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Learning outcomes

Students will consider how children in Vietnam spend their days, and compare how their lives are similar or different.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

One class period

Materials needed

  • Audio recordings from Vietnam:
  • Computer with internet connection and speakers to play recordings
  • Optional: Images from Flickr depicting child labor:
    • Protest against child labor — Photo of a protest march against child labor in the US, taken in 1909 during a Labor Day parade
    • Child labor — Contemporary photo from Ensanada, California of a girl selling trinkets
    • Child labor photo collection — Contemporary photo collection of child labor (including trash-picking) in various non-Western countries
  • Optional: LCD projector (Necessary if you will show images to the class)


  • In 2000, 104 million school-age children around the world were not in school. 57% of them were girls and 94% were in developing countries — mostly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.1
  • Vietnam’s overall enrollment and attendance in primary school is 94%. Attendance in secondary schools is 77% of school-aged males and 78% of school-aged females.2
  • Despite these comparatively high numbers, not all Vietnamese children are in school every day.


Setting the scene

  1. Share with the students some background about children in Vietnam: Not all children have the same daily experience. Some children are able to go to school for free, or their families can afford to send them to a private school. In other cases, children may have to work and help support their families either by earning money or by staying home and helping a parent. This was also true in the United States for hundreds of years, where children worked in factories or helped on the family farm.
  2. In order to visually illustrate the type of jobs you will hear about in the audio, you may choose to project the images of child labor listed in the “Materials” section above.

Listening activity

  1. Play the audio recording of the children and women selling drinks. (41 sec)

    Please upgrade your Flash Player and/or enable JavaScript in your browser to listen to this audio file.

    Download recording (Right-click or option-click) | About the recording

  2. You may ask the students to guess what is going on, or you might give them a hint that these children and women are selling some things that are made in the United States, and see if they can pick out the words “Coca,” “water,” or “7Up.”
  3. Ask the children to imagine the scene:
    • Does it seem like the drinks are being sold from behind a counter with a cash register?
    • Does it sound like people are walking or standing still?
    • Does it sound like the women and children are competing or working together?
    • What are the ways we buy soft drinks in the United States? (What is the most common? Which ways involve people; which ways do not?)
  4. You may choose to read the description of the scene (view by clicking the “About the recording” link) after the students have used their imagination to describe the scene.
  5. Introduce the second recording by telling students that it is also a recording of women and children selling food and drinks, this time from outside a train. At the beginning of the recording, you can hear a similar chorus to the one you heard in the previous recording. The bulk of this clip, however, is a verbal description of a young girl sorting trash, presumably for some money. Play the recording for the students. (3 min. 11 sec.)

    Please upgrade your Flash Player and/or enable JavaScript in your browser to listen to this audio file.

    Download recording (Right-click or option-click) | About the recording

  6. You could ask a student to volunteer to come to the front of the class to act out the scene, and play the recording a second time while the student pantomimes the motions described. Or you could print out the transcript of the recording (available by clicking the “About the recording” link), so the students can read along while listening to the recording.


  1. Lead a class discussion about the recordings:
    • What was going on in both of these recordings?
    • Who did you hear? Who did you not hear (i.e. men and boys)? What ages do you think these females are?
    • What kinds of jobs did the children in the first recording have? What about the girl in the second recording?
    • Does it surprise you that they are doing these kinds of jobs? Which one might earn more money? Which one might be more difficult?
    • What do you think they will do with any money they might earn?
    • Do you think these children have the same opportunities to go to school and play with their friends as you do? Why or why not?
    • Are there any similarities between your lives and theirs?
    • Have you ever wished you didn’t have to go to school? What would you do with your time?
    • If you had to earn money for your family right now, what kind of work do you think you could or would do?
    • Do you think it’s legal for children in other countries to work? If not, do you think these children might get into trouble? What might happen?


Exploring Vietnam

  • Have the students learn more about the geography and history of Vietnam. Use a map of Vietnam to locate Hué and DaNang, the two locations where these audio recordings were made. These were important locations for the Vietnam War as well.
  • The Vin Moc tunnels mentioned in the recording were used for hiding civilians and military during the Vietnam War. Project and discuss images of the Cu Chi Tunnels — similar tunnels located in the southern part of Vietnam.

Child labor law in the United States

  • Lead a class discussion about how legislation has made a difference in school attendance in the United States. One important law governing child labor is the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 from the Bureau of Labor. Have the students learn about the law by visiting the “Youth and Labor” page on the U.S. Department of Labor website. Consider the law and its relevance to child labor in the United States.

Child labor around the world

  • Have the students look up information regarding child labor in Vietnam and around the world. Think about the conditions that might cause children to work instead of going to school. As a class, discuss these conditions and consider potential solutions for how to encourage or allow more children to go to school. (Suggested resource: Unicef website.)

Student interview

  • Have each student interview a parent, or ideally a grandparent, about their first job. Questions could include: how old they were; how much they were paid; whether they enjoyed the job; what was difficult about it; what they did with the money they earned. Beyond their personal experience, do they know someone in the family who never went to or finished school because he or she had to work? How many years of school did he or she get? What was his or her job?

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 7

        • 7.C.1 Understand how cultural values influence relationships between individuals, groups and political entities in modern societies and regions. 7.C.1.1 Explain how culture unites and divides modern societies and regions (e.g. enslavement of various peoples,...
        • 7.E.1 Understand the economic activities of modern societies and regions. 7.E.1.1 Explain how competition for resources affects the economic relationship among nations (e.g. colonialism, imperialism, globalization and interdependence). 7.E.1.2 Explain the...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 7

  • Goal 6: The learner will recognize the relationship between economic activity and the quality of life in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Objective 6.01: Describe different levels of economic development and assess their connections to standard of living indicators such as purchasing power, literacy rate, and life expectancy.
    • Objective 6.02: Examine the influence of education and technology on productivity and economic development in selected nations and regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia.
  • Goal 10: The learner will compare the rights and civic responsibilities of individuals in political structures in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Objective 10.04: Examine the rights, roles, and status of individuals in selected cultures of Africa, Asia, and Australia, and assess their importance in relation to the general welfare.
  • Goal 11: The learner will recognize the common characteristics of different cultures in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
    • Objective 11.03: Compare characteristics of political, economic, religious, and social institutions of selected cultures and evaluate their similarities and differences.