Napa County Reads study guide the Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child

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Start by asking the students why they come to school. Though there will be some negative comments, it is more than likely that eventually the students will start discussing the positive benefits of school. Lead the discussion towards possible reasons that people in the early 1800s would have wanted universal public education for all children. Show the students the visuals of migrant workers picketing for better schools and the César E. Chávez Elementary School Mural. Explain to them that Chávez and the migrant workers were very interested in bettering education for students.

Making Connections:

Students should be aware of some of the problems that are encountered by children of migrant farm workers. Some of the problems are hard to avoid, (like inconsistent education because of the moving around that occurs), but others were a result of prejudice. Teachers might want to have their students read part of the middle level biography on César E. Chávez so that they can make a connection to the type of schooling that César E. Chávez experienced.

Vocabulary Activities:

A discussion on the purposes of education should include a discussion on assimilation. As a result, the vocabulary should come up within the discussion itself. It is not important for the students to agree on the purposes of education, since it will be different for everyone, but assimilation was one of the reasons specified by Horace Mann and others.

Guided Instruction:

  1. After the motivation activity and the vocabulary activity, have the students break into cooperative learning groups.

  1. Explain to students that good listeners listen with a purpose. The purpose of this activity is to read these oral interviews to determine how these workers felt about the role that education should play for their children.

  1. Students should have one student (or pair of students) pretend that they are the workers who were interviewed. While one student should play the role of interviewer, the other students will serve as note takers.

  1. As the interviews take place, the listeners should take notes as to what was said about public education. The roles should then be reversed as the members of the cooperative learning group read the other oral interviews. Everyone in the group should have a turn as readers and as listeners.

  1. Once the activity is completed, the students should come to a consensus of the importance of education to migrant farm workers and other immigrants...

  1. The class should then share their findings.

Integrating Language:

Active listening is stressed throughout the cooperative learning activities, as are good speaking and reading skills. Summary writing is emphasized as part of the listening skills.


Students can be given excerpts of speeches made by Horace Mann, Benjamin Rush, and Thomas Jefferson about public education.



Resources on Migrant Farm WorkersFarmworkers/Laborers:

Juvenile Literature

Bunting, Eve. A Day’s Work. Clarion Books: New York, NY, 1994.

Brimner, Larry Dane. A Migrant Family. Lerner Publications Company: Minneapolis, MN, 1992.

Dorros, Arthur. Radio Man: A Story in English and Spanish. Harper Collins Children’sChildrens Books: New York, NY, 1993.

Herrera, Juan Felipe. Calling the Doves.

Jimenez, Francisco. The Circuit: Stories From the Life of a Migrant Child. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM: 1997.

Sullivan, Charles. ed. Here is My Kingdom: Hispanic-American Literature and Art for Young People. Harry N. Abrams, Inc.: New York, 1994. Dedication and p. 82.


Atkins, Beth. Voices From the Fields: Children of Migrant Farm WorkersFarmworkers.

Rivera, Tomás. …y no se lo tragó la tierra¨. Arte Publico Press: Houston, 1992.

Stanley, Jerry. Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp. Crown Publishers, Inc.: New York, NY, 1992.

Valle, Isabel. Fields of Toil: A Migrant’s Family’s Journey. Washington State University Press, Pullman, Washington: 1994.

Westridge Young Writers Workshop. Kids Explore America’s Hispanic Heritage. John Muir Publications: Santa Fe, NM, 1992. pp. 18-20, 83-84, 93.


Gonzalez, Sylvia. The Migrant Farm Worker'sFarmworker's Son: a Play in Two Acts.


Herrera, Juan Felipe. Laughing Out Loud, I Fly: Poems in English and Spanish. Joanna Cotler Books (An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers): New York: NY, 1998.


An Overview:

This unit is a three - week study on the life of Francisco and the lives of migrant farm workers. As a class and individually, students will read biographies on Francisco, stories of farm workers who are their age, use the resources in the classroom and on the web, and create various projects to highlight what they learn from this in-depth look at migrant farm workers and their leader, César Chávez.

