Grade Level: Grade Eleven Unit of Study

Download 79.03 Kb.
Size79.03 Kb.
Lesson Title;

César Chávez, Organizes the Farm Workers Association - Act I, Scene I “The House Meeting"

Grade Level:

Grade Eleven

Unit of Study:

Post World War II - Domestic Issues, Civil Rights Movement, and Latino Movement

History - Social Science Standard:

11.10 Students analyze the development of federal civil rights and voting rights.

11.10.5 Discuss the diffusion of the civil rights movement of African Americans from the churches of the rural South and the urban North, including the resistance to racial desegregation in Little Rock and Birmingham, and how the advances influenced the agendas, strategies, and effectiveness of the quests of Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans for civil rights and equal opportunities.
Setting the Context:

On March 31, 1962, César E. Chávez resigned as National Director of the Community Service Organization and moved with his wife and family to Delano, California where he began organizing farm workers. He had spent ten years m California organizing people in the cities of San Jose, Oakland, Madera, Bakersfield, and Hanford, learning and developing techniques to help people fight for civil rights, equal opportunities and human dignity. When the CSO leadership refused to venture out from organizing urban communities into organizing farm workers, César left the CSO and struck out on his own. He spent six months traveling up and down the agricultural cornucopia of California known as the San Joaquin Valley, talking to farm workers where ever he could and surveying them to find out their problems, concerns and desires. His most effective technique in this initial stage of organizing was the use of house meetings. Fred Ross recruited César to join the CSO in 1952, when Ross had approached César and asked him to hold a house meeting in his home. Learning from Ross’ experience César knew that one of the most effective ways of talking to and organizing workers was through house meetings. In the summer of 1962 César held house meetings in and around Delano almost every night for two months.

The idea of house meetings was to identify potential leaders in the barrios or colonias, and to ask them if they would invite a few of their friends into their home so César could talk to them about farm worker problems. He had learned that people feel more comfortable in their own homes surrounded by friends and family. It was dangerous to speak out in public meetings because word could get around, and if their employers suspected them of being "trouble makers", they would be fired.
In familiar and secure surroundings, they were more willing to open up and discuss the issues that were important to farm workers. César was a good listener, and the fact that he spoke Spanish and had first hand experience as a farm worker helped him achieve success as an organizer. He told the men and women at the house meetings that together they could form an association of farm workers to address their concerns. Explaining that they could set up a service center to help people solve their problems and maybe a credit union for short-term loans, César gained their interest. Before the meetings ended, he would hand out several surveys, 3x5 self-addressed cards, to everyone, and asked them to pass them out to their friends and co-workers. Finally, he asked if any of those present would be willing to hold a similar house meeting in their home. César held hundreds of these meetings recruiting members for a Farm Workers' Association and searching for a few committed people who would become organizers.
After engaging in this grass roots organizing for six months, César, Richard and Manuel Chávez, Dolores Huerta, Gilbert Padilla, and the other organizers were ready to hold the first convention of the new association. On Sunday September 30, 1962, in Fresno, California, 150 farm worker delegates and their families met to formally organize the National Farm Workers Association. Within a few years, the NFWA became the United Farm Workers, the first successful union of farm workers in American history.
Focus Question:

How did César E. Chávez first organize farm workers into what would become the United Farm Workers?

Expected Learning Outcomes:

Students will explain the use of house meetings as an organizing technique and the dedication, perseverance and sacrifice that César E. Chávez exhibited in founding the National Farm Workers Association.

Students will identify the problems of California's farm workers and the achievements of the United Farm Workers.
Key Concepts:


civic action

civil rights





grass-roots decision-making





social change

Essential Vocabulary:

  1. Braceros - Mexican nationals allowed into the United States from 1942-1965 for farm labor. They were intended as a temporary work force, but often replaced local farm workers.

  1. Clean drinking water – Water free from dirt, pesticides, and other agricultural debris to be provided by the employer and available to workers in the fields.

  1. Collective bargaining agreement - An agreement between labor (union) and management (growers) to hold representational elections among workers to choose a union. After elections are held workers enter into negotiations to resolve labor disputes concerning hours, wages, and working conditions eventually signing a contract, but that did not always occur.

  1. Community Service Organization - A civic association designed to empower people in the community to solve their own problems. César E. Chávez was a CSO organizer for ten years, 1952-1962. He perfected his technique of conducting house meetings during that time.

  1. Credit Union - A cooperative banking program in which farm workers can set up a savings account or borrow money. César E. Chávez set up a credit union to serve poor farm workers who often did not have good enough credit to qualify for a bank loan.

  1. Dicho - A saying in Spanish that reflects the culture and "wisdom of the ages." Spanish dichos are similar to Chinese proverbs.

