to fight tirelessly for safety, respect, and justice in their jobs; women and immigrants were at the forefront of this fight.

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • Tenements
  • Suffrage
  • Gender roles
  • Strike
  • Jewish Sabbath
  • Finishing school
  • Union
  • Socialism
  • Social status
  • Chattel
  • Progressivism
  • WTUL
  • Propaganda
  • Ballot
  • American Federation of Labor
  • Workhouses
  • ILGWU
  • Tammany Hall
  • Corset
  • Blacklist
  • Morgue
  • Breadwinner
  • Padrone
  • Kosher

Notes for Teachers

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  • In this unit, students will have to move back and forth between a fiction and nonfiction text. While it may feel difficult to pause reading of one text to read another, lessons are paced so that the readings from Uprising and Flesh and Blood So Cheap correspond closely with one another. Generally, students will read from the nonfiction text about specific historical events and then read the passage in Uprising that refers to those events. In this way, students will have much of the schema necessary to comprehend events in the novel.
  • This unit contains difficult subject matter. Both texts contain vivid descriptions of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and provide details about the extreme suffering of the people who died that day. Flesh and Blood So Cheap includes two images of dead bodies. Students may find this section of the unit (lessons 19–25) especially upsetting; be mindful of the possibility that you may have students who have experienced fires in their own lives.
  • Supplemental resources about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that may be helpful are:
  • Each lesson plan lists the homework for that evening; the vast majority of the time the assignment is for students to read and take notes on the pages of focus for the following day’s class.  Students should come to class prepared with a literal understanding of the reading in preparation for closely rereading shorter sections of text during that class period. For homework accountability, it is recommended that teachers check students’ reading notes each day, to ensure that they read and understood the gist of the chapter. Additionally, teachers may wish to assign a short written response to the homework thinking task to bring to class the following day. Another option is to give a quick homework check quiz at the beginning of each class (3–6 questions assessing literal understanding). 

Lesson Map

1

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 1 – 6

  • Uprising pg. 1 – 7

    RL.7.3

    RI.7.3

Identify and explain the impact of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire by studying a fictional and nonfictional account of the event.

2

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 7 – 22

    RI.7.3

Explain push factors leading to mass immigration of Russian Jews and Italians to the United States.

3

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 32 – 38 — begin at “Rich Folk”

  • “Heartbreaking Jacob Riis Photographs from How the Other Half Lives and Beyond”

    RI.7.6

Identify the author’s purpose and point of view on pages 32–38 of Flesh and Blood So Cheap.

4

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 59 – 74 — Start at “Rise of the Sweatshop”

    RI.7.3

Explain how specific factors led to the development of the garment-making economy at the turn of the 20th century.

5

  • Uprising pg. 7 – 31

    RL.7.6

Explain how the author develops Bella’s point of view and distinguishes it from that of other characters.

6

  • Uprising pg. 38 – 57

    RL.7.6

Identify the unique perspective of each of Uprising’s protagonists and describe how the author develops these.

7

  • Uprising pg. 58 – 79

    RL.7.3

Explain how characters’ lives in Uprising are shaped by gender norms and expectations.

8

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 75 – 84

  • Uprising pg. 80 – 90

    RL.7.9

Identify ways that author Margaret Peterson Haddix has drawn on historical facts to develop the setting and plot of the novel Uprising.

9

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 84 – 98 — stop at end of first paragraph

    RI.7.3

Explain how specific individuals and ideas shaped the “Uprising of Twenty-Thousand.”

10

  • Uprising pg. 91 – 121

    RL.7.6

Identify different characters’ perspectives in Uprising and explain how the author develops and contrasts them.

11

Narrative Writing

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap

  • Uprising pg. 124 – 125

    W.7.3

    W.7.3.a

Outline narratives, drawing on details from the source text as well as from original ideas developed about Signora Luciano’s character.

12

Narrative Writing

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap

  • Uprising pg. 124 – 125

    W.7.3

    W.7.3.b

    W.7.3.d

    W.7.5

Include specific sensory details and precise words and phrases in narratives and give and incorporate meaningful feedback from a peer.

13

  • Uprising pg. 121 – 144

    RL.7.2

Provide objective summaries of several chapters in Uprising.

14

  • Uprising pg. 145 – 165

    RL.7.3

Explain how setting and specific interactions impact characters in Uprising.