During the first week, the students will read, compare and contrast biographies on Francisco and make a pictoralpictorial collage on his life. For the second and third week, they will produce and keep a seven-day diary of a farm worker (a persona they will create) and write a Who Am I?/ ¿Quien Soy Yo? poem. Also during this time, they will make the science, math and social studies connections to agriculture and the lives of migrant farm workers. For the last week of the study, the students will create a United States postal stamp to honor migrant farm workers.

A Play Script:

Taken from The Migrant Farm worker's Son: a Play in Two Acts by Sylvia Gonzalez.

Activity with Music and Poetry:

This activity is to be executed in the beginning of the third week. This activity is a good bridge from the first week and the focus on César Chávez and the class activities and information on agriculture and migrant life during the second week.

Poem taken from Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English by Alma Flor Ada:
César Chávez (poem in Spanish)

Ya tus pasos no cruzan los campos polvorientos

ni los alumbras con tu buena voz

pero tu ejemplo

y tu palabra

retoñan en los surcos

en brotes de callada esperanza.

César Chávez (poem in English)

Your steps no longer cross the dusty fields

where your strong voice once shown

yet your example

and your words

sprout anew in the field rows

as seedlings of quiet hope.

The song is based on the poem and sung by Suni Paz and Alma Flor Ada. This is on the CD/cassette Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English.


  Activity (can be modified for individual or class activity):

  1. Show book cover and illustrations of book. What environment do they depict? (agriculturalAgricultural, that of a migrant farm worker). Show illustration from the book. What do they see and how does it represent Francisco?

  2. Read dedication of book to the students, "To my students… with gratitude for all they have taught me about the lives of farm workers."

  3. Read above poem and discuss how the author (Alma Flor Ada) describes César Chávez.
  4. Focus on the adjectives in the poem (dusty, strong, and quiet). How do they describe Francisco and migrant farm workers.workers?

  5. Listen to song on CD/cassette. Ask the students how they feel and what they imagine listening to the CD.

  6. Visual art extension: have students be the illustrator for the poem. Along with their illustration, have them provide a narrative as to why they chose certain elements in their design. How does it represent Francisco?

Two Language Arts Activities:

Activity 1: Read biographies of Francisco Jimenez and create a pictoralpictorial collage of his life

This activity is to be done during week 1. It can be done individually or as a small group of four people.

Monday - Wednesday:

  1. Discuss with students the qualities that make an extraordinary person: what they do for others, what is their character, how does their life impact others' lives?

  2. Direct the students to select one or more biographies on Francisco. They will look for the details of his life that are common and not common in the biographies they have selected.

  3. After they have read one or more of the biographies, direct them to answer the essential question: What were the major events in his life and what made him an extraordinary person? They should list at least ten events in his life.  

Thursday - Friday:
  1. Visual art extension: Direct students to gather these materials: poster board, glue, and scissors. They will create a pictoralpictorial collage of the events they have listed. The students may not use any words on their collage. Direct them to use their own drawings to illustrate scenes from his life, cut and paste copies of pictures found in books in the classroom, and pictures and images found on the web to completely cover their poster board.posterbaord. As a final touch, they can use glitter, and small objects to decorate their collage.

Activity 2: Produce and keep a personal diary of a farm worker (fictional)

This activity will be executed during the second week. The duration of this writing assignment is seven days. It should be done individually.

1. This week in class, whenever possible, read books and poems on migrant farm workers to the students. Encourage the students to listen carefully to the kind of life they have. Direct them to think about where and how they live, if the children go to school or work in the fields, what kind of work they do, and how they feel about their work and themselves.

Monday - Friday:

2. Direct students to keep a fictional diary of a farm worker for seven days. They should create a diary using the paper and material to cover the diary that is in the classroom. They should decide if they are female or male, their age, where and how that person lives, what work they and their family does, what is important to them, their dreams and what makes them happy and sad. After reading aloud in class every day, have the students write in their diary as the person they have created. They may also include drawings or pictures to add to what they have written.


