My U.S. History teachers wanted my help getting students to understand the Gilded Age and specifically child labor and labor unions. In the past, students have had a difficult time understanding and making connections with these topics because they live in an age of governmental regulations in the job market. My goal was to find a book that spoke to one of these topics and could be used to connect to the next major topic as well.
My choice was Kid Blink Beats THE WORLD by Don Brown. This picture book tells the story of the newsies' strike in 1899 and their negotiations with the owners of two of the largest papers printed in New York City during that time period.
The students had just had an activity lesson on assembly lines and were about to begin the topic on child labor issues. After reading the book, the kids made a foldable T-Chart comparing and contrasting the working conditions of the assembly line workers and the newsies. Students had to infer their answers for the newsies because very little was explained in the book reading.
Once we had the charts filled out, we openly discussed their lists and made them justify their answers if the ones given were too vague. Then each table worked together to write down ways they could improve the conditions of each group. The teacher and I then discussed how being a part of an organization (like a teacher's organization) would work on behalf of it's members and negotiate for better work environments. Using the lists the students gave us, we showed how they could negotiate on behalf of the assembly line workers or newsies, and that they would be discussing child labor and labor unions in the classroom.
The teachers were happy with the lesson and students seemed to enjoy the book and activity.