15

  • Uprising pg. 166 – 188

    RL.7.6

Identify different characters’ perspectives in Uprising and explain how the author develops and contrasts them.

16

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 100 – 103

  • Uprising pg. 177 – 183

    RL.7.9

Identify ways that author Margaret Peterson Haddix has drawn on historical facts to develop the setting and plot of the novel Uprising.

17

  • Uprising pg. 189 – 211

    RL.7.6

Identify different characters’ perspectives in Uprising and explain how the author develops and contrasts them.

18

  • Uprising pg. 213 – 234

    RL.7.6

Identify different characters’ perspectives in Uprising and explain how the author develops and contrasts them.

19

  • Uprising pg. 235 – 268

    RL.7.2

Provide objective summaries of several chapters in Uprising.

20

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 104 – 111 — end at “leaped out of control”

    RI.7.4

    L.7.5

Explain the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in Flesh and Blood So Cheap, and how specific words and phrases help develop mood and tone.

21

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 111 – 121

    RI.7.3

Explain the factors that lead to the tragic outcome of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the impact of the fire on bystanders.

22

  • Uprising pg. 269 – 286

    RL.8.6

Explain how the reader’s point of view differs from the characters’ in today’s reading, and the impact of that dramatic irony on the reader’s experience of the text.

23

  • Uprising pg. 287 – 298

    RL.7.4

Explain how author Haddix uses specific words and phrases to develop meaning, mood, and tone in Uprising.

24

  • Uprising pg. 229 – 315

    RL.7.3

    RL.7.6

Explain how the fire impacts and reveals characters’ perspectives in Uprising.

25

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap — pages 122-130 and 137

    RI.7.6

Determine author Marrin’s purpose and point of view in a section of Flesh and Blood So Cheap.

26

  • Uprising pg. 316 – 330

    RL.7.3

    RL.7.6

Identify characters’ perspectives and explain how they change over the course of a chapter of Uprising.

27

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap — chapter V

  • Uprising pg. 269 – 315

    RL.7.9

Compare and contrast Haddix’s account of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire with historical facts and explain how she has used and altered history in Uprising.

28

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 130 – 133 — Start at “Never Again!” and end at “Enter Al Smith”

  • “We Have Found You Wanting”

    RI.7.2

    RI.7.4

Determine the central message of Rose Schneiderman’s speech and explain the impact of word choice on meaning and tone.

29

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 130 – 146

    RI.7.3

Describe the impact of people and events on the future of workers’ rights and labor laws in the United States.

30

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap pg. 153 – 163 — begin at “Return of the New York Sweatshop”

    RI.7.3

Explain the factors that led to—and continue to influence—the modern garment industry.

31

Socratic Seminar

  • Socratic Seminar Guide

  • Uprising

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap

    SL.7.1.b

    SL.7.1.d

Engage in a Socratic Seminar with classmates, using previous feedback to set goals and reflect on performance in the seminar, and paraphrase the ideas of peers.

32

Literary Analysis Writing

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.a

    W.7.1.b

Write strong claims that acknowledge a counterclaim and begin to gather evidence to support a position.

33

Literary Analysis Writing

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap

    W.7.1

    W.7.1.b

    W.7.1.e

Use persuasive rhetorical techniques in a speech.

34

Literary Analysis Writing

  • Flesh and Blood So Cheap

    W.7.1

    SL.7.4

Present a speech using appropriate volume, eye contact, emphasis, and pronunciation.

35

2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.7.4.a — Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

  • L.7.4.c — Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.

  • L.7.4.d — Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).

  • L.7.5 — Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.7.1 — Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RI.7.2 — Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RI.7.3 — Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).

  • RI.7.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

  • RI.7.6 — Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.7.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.7.3 — Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).

  • RL.7.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.

  • RL.7.6 — Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.

  • RL.8.6 — Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

  • RL.7.9 — Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.7.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.7.1.b — Follow rules for collegial discussions, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.

  • SL.7.1.d — Acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.

  • SL.7.4 — Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

Writing Standards
  • W.7.1 — Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

  • W.7.1.a — Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

  • W.7.1.b — Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

  • W.7.1.e — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

  • W.7.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.7.3.a — Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

  • W.7.3.b — Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.

  • W.7.3.d — Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.

  • W.7.5 — With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.