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Walk the Line

  1. Prepare the space by moving desks and chairs to the edges of the room, placing the rope down the center of the room from the front to the back, and hanging the “AGREE” and “DISAGREE” signs on the sides of the room parallel to the rope. Ask students to line up along the line facing the front of the room. Explain that students will hear a statement read and they will then move toward the “AGREE” and “DISAGREE” signs that best represent their own values about the statement. They can move all the way to the wall, stay as close to or even on the middle line, or place themselves anywhere on the continuum between the two, extreme positions regarding that statement.
  2. It’s important to stress to students that they interpret the statements in whatever way makes sense to them. Answer questions by saying “whatever that means to you,” rather than interpreting the statements for the students.
  3. After students have placed themselves, invite up to three students to “speak their truth” about why they have positioned themselves where they are. It’s important to emphasize that they are only speaking their own truths, not having a debate or responding to what others say. Stress to students that they can change their place on the continuum if they are persuaded by what their classmates share.
  4. After speakers have spoken, ask students to return to the center line and read the next statement. Repeat for as many statements as you have time.
    • No one should ever endure oppression.
    • You can’t fight oppression on your own.
    • There are times when the only thing to do is fight.
    • Only those with power or money can change society.
    • Even when conditions are terrible, it can be hard to believe that things could ever change.
    • Not everyone is capable of social action.
    • Everyone should have the opportunity to do work that is meaningful to them.
    • All work is dignified.
    • Work just has to pay the bills and doesn’t have to fulfill me.
  5. Explain that now that students have had the chance to place themselves on the continuum and speak their own truths, they will read about the historical circumstances that gave rise to women organizing in the needle trades.

  6. Give the students the Introductory Essay to read individually, in small groups or together in the whole group. To help guide and focus their reading, you may want to ask them the following questions: What conditions motivated immigrant workers to protest? What challenges did they face in their attempts to unionize and to strike? What support did immigrant workers receive and from whom? Answer any factual questions that arise.
  7. Break students into groups of 3-6 students to examine one set of the following documents: Working conditions, Hours and Pay, and Organizing. Have students read the documents and answer the questions that accompany each document set. Ask students to prepare a presentation to summarize the contents of their document sets for their classmates with the following information and analysis:
    1. A general description with one or two specific examples illustrating what the documents say about working conditions, hours and pay, and organizing in this early period.
    2. A description of the overarching feeling the documents convey about working conditions, hours and pay, and organizing.
    3. Ideas about how the speakers/writers thought about the meaning of work.
  8. When all the groups are ready, have each one present its document set to the whole class.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Walk the Line." (Viewed on October 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/node/14781>.

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