Grade Level: Grade Seven Lesson 4 History-Social Science Standard

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Lesson Title:

Magna Carta and La Causa

Grade Level:

Grade Seven Lesson 4

History-Social Science Standard:

7.11.6 Students analyze political and economic, discuss the significance of the Magna Carta.

Correlation to K-8 California Adopted Textbooks:

Houghton Mifflin: Across the Centuries. Chapter 10

Setting the Context:

In June 1215, the Magna Carta established rights that couldn’t be taken away, even by a King. It paved the way for rule by law. It is the first of several documents that are the foundation of our government today.

In 1962, when César E. Chávez wrote the UFW constitution, his vision more closely mirrored the idea of a social contract than a traditional union. In his interview with Wendy Goepel, he discussed the essence of the union he would head. Within the interview, the reader can become acquainted with many principles of self-rule that must be followed in order to have a strong social contract.
Focus Question:

What makes a compact between people? Why are they successful?

Expected Learning Outcomes:

Students will understand key elements of a social contract and democratic rule by law.


Students will show their understanding of a social contract in the principles of the early UFW and the Magna Carta.

Key Concepts:

Social contract and change

Essential Vocabulary:

social contract

La Causa


Peace Corps




Magna Carta or Charter


Primary Sources:

Copy of Magna Carta:

The following is an excerpt:
1. That the English Church shall be free and shall have her whole rights and her liberties inviolable [safe from sudden change]. … 12. No scutage [tax for military purposes] nor aid [tax paid by a vassal to a lord] shall be imposed in our kingdom, unless by the common council of our kingdom. … 38. No bailiff, for the future, shall put any man to his law upon his own simple affirmation, without credible witnesses produced for that purpose [there must be a witness, rather than just personal belief, for a person to be arrested]. … 39. No freeman shall be seized, imprisoned, dispossessed [deprived of his land], outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed; nor will we proceed against or prosecute him except by the lawful judgment of his peers [equals], or by the law of the land. … 40. To none will we sell, to none will we deny, to none will we delay right or justice. …”
Interview, “Viva La Causa,” of César E. Chávez by Wendy Goepel. Farm Labor, Vol. 1 No. 5, April 1964.

Picture of Chávez shaking hands with Jerry Cohen of the UFW in 1970.



Explain to the students that you will be setting up a class TV interview. Show where they will write questions to ask the following guests:

Explain to students that since a social compact is an agreement between people, it is important to understand the basic elements of a compact. For this reason, you will be studying significant formal historical compact like the Magna Carta, as well as informal compacts like those formed by UFW workers.
Making Connections:

Students should understand that our Constitution borrowed on English traditions of self-government, some of which are found within the Magna Carta and English Bill of Rights. The students should also understand the complaints of migrant workers that forced them to unionize formally or informally. Background on César E. Chávez’s early CSO training and beginnings of the UFW would also be helpful.

Vocabulary Activities:

The main concept and vocabulary is social contract. This will be reinforced throughout the lesson by having the teacher explicitly make connections to the concept of social contract throughout the lesson. Terms like Union, UFW, Teamsters, AWOC, and Peace Corps can be introduced through a word web (concept map) that would show connections to unions and other groups of people.

Guided Instruction:

The class should read the Magna Carta. If students do not have background information on the period, time should be taken to go into that history.

For many students the Magna Carta is a very challenging primary document. It is often a good idea to have the students read it together as a class. Then, have volunteers summarize “chunks” of the document. The class can synthesize the chunks and write a grade seven version on their own piece of paper. This summarizing activity is very empowering for students because it models the idea of chunking and hopefully, the success that summarizing small parts to understand the whole may bring. After a class summary is written, a class discussion should synthesize the main principles underlying the Magna Carta.
The class should now read the article, “Viva La Causa.” If students do not have the background information of the UFW and César E. Chávez, the time should be taken to go into that history. The middle level biography on César E. Chávez found on the CDE Web site would be a great place to start. The whole article, “Viva La Causa” may be read, but it is paragraphs 10-12 of the interview that have the most information in terms of compact, though it is suggested that paragraphs 1-12 be read in order to get more background information as to why César E. Chávez wanted to organize the union in the fashion that he did.
Hot Seat:

The hot seat is a form of character analysis in which a student assumes the personality of a historical figure. In order to represent the historical figure’s point of view effectively, students should become familiar with their accomplishments and their thinking. In groups, the class can brainstorm questions they want to ask the historical figure. Questions might deal with the historical figure’s beliefs or actions during their lifetime. Questions are posed to the historical figure in a press conference type of format.

Ready to role-play a serf, noble, farm worker, union organizer, farm owners, César E. Chávez, and King John.
Integrating Language:

Pre-reading - Establish the purpose for the reading, predict.

During reading - Students are asked to take notes and summarize.

Post-reading - Write questions for the “Hot Seat.”


  1. The “We The People Level II” program sponsored by the Center for Civic Education is an excellent way to get students to truly own material dealing with civics and current application. Unit 2 of “We The People” material deals with the English influence on America.

  1. Students can read the middle level biography of César E. Chávez written for the CDE Web site (Middle Level Biographical Sketch for link to biography).

  1. The UFW and César E. Chávez Web sites offer information and additional sources on the origins of the UFW.

  1. View Video “Newscast from the Past” June 15, 1215


Students will be measured on their knowledge of the concepts through their written questions for the interviews. Role players will be assessed by the knowledge displayed in their responses to the questions.

Service Learning:

Who makes social contracts in your community? Research a local organization that serves your community to find out how they are organized and for what purpose. Is this group one you could join or support? Why?

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