  1. Farm labor contractors - Middlemen who provide workers to the growers for a high fee. The fee comes out of the workers’ wages. Some labor contractors charged additional fees for transporting workers to the fields. Others charged exorbitant rent for housing in migrant labor camps and overcharged workers for poor quality food.

  1. Farm Worker Census - A survey of farm workers conducted by César E. Chávez while organizing the National Farm Workers Association.

  1. Gringo - A derogatory term referring to Caucasian.

  1. La Causa - The cause or the movement of farm workers struggling for freedom, rights and dignity. La Causa was to Latinos what the Civil Rights Movement was to African Americans.

  1. Pachucos - Members of a Latino neighborhood gang identified by their unique clothing and hairstyle. Young toughs that hung out together in the barrio.

  1. Pesticide re-entry periods - The time period between the application of dangerous pesticides and when workers would be required to go back to work in the fields. Before union contracts protected workers, some workers were exposed to pesticides.

  1. Rest periods - Periodic breaks during the workday at scheduled times and for agreed time periods. A health and safety issue for workers.

  1. Rabble-rouse - To use inflammatory rhetoric or to speak in a way to arouse passion or emotions.

  1. Sal Si Puedes - The neighborhood or barrio, in East San Jose inhabited primarily by poor Latinos during the 1950s and 1960s. It literally means, "Get out if you can". It was where César E. Chávez was living when Fred Ross recruited him to work for the CSO.

  1. Seniority Rights - The right of workers with the most experience on the job to be hired first. Designed to prevent growers or labor contractors from applying arbitrary hiring criteria that might be used to discriminate against union activists.

  1. Sexual harassment - Some foremen and labor contractors verbally harassed female workers. Others demanded sexual favors in exchange for hiring women or providing preferential treatment.

  1. Short handled hoe - A tool that employers had long required farm workers to use while weeding row crops. Because of the short handle, workers were required to perform painful “stoop labor” for as long as 10 to 14 hours a day. This resulted in permanent back injuries for many farm workers.

Primary Sources:

List of United Farm Worker Achievements under César E. Chávez UFW Web site.

Chapter 2 of The Fight in the Fields César Chávez and the Farm Workers' Movement by Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval

Prologue of César Chávez Autobiography of La Causa by Jacques E Levy


The following pictures can be found in the book titled The Fight in the Fields César Chávez and the Farm Worker's Movement by Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval.

  1. Picture of César E. Chávez and Fred Ross working in CSO pg. 42

  2. Picture of César E. Chávez and Gilbert Padilla at a house meeting with farm workers in Fresno pg. 69

  3. Picture of Dolores Huerta signing up members of the National Farm Workers Association in 1962, pg. 73

  4. Picture of Gilbert Padilla organizing farm workers pg. 78



Show brief segment of the video Eyes on the Prize (or some other similar Civil Rights Movement video) depicting the initial organizing meetings for the bus boycott at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Discuss how the church was a unifying force within the African American community and a natural center for organizing people. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the civil rights movement had its nucleus there, and from there Martin Luther King, Jr. rose to become the spokesman for freedom, justice, and dignity for African Americans.

Next, point out that Latino farm workers in 1962 did not have an equivalent of the NAACP, nor did they have a community-based church to serve as springboard in their struggle for civil rights, equal opportunity and human dignity. There was no Latina Rosa Parks to serve as a catalyst in Delano, California in the summer of 1962. One man; one small, soft-spoken man with compassion and perseverance, began organizing what was to become the farm workers movement or La Causa. His name was César E. Chávez. How did he succeed where all others before him had faded? How did he organize the National Farm Workers Association with almost no money and no institutional support? The answer is that he slowly built a grassroots organization primarily by holding hundreds of small house meetings throughout the San Joaquin valley.
Making Connections:

Students must understand that the 1960s was a period of social protest and change. The civil rights movement had given rise to a variety of similar movements for women's rights, Latino rights, Native American rights, and the Anti-war movement. César E. Chávez became one of the national leaders for civil rights and the rights of farm workers.

Vocabulary Activities:

Words on the vocabulary list are from the readings provided within this lesson. Provide each student with the words and definitions. Have students read the vocabulary list and briefly discuss the words, putting them into historical context of the Latino community during the 1950s and 1960s. When students have read the three handouts, review the vocabulary terms and answer questions as necessary.

Guided Instruction:

First Day

  1. Show the video clip from Eyes of the Prize as indicated under Motivation

  1. Set the historical context and introduce the vocabulary list as stated above.

  1. Hand out the Readings/Sources

  1. Ask students to read the article “United Farm Workers Achievements Under César Chávez." Discuss each of the 11 accomplishments and explain that farm workers did not have these rights or benefits prior to 1965. Only after years of difficult organizing, costly strikes, successful boycotts, massive voter registration drives, and demonstrative marches and protests by farm workers were César E. Chávez and the UFW finally able to gain dignity and respect for farm workers.

