Living the Legacy


Bread and Roses - Defining Basic Needs

Unit 1 , Lesson 1

Jewish Women's Archive - Living the Legacy

Bread and Roses - Defining Basic Needs

Lesson plan:
  1. Big Ideas

    1. Write each of the following words on 8 ½ by 11 sheets paper and place them on the floor around the room. Or, you may choose to print the Big Ideas Handout Pages document.
      a. Work b. Leisure c. Need d. Want
      e. Pleasure f. Fun g. Joy h. Labor
      i. Culture j. Play k. Living l. Wages
      m. Money n. Sustenance o. Choice p. Education
      q. Fresh air r. Drudgery s. Beauty t. Oppression
      u. Rights v. Respect w. Dignity x. Free time
      y. Strike z. Labor union
    2. Give each student a marker. Direct students to walk around the room and write whatever word comes to mind as they arrive at each new word. They can also make a quick drawing, if pictures are easier than words. Be sure that everyone writes something on every word.
    3. When the students have written something on each sheet, invite them to pick up whatever word is particularly calling them at that moment, for whatever reason, and to bring it back to their desk. Direct students to turn the papers over and to write about whatever comes to mind about the idea behind the word they chose. Tell them that they will read their responses aloud in the whole group.
    4. Have students share their responses. You may choose to create a found poem (a poem created from components of something written elsewhere) by writing words that stand out for you as you listen to each student, writing those words on a sheet in whatever way makes sense to you in the moment, and then reading the poem after each student has shared their writing. (You can find detailed instructions for creating a found poem from the National Council of Teachers of English here.) Alternatively, you may choose to write on the board whatever themes seem to be emerging from their responses. Some themes may be: the value of humanity; the reasons we work; what we expect from work, treatment on the job; leisure time versus work, etc.
  2. Discussion

    Use the following questions to guide a discussion about values of humanity, work and the soul. Use either the found poem or the themes as a jumping off place for the students to discuss their values. Keep notes of the discussion, using the themes from Part I of this lesson as organizing ideas for the discussion. Ask:

    • What is work? Why do we work? What does work fulfill for us?
    • What kinds of work do you do, imagine yourself doing in the future, would never do?
    • What is leisure? Why do we humans want and need it? What is the relationship between work and leisure?
    • What is the meaning of life beyond work?

    Conclude Part II of the lesson by reading the Introductory Essay with them. As they read, ask students to note (or highlight) examples of how people's human needs were met or not met. If your students already have an understanding of and information about the mass immigrations of Jews and others in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tenement housing, sweatshops, the garment industry, and unions, you can recall this information with them and then move directly into Part III of the lesson.

  3. Document Studies

    Break students into four groups and give each group of students one of the following document studies: Education and Culture, Poetry and Song, Hats and Clothing, and Traditional Jewish Sources. Each group will become “experts” in their set of documents and will report their analyses of their documents back to the whole group.

    Tell students that their presentations of their document analyses should

    • Explain the document category (Education and Culture, Poetry and Song, Hats and Clothing, and Traditional Jewish Sources) and the sources they examined
    • Answer the questions: How were workers’ bodies and souls jeopardized by work in sweatshops and textile factories? What did the workers want for their bodies and souls from the work they did? What evidence is there that the workers’ bodies and souls were nurtured?

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Living the Legacy - Lesson: Bread and Roses - Defining Basic Needs." (Viewed on April 24, 2014) <>.