Learning from the Source: Cesar Chavez & Good Citizenship

Sculpture located in César Chávez Plaza in downtown Sacramento

This activity is adapted from lessons in the Barat Education Foundation Our American Voice® program. This civics program for 4-8 graders features a spiral curriculum and emphasizes critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills as students learn the fundamentals of American democracy and work to create positive change in their communities.


Using Cesar Chavez as an example, students consider how good citizens contribute to their communities and work together to affect change.

Lesson Materials

Lesson Implementation

  1. As a group, discuss what students know about citizens and citizenship. Keep notes of the discussion for the whole group to see. (For younger students, you may want to read aloud the book Being a Good Citizen by Mary Small.)
    • What is a citizen?
    • Who is a citizen?
    • What is citizenship?
    • How does a person display good citizenship?
  2. Inform students that another example of good citizenship is leading or participating in a social movement, or group action, to influence the government and create positive change.
  3. Ask students if anyone knows of Cesar Chavez, taking note of any shared background knowledge.
  4. Display the Cesar Chavez brief bio from America’s Library and read the text aloud.
  5. Divide students into small groups and direct each group read one of the stories about Cesar Chavez from America’s Library. (If there are more than three groups, have more than one group read the same story.) Tell them they will be responsible for sharing with the class what they learned about Cesar Chavez and his work to make a positive change.
  6. Share student findings, listing specific actions Chavez took to affect change.
  7. Optional: Instruct student groups to read one of the articles about Chavez and the Delano Grape Strike. Tell them they will be responsible for sharing with the class what they learned about Cesar Chavez and his work to make a positive change. (Alternatively or additionally, have student groups review the methods of nonviolent protest and persuasion and nonviolent cooperation listed at the end of the Tavaana article.) Discuss student findings.
  8. Have students review the two Cesar Chavez sculpture photos online or pass out printouts of the images to the groups. Direct students to analyze the images using the primary source analysis tool.
  9. Discuss student findings.
  10. Have students complete a gallery walk of the photographs of the March to Sacramento. Tell them to use sticky notes to make observations (one color), record reflections (another color), and ask questions (third color). Allow time for students to review others’ notations, either individually or as a class.
  11. Have students read Roberto Bustos’ remembrance of the March to Sacramento individually or as a class (students may take turns reading).
  12. Discuss what new understandings they have of the march and its importance.
  13. Create new groups of 6-8 students each. Instruct each group member to pretend to be one of the people in the sculpture as represented in image 1. Tell students to think about what each person from this time would be thinking and feeling and to create a thought bubble for each person that begins, “I hope . . . “. Inform students that they can use sculpture image 2 as well as the notes on their learnings from the Cesar Chavez stories and articles to help them get into character.
  14. Invite one or more groups to share their work by recreating the sculpture image for the class and repeating the “I hope . . .” statements as you tap each one on the shoulder.
  15. Inform student groups that they will now work together to brainstorm and create their own picture of good citizenship in the classroom or at school that shows people working together.
  16. Instruct students how to create frozen living pictures. Remind groups that between the frozen living picture and the “I hope . . .” statements, the rest of the class should clearly understand the concept of good citizenship that is being conveyed.
  17. Have students present their frozen living pictures. Capture their frozen living pictures as images to save and print out to hang in the class or around the school (be sure to add students’ “I hope . . .” statements to the images). You may also wish to audio or video record the “I hope . . .” statements. Additionally, you may want to consider posting the pictures and written or recorded statements to a class or school blog, Instagram or Twitter account.

CCSS Standards

History/Social Studies » Grade 6-8


Speaking & Listening Grade 6-8


C3 Framework Indicators

  • D2.Civ.1.6-8.
  • D2.Civ.6.6-8.
  • D2.Civ.9.6-8.
  • D2.Civ.10.6-8.
  • D2.Civ.14.6-8.