  1. Explain the purpose of this lesson is to learn about the living and working conditions of farm workers, and how César E. Chávez organized the Farm Workers Association to demand their rights and improve their lives. To do this, students will work in groups writing a one-act play representing a typical house meeting held by César E. Chávez during the summer of 1962.

  1. HOMEWORK: Students are to read the other two handouts. Explain that the article entitled "Sal Si Puedes” from the book The Fight m the Fields César Chávez and the Farm Workers' Movement by Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval is the classic story of how César Chávez became an organizer. The prologue to Jacques E Levy's book César Chávez Autobiography of La Causa provides a description of one of César E. Chávez's early house meetings.

Second Day

  1. Review the vocabulary list and answer questions.

  1. Break students into groups of 5-7 and ask each group to select a Director and a Recorder.

  1. Based on their readings each group is to discuss the setting of a house meeting and the characters who would be represented. Next, they should list the major concerns/problems of farm workers, which might be raised at a house meeting.

  1. Students must decide who will portray César E. Chávez, the host and male and female farm workers. Ask each student to select two or three issues they would like to present as characters in the play. These will become the basis of the script.

  1. Have each student write one paragraph, in dialogue format, stating one of their concerns and explaining why the issue is important to them.

  1. Have students share their paragraphs with the group as time permits.

  1. HOMEWORK: Ask students to write one or two more similar paragraphs to be due the following day. (Note: The student playing the host should have some opening remarks and an introduction of César E. Chávez.) The student representing César E. Chávez should prepare an opening and closing statement as well as offering suggestions of what the National Farm Workers' Association might do.

Third Day

  1. Groups will meet and share the dialogue they prepared as Homework. Constructive editing and friendly suggestions could help polish-up these rough drafts.

  1. Each group must decide the sequence of speakers in their house meeting and then write additional dialogue that would be typical of a group meeting. For instance, farm workers could agree with what someone else said and add a brief comment. The idea is to blend the separate scripts into a conversational dialogue.

  1. Have each group run through their "play." Explain that they will be working from rough drafts and the purpose is for them to see what they need to change or add.

  1. HOMEWORK: Students are to take the rough drafts of their scripts home and polish them into final draft form. They should also practice their part so they almost know their lines by heart.

Fourth Day

  1. Groups will meet and have a dress rehearsal the first half of the class period.

  1. Teacher should select the strongest group or ask for volunteers to go first. Have one or two groups perform their play for the rest of the class

  1. HOMEWORK Ask each student to write a paragraph about César E. Chávez as an organizer and civil rights leader. What were his goals, and how did he achieve them?

Fifth Day

  1. Have the remaining groups perform their plays.

  1. The teacher can lead a class discussion of the question, "Who was César E. Chávez and what did he accomplish?” (Note: depending on the size of the class and the length of the plays, tins culminating activity might have to be carried over to the sixth day)

Integrating Language:

Students will read both primary and secondary sources; they will be writing their own scripts of a play; they will be speaking their part and discussing questions in class; and they will be listening to the house meeting scenes performed by other groups.


Students could use the computer lab to research César E. Chávez, the United Farm Workers, problems of farm workers or laws related to farm labor issues. They could also read Conquering Goliath César Chávez at the Beginning by Fred Ross, 144 pages


Use the rubric provided to evaluate students' work.

Service Learning:

Students can better understand how community organizations can help people find solutions to their problems. As César E. Chávez said, “It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life.” He also said, "We can choose to use our lives for others to bring about a better and more just world for our children.” His motto was 'Si se puede!” (Yes we can!)

With these thoughts in mind, ask students to volunteer in community service organizations that provide help for the needy.
Students could organize César E Chávez Service Clubs at their schools, giving students the opportunity to engage in service learning.

Reflection on Student Learning:

Students should write a short reflection piece on the idea of positive thinking and the idea of yes we (they) can. Does this attitude really help overcome adversity? Why or why not?

César E. Chávez Organizes the Farm Workers Association

Act 1, Scene I “The House- Meeting”

Period ____________ Director ____________________________
Recorder ___________________________


Members of group





César Chávez


House-meeting host


Farm Worker #1


Farm Worker #2


Farm Worker #3


Farm Worker #4


Farm Worker #5

Brief Statement of your group's progress:

Question or problems

Act I, Scene I "The House-Meeting”

Group #


Names of Group Members

Class Participation

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Group Participation and Discussion

Performance of Role









Points Possible per person








100 points

Download 79.03 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page