3. Students will write in their journal for the last day. Direct them to consider: How will you end this week?

Visual Art Extension Activity: Create a U.S. postal stamp that honors migrant farm workers.

This activity will become the culminating project of the unit. This activity should be done individually. Students will place value on the contributions farm workers make to our economy.

  1. Direct the students to gather these materials: then Design Your Own Stamp sheet, plain white paper for rough sketch of drawing, colored pencils or crayons to draw.
  2. Before the students begin their rough sketch of their drawing, have the students think about why and how the work migrant farm workers do is important. What do they do that is valuable?

  3. Students make a rough sketch of what they will draw. Tell them to fill in the space of the stamp completely.

  4. Students meet with one other student to evaluate drawing and ask for suggestions. Direct them to begin by saying at least one thing that they like about their drawing. Then they should give the partner suggestions for improving the design.

  5. Students complete final drawing on the Design Your Own Stamp sheet.

Cross Curricular Activities/Tie-Ins:

Language Arts:

Students will:

  1. Read biographies on Francisco Jiménez.

  2. Read aloud stories of migrant farm workers.

  3. Produce and keep a diary of a farm worker (persona created by student).

  4. Poetry reading on César Chávez found in Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English.

  5. Write a Who Am I?/ ¿Quien Soy Yo? Poem on the farm worker persona created.


Students will solve math problems that deal with money, time, weight, distance, and area. These problems will relate to the lives of migrant farm workers.


  1. If you are paid $.08 for a pound of picked chili, and it takes you 1 hour to pick one pound, how much will you earn in 9 hours of picking chili?

  2. What is the distance in miles between Yuma, AZ and Delano, CA? If gas costs $1.87 a gallon, and your car drives 25 miles for every gallon, how much money will you need to save for your family to make this trip? (provideProvide map and distance key and ruler to solve problem).
  3. If you have a field of strawberries that is 500 ft. x 600 ft. and in one day one person can pick 8,000 square ft., how many days will it take ten workers to pick this field?


Students will review how crops (plants) are grown. Students will investigate and reflect on the effects of pesticides on food, for the consumer and on the laborers. Students will examine why do farmers use pesticides, what are the benefits and harmful effects of pesticides?

Social Studies:

Students will research and document the agricultural products of states in the southwest. Also, students will investigate which crops are harvested by machines and which are still picked manually. Finally, students will map the year's cycle of crops harvested by farm workers in the United States (geography).


Spanish will be integrated with the poetry activities in this unit.

Activity: write a Who Am I?/ ¿Quien Soy Yo? poem.

This will be completed the third week of the unit. It should be done individually. Students will reflect on the lives of migrant farm workers.

Tuesday - Thursday:

  1. Direct students to follow this format:

Yo soy, ______(describe who you are, in English or in Spanish)______.

Yo vivo, ______(describe where and how you live, in English or in Spanish)_.

Yo trabajo, ____(describe the work you do, in English or in Spanish)___. (If you go to school, replace with, Yo voy a la escuela, ___describe how it is to go to school).

Me importa, ___(describedecribe what is important to you, in English or in Spanish)__.

Yo quiero, ___(describe what you wish for or want or need)______________.

Gracias, César Chávez, ____(for what would you thank César Chávez?)___.

  1. Direct students to title their poem.
  2. Direct students to type their poem on the computer and print it out.

  3. Visual art extension: Students will create a frame for their poem using construction paper, other materials, etc.


Students will:

  1. Create a pictoralpictorial collage of the life of Francisco.

  2. Illustrate the poem on César Chávez found in Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English.

  3. Design a United States postal stamp to honor migrant farm workers.

  4. Create a diary and add artwork to entries.


Activity with poem on César Chávez found in Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English. Students will evaluate why the author and musician chose the words, and style of music to portray César Chávez.

Evaluation of students

The projects will be evaluated on five criteria:

  1. How does the project show what you know and the information you have gathered?

  2. Creativity

  3. Thoughtfulness

  4. How well did you follow the directions?

  5. Neatness

The Circuit
Lesson Title:


History-Social Science Standard:

6.1.2 Students identify the locations of human communities that populated the major regions of the world and describe how humans adapted to a variety of environments.

Setting the Context:

The migration patterns of early man that caused movement and population of geographical areas and its correlation to the concept of present - day migrant farming.

Focus Question:

What is migration and how does migration affect people today?

Expected Learning Outcomes:

Students will explain the concept of migration, how this concept is related to migration in farming today and how the César E. Chávez family coped with migration.


Students will demonstrate an understanding of migration by charting on a map the origins of their families.

Key Concepts:


Essential Vocabulary:



land bridges




Ice Age

Primary Sources:

Internet, textbook, diaries, first-hand accounts, family records.


Millions of years ago huge sheets of ice called glaciers covered large areas of the earth, perhaps the area where you live; this period was called the Ice Age. Because of the glaciers the level of water dropped, land bridges emerged to allow hunters to follow their prey to virtually all areas of the world. These early hunters didn't know it, but they were on a migration. That is what you are going to do, go on a migration.

Make location signs: Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, North America, and South America. Have all the students assemble at Africa. Give each student a folded slip of paper with one of the continent signs on the card or paper. Most of the cards/papers should have Europe and Asia on them. Have some cards with North and South America. Have the students move/migrate every two minutes, allow the students to freely visit every time they move. You may want to provide fruits and vegetables at the North and South America locations. Be creative, this should be a fun activity. The movement can also be done outside.

Making Connections:

Mobility was very important to hunters and gatherers. It is still an important component in some work today. Discuss with students workers who are still mobile such as farm workers, sales representatives, truck drivers, and professional athletes.

Vocabulary Activities:

Students will be given a skill page displaying vocabulary. They will complete the definitions through inference during classroom discussion and dictionary usage.

Guided Instruction:

Students listen to teacher or fellow student reading of the Chapter 3 “Trabajadores”. Hold discussion about the hardships of migrant workers and make connections to the lesson outcome. After discussion, students pair up to compare answers on vocabulary skill sheet and look up any vocabulary not defined. Teacher assigns home activity (see enrichment).

Integrating Language:

Students will listen to teacher’s introduction, read the textbook, participate in class discussion, and interview family members or neighbors. If there is no family or neighbor to interview, view farm worker interview on CDE Web site and use that information for your interview.


Students will interview family members or neighbors and chart on a map the origin of his or her family and their migration to their current location. Students will bring this information back to class to be recorded on a classroom map displaying all students’ information.

The Circuit
Lesson Title:

Impact of Pesticides/Herbicides on Farm Workers

History-Social Science Standard:

6.2.2 Students trace the development of agriculture techniques that permitted the production of economic surplus and the emergence of cities as centers of culture and power.

Setting the Context:

As farming techniques progressed through time, chemical pesticides and fertilizers become essential to high production of crops. Unfortunately, these same chemicals also pose a health threat to underground water supply, consumers, and the farm workers who harvest the crops.

Focus Question:

What are the advantages and disadvantages of pesticides?

How can we strive to maintain a safe and just food supply?
Expected Learning Outcomes:

The students will compare the positive and negative effects of chemical fertilizer and pesticide use.

Students will offer suggestions on how to maintain a safe and just food supply.

Students will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of fertilizers/pesticides on the farming industry and the people employed in that field by completing a web search. The students will write a brief synopsis of their findings.

Students will (verbal or written) offer suggestions on how to maintain a safe and just food supply.
Key Concepts:

Fertilizers and pesticides provide a benefit to the farming industry, but also create significant risks to the water supply, animals, and humans.

Essential Vocabulary:









Primary Sources:

Textbook, Internet, pictures of workers and the fields being sprayed from the CDE Web site.

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