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

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What are the most critical problems in the fields? What are the problems that you learned from the video or book? How can the plight in the fields be corrected?

Making Connections:

Farming gradually developed as a result of specialization and knowledge of working with the environment. Successful farming practices brought about the need for additional farm help.

Possible questions: Why do people end up working for wages on land owned by others? Why don't farm workers have their own farms? Why do growers pay farm workers very low wages? In the 1960s and 1970s there was turmoil in the fields, why was the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence used by César E. Chávez so important? Discuss the problems that plague farm workers and present day solutions to these problems.
Vocabulary Activities:

Vocabulary words will be placed on the board. Students will keep a vocabulary journal to define the words from class discussions, videos, and guest speakers. At the culmination of this lesson, students will be given a word/definition match skill sheet to demonstrate their understanding of the vocabulary.

Guided Instruction:

How can the plight in the fields be corrected? Show and discuss the video.

Teacher places a model “T” chart on the board displaying problems/solutions of farmers and farm workers. A few problems/solutions are completed together as a class. Students are instructed to make a chart of their own and fill in additional problems/solutions as derived from textbook/videos/class discussion. Some key problems should be: very low wages, poor working standards, no drinking water, no portable toilets, corrupt contractors, and so forth.

Guest speaker gives insight into the problems/solutions of farmers and farm workers. Classroom discussion ensues, with students participating in questioning the speaker.
Students continue to fill in their “T” chart.
Integrating Language:

Students will listen to teacher’s introduction, read textbook, watch video, participate in classroom discussions, listen to guest speaker, and complete a “T” chart.


Interview a grower or farm worker to learn more about farming as a way of life. Use the following guidelines in your interview:

  1. Arranging the interview: The key is to establish rapport with the potential interviewee.

  1. Setting up the location of the interview: Choose as quiet a location as possible.

  1. The interview process: An oral history interview is not a general dialogue. The purpose of the interview is to listen to what the interviewee has to say to stimulate the narrative with understanding comments and intelligent questions. Ask open-ended questions first, waiting to see where they lead.

  1. Possible themes: family, migration, childhood, job history, strikes, and unions.

  1. Possible questions: What were some of the problems that you faced as a farm worker? How did these problems affect your family? Were the problems ever resolved?

Farming Skill Sheet
Name__________________ _


Choose the best word to match each meaning below. Write the word in the blank.

Wages strike picket line boycott fast

United Farm Workers Union Teamsters Union nonviolence

  1. Person posted by a union at a place of work affected by a strike________________

  1. To quit work in order to obtain a change in a job or situation_________________

  1. Pay given for work done__________________

  1. Philosophy of César E. Chávez: "it is hard work, the willingness to sacrifice, and the patience to win"__________________

  1. A labor organization primarily dealing with transportation and drivers_______________

  1. To abstain from food, for César Chávez a form of protest__________________

  1. A farm workers' union founded in 1962 by César Chávez__________________

  1. Concerted action used to stop the buying of certain items_________________

The Circuit
Lesson Title:

Understanding Surplus

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 advanced through time, surplus goods became available for trade or for profit. This surplus allowed farmers to trade for necessities and luxuries they couldn’t produce. The greater yields required additional workers in order to harvest the crops in an efficient, productive manner. Farmers hired workers who migrated from other areas in order to secure employment.

Focus Question:

What is a surplus?

Who is involved in the production/harvest of this surplus?
Expected Learning Outcomes:

Students will explain the concept of surplus and its relationship to economic profit.

Key Concepts:

Surplus and its impact on Migrant Farm Workers.

Essential Vocabulary:


migrant farm worker






Primary Sources:

Textbook, photos from the CDE Web site, and first account from workers on the CDE Web site.

Internet: CDE Web site (farm worker interview video), transcripts (look under documents)

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