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Lesson Plans

NPR's Planet Money makes a t-shirt - Lesson Plan

January 15, 2014

Full Lesson


By Katie Gould, PBS NewsHour Extra Teacher Resource Producer


NPR’s Planet Money decided to make a t-shirt and follow the process of its creation around the globe. This lesson plan takes your class along for the ride by interspersing activities with NPR’s exciting video tour around the world.


Map skills, fine motor skills-cut and paste, auditory and visual processing

Estimated Time

One 45 minute class period

Grade Levels

Special education – intellectually disabled upper elementary/middle school


  • Warm Up worksheet “Types of Cloth”
  • Common Types of Cloth PowerPoint
  • World Political Map handout
  • Countries Cut and Paste handout
  • Steps of Making a T-Shirt Page 1 handout
  • Steps of Making a T-shirt Page 2 handout
  • Cotton Balls
  • Cotton Thread
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Cloth or clothes from specific cloth:
  • Cotton Cloth
  • Wool Cloth (or something different from cotton)
  • Denim Cloth
  • Silk Cloth
  • Flannel Cloth
  • Fleece Cloth

Warm Up Activity

Sensory sensations of different kinds of cloth

-You may want to use the “Common Types of Fabric” PDF as a slide show to aid in this lesson, although it is not necessary.

-To make this a truly sensory experience, bring in the different types of cloth and choose articles of clothing that you are comfortable passing around the class to feel/touch.

  1. Pass out the “Types of Cloth” Worksheet and have students fill it out as they as they experience each type of cloth, you may choose to use the PowerPoint to organize each cloth experience.
  2. On their “Types of Cloth” Worksheet have student write down the name of the cloth, how it feels to them, when they think is the best time of year to wear that cloth and finally have them write which type of cloth is their favorite and why.
  3. Pass around the different articles of clothing and help students with their answers.

Main Activity

How and where are T-shirts made?

  1. Ask students where they think T-shirts are made?
  2. Pass out the political “World Map” to each student and ask them to locate approximately where their school is on the map and put a star on the location. *Start with country, then region, then state.
  3. Then pass out the “Countries Cut and Paste” handout and tell students that as they watch and listen to the story of how the T-shirt is made they will locate the country and label it together. Give each student a cotton ball, glue and colored pencils/crayons/markers. During the video have students identify the maps, label them and put the cotton in the correct places (Mississippi – cotton ball and Indonesia- cotton thread. For Colombia and Bangladesh have them draw T-shirts on the maps)
  4. Then pass out the “Steps of Making a T-Shirt Page 1” handout and ask students to identify the steps in the correct order as they watch the videos. They will do the actual cutting and pasting after the video is over.
  5. Watch the “Introduction” title that explains what the project is about.
  6. Watch the “Cotton”cotton story pausing to locate Mississippi on their “Countries Cut and Paste” page. At the end of the piece ask students to identify which step is first on their “Steps of Making a T-shirt Page 1”. You can also use the PowerPoint to help guide as a visual aid.
  7. Next watch “Machines” and pause for students to locate and label Indonesia on their “Countries Cut and Paste” page and identify the second step on the “Steps of Making a T-Shirt Page 1”. Note – although in the video the work is done by machines, in the page it is a person turning the cotton into yarn.
  8. Next watch “People” stopping to identify Bangladesh and Colombia as well as steps three and four on the “Steps of Making a T-Shirt Page 1” page.
  9. Finally watch “Boxes” and identify which stage it is on the “Steps of Making a T-Shirt Page 1” page. Note to the students that the boxes come from the place where the shirts are made and then sent to the United States.
  10. Pass out “Steps of Making a T-Shirt Page 2” to students. Then have them cut out the images from the “Steps of Making a T-Shirt Page 1” and paste them onto the correct step on the other page.
  11. Now have students complete the “Countries Cut and Paste” worksheet which has them use all their gained knowledge from the lesson.

-Optional: Watch “You” you which gives the students more personal background about the people who made the T-